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ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Friday dissolved the 35-member Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC) and substituted it with a nine-member ad-hoc council headed by one of its former judges, Shakirullah Jan.

A three-judge SC bench headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar also ordered that the nine-member council will immediately takeover and run the affairs of the PMDC. The first meeting of the council is to be convened on Jan 18 whereas the present registrar of the council, Wasim Hashmi, will continue to officiate in his current position.

The decision, the detailed reasons of which will be announced later, came on a set of petitions challenging the Dec 7, 2017 Lahore High Court (LHC) judgment which also dissolved the council and declared the council’s admissions regulations of 2016 and the central induction policy of 2016 illegal.

The new council is to immediately take over PMDC affairs, hold first meeting on Jan 18

The apex court upheld LHC’s order by rejecting the petitions moved by PMDC but converted the petition of former PMDC president, Dr Masood Hameed Khan into an appeal.

Retired Justice Shakirullah Jan is also the secretary of the Law and Justice Commission of Pakistan. The rest of the council members are Attorney General Ashtar Ausaf as member, and in case of his non-availability his nominee or representative, Federal Secretary National Health Services Naveed Kamran Baloch, Surgeon General of the Pakistan Armed Forces Lt Gen Zahid Hamid, vice chancellors of the National University of Medical Sciences, Jinnah Post Graduate Medical Centre Karachi, Khyber Medical University and Principal Bolan Medical College Quetta.

Representing Dr Masood Khan, Advocate Sardar Latif Khosa had on Thursday suggested that SC appoint an ad-hoc committee under the chairmanship of Shakirullah Jan.

Till the time of appointment or election of a fresh council and the constitution of the executive committee, the ad-hoc council will continue to perform its functions and run the affairs of PMDC in accordance with the relevant laws.

Pointing to a representative of young doctors who wanted to become party in the case, the chief justice said SC will protect the interests of young doctors. He also sought a commitment from young doctors that they will not resort to unnecessary strikes in the hospitals till the time that the judiciary introduces much needed reforms in the health sector.

In it Dec 7 order, LHC had held that since PMDC was working under the lapsed PMDC (Amendment) Ordinance 2015, regulations made by the council had also become ineffective.

Instead, the high court had resorted to the 2013 regulations, allowing private medical colleges to conduct admissions independently but the federal government, in the meantime, was to hold fresh elections of the council in three months. The court, however, allowed the council to carry out day-to-day affairs till lawful composition of a new council.

The high court had also ordered that the Council of Common Interests should review the admissions policy of the council and if deemed proper, approve them as well.

Representing the Pakistan Association of Private Medical and Dental Institutions, Barrister Ali Zafar on Thursday told SC that Pakistan requires more than 200 medical institutions if it wants to complete with the world.

The top position is currently occupied by India with 450 medical colleges followed by Brazil with 259, China with 187, USA with 186 and Pakistan is in fifth place with 156 colleges, the counsel said.

The reason why countries are increasing the number of medical students is not just to fulfil national requirements but also to cater to world demand, which needs more than 2.6 million doctors and nine million nurses and other medical staff, which is expected to rise to over 14 million by 2030.

At present, Pakistan alone requires 500,000 doctors but only has 168,491 registered doctors of which only 40,167 are specialists and even out of these, 25,000 are working abroad. Similarly, Pakistan needs 500,000 hospital beds but only has approximately 100,000 beds, 80pc of which are provided by private medical and dental colleges.

Published in Dawn, January 13th, 2018

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