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ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) on Thursday observed a token walkout from the Senate after Minister for National Health Services (NHS) Saira Afzal Tarar did not give a reply to a question about Saudi Arabia’s refusal to accept Pakistani medical certificates.

Even Chairman Senate Mian Raza Rabbani said the state minister avoided replying the question because it was about Saudi Arabia.

PTI Senator Mohammad Azam Khan Swati had asked why Saudi Arabia did not accept polio vaccination and immunisation certificates issued in Pakistan.

Instead of giving a reply to this, the minister in her written reply said so far in 2017 only two cases of polio had been reported from Lodhran (Punjab) and Diamer (Gilgit-Baltistan).

Speaking on the occasion, Mr Swati said Saudi Arabia was taking Pakistan for granted. This is not fair as Pakistan is an independent country and no one will be allowed to treat us like this. He along with senators of other opposition parties then staged the walkout.

The Senate chairman asked PML-N Senator Raja Zafarul Haq to bring the members back. Mr Haq went out and convinced the members to join the proceedings again.

Despite repeated attempts, Ms Tarar could not be contacted for comments.

However, an official of her ministry requesting not to be quoted confirmed to Dawn that Saudi Arabia did not accept medical certificates from Pakistan.

“However, we ourselves are responsible for this because we don’t have a proper and transparent health system. Here medical certificates are obtained without visiting a doctor and the world knows it,” he said.

“Without removing the flaws in our system, how can we ask other countries to accept our vaccination and immunisation certificates,” he said.

A doctor from the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (Pims) said a number of people visited the hospital and insisted that they should be issued certificates without vaccination.

“We try to convince them that vaccination is in their own interest. A majority of people are convinced but some go back saying they would get the certificate from somewhere else,” he said.

“There is a need to create awareness among the citizens that vaccination is in their own interest and even if they get polio vaccine in Saudi Arabia there is no harm in it,” he said.

Published in Dawn, April 21st, 2017

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