ISLAMABAD: The longstanding issue of Pakistan’s first ever nursing university may be addressed soon, now that Special Assistant to the Prime Minister Dr Zafar Mirza has taken up the matter with the health minister of Bahrain.

Ministry of National Health Services (NHS) Director General Dr Asad Hafeez told Dawn that Dr Mirza spoke to the Bahraini health minister on the sidelines of the meeting of the World Health Assembly, held in Geneva from May 20 to 28. She assured “that she would play her role to start the project”, he said.

“The project was delayed in the past because of different issues related to land, but we finally have the ownership and possession of land in Chak Shahzad,” Dr Hafeez said.

NHS DG says special assistant to PM spoke to Bahraini health minister on sidelines of WHA meeting, was assured she would play role in starting project

“Although we are expecting that the government of Bahrain will inform us about development, it has been decided that we will contact the Bahraini government in the coming weeks through the diplomatic channel, as we want to hand over possession of the land to the Bahrain government,” he said.

In 2014, King Hamad of Bahrain had announced that he would fund a nursing university as a gift to the people of Pakistan. It was decided that Pakistan would arrange the land and utility services for the university, and Bahrain would fund the university’s construction.

The King Hamad University of Nursing and Associated Medical Sciences would be established on 237 kanals of land on Park Road, Chak Shahzad. It will cater to 2,000 students with 500 annual admissions, and provide residential facilities to 1,000 women on campus.

A Bahraini delegation led by Dr Shaikha Rana Bint Isa Bin Daij Al-Khalifa visited Islamabad in July 2016 to finalise the project, which could not be started because land was not available.

On Jan 6, 2017, then prime minister Nawaz Sharif laid the foundation stone for the university at its site, accompanied by prominent individuals and dignitaries from Bahrain.

However, possession of the site could not be obtained because some 700 people had filed applications with the Capital Development Authority (CDA) claiming to be owners of the lands in question, which were located in the constituency of then minister for capital administration and development division (CADD) Dr Tariq Fazal Chaudhry.

With the project continuously delayed, then prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi held a meeting in September 2017 and directed CADD to address the land issue. However, the NHS ministry was not provided the land.

Since possession of the land was not obtained by the end of the PML-N’s tenure, when the PTI formed the government then NHS minister Aamer Mehmood Kiani announced that the university would be established on land belonging to the National Institute of Health, which would later be given the land in Chak Shahzad.

Then chief justice Mian Saqib Nisar in January 2019 directed for possession of the land to be ensured, after which the land was handed over to the ministry so construction on the university could begin.

Dr Hafeez said he was hopeful that Bahrain would begin constructing the university soon. He said the project would be a symbol of friendship and close ties between the people of both countries.

Published in Dawn, June 10th, 2019