Miqdat Raza got admission in the Abbottabad International Medical College in 2012 and cleared his first year of MBBS in the first attempt.
During his second year, he cleared two of the subjects in the first attempt but failed the third which he could not clear in three subsequent attempts as well.
His father, gastroenterologist Dr Hasnain Raza told Dawn it was because of unusual circumstances that his son was unable to clear his bio-chemistry exam.
“The first time, some sectarian issues had started in the area and I moved my son to Dubai. I called him back for the supplementary exam, which was held after 40 days, and sent him back. He could not concentrate on his studies due to the sectarian issue which is why he failed in his second attempt as well,” he said.
Dr Raza said the college had refused to allow Miqdat to give the exam one more time as the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC) rules only allow students four attempts to clear an exam.
Miqdat took the issue to court and was given a decision in his favour, allowing him to give the exam one more time, which he cleared. However, according to Dr Raza, the Khyber Medical University, with which the Abbottabad college is affiliated, refused to issue him a certificate.
“Now my son’s case is pending with the PMDC and only the council can allow him to continue with his studies and become a doctor,” he said.
There are some 300 applications pending with the PMDC in which students have demanded they be allowed to sit exams after failing their four attempts.
One of the students said she had cleared her first year in the first attempt from a college in Wah Cantt after which she transferred to another college in Abbottabad, which closed down later. Therefore, she said, she could not concentrate on her studies and could not clear her second year in the four attempts she was allowed.
Another student from Karachi had also submitted a case to the PMDC along with clippings from newspapers to establish that she could not appear in her exams because the Muttahida Qaumi Movement had announced strikes in her locality, before an operation was started by Rangers, and that it was impossible to move during the strikes.
Talking to Dawn, Dr Raza said universities across the world offer medical students as many chances as they need to clear their exams. He said India reduced the number of attempts allowed to four and that the PMDC had followed the same practice. He said India has since withdrawn the police and now gives students unlimited chances to clear exams.
“According to Black’s Law Dictionary, students do not have a right to chances to clear exams. I believe annual exams and a supplementary exam are a student’s right. They should be given four chances after that which means they should have six chances altogether,” he said, adding that students should have the choice to use the eight extra chances for clearing first and second year exams across the two years.
“There are cases where students could not clear exams because one of their parents or a relative died. In other cases, their relatives were arrested or their parents divorced. Students cannot concentrate on their studies in such cases and two students even committed suicide in Abbottabad over this,” he said.
Dr Raza said private medical colleges benefit from this policy because they can give admission to a student and charge them full fee for one or two years.
Talking to Dawn, PMDC Council Member Dr Amir Bandesha said this is a serious matter and that the council was thinking about establishing a committee to consider applications on a case to case basis.
“Some students are just not interested in their studies and not deserve extra chances. Others have legitimate reasons for failing exams. Also, changes have been made to the MBBS curriculum which may be a challenge to students,” he said.
“When I was studying at the Nishtar Medical College Multan, some of the students cleared their MBBS in 15 years and they were called ‘khalifa’ because of their interest in politics. We have considered looking at the applications on a case to case basis. However, no decision has been taken in this regard yet,” he said.
There are 300 such applications pending with the PMDC and some of these students have gone to the courts for unlimited chances to clear their MBBS as was the practice two decades ago.
Last month, a three-member Supreme Court bench consisting of Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, Justice Mushir Alam and Justice Dost Mohammad Khan rejected one such petition after hearing it.
The court’s order, available with Dawn, says the petitioner was mentally upset and could not adjust to college which is why she could not clear her exams in the attempts she was allowed. The order upheld the PMDC law in this regard.
PMDC President Dr Shabir Lehri told Dawn those who cannot clear their first and second years of MBBS in the four attempts they are allowed cannot become doctors and that they should therefore not waste the public money and that of their parents.
“Such students should consider other professions. I have seen some parents request that their child be allowed to sit an exam for the fifth time when their children say they are not interested in becoming doctors,” he said.
Published in Dawn, September 10th, 2017