Senate body decides fate of new PMDC ordinance today

Updated August 26, 2019

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The 12-member Senate Standing Committee on National Health Services and Regulations will meet in Islamabad on Monday (today) to decide the fate of the Pakistan Medical & Dental Council (PMDC) Ordinance 2019. — APP/File
The 12-member Senate Standing Committee on National Health Services and Regulations will meet in Islamabad on Monday (today) to decide the fate of the Pakistan Medical & Dental Council (PMDC) Ordinance 2019. — APP/File

LAHORE: The 12-member Senate Standing Committee on National Health Services and Regulations will meet in Islamabad on Monday (today) to decide the fate of the Pakistan Medical & Dental Council (PMDC) Ordinance 2019.

The government called the important meeting after a subcommittee of the Senate standing committee took an unprecedented step and disapproved the PMDC Ordinance, declaring it “a constitutional fraud” and an attempt to ruin the sole medical education regulatory body of the country.

The opposition will defend the decision of the subcommittee, while the government wants to get it approved at Monday’s meeting.

An official source said the prime minister had assigned a special task to Leader of the House in the Senate Shibli Faraz to get the job done. Mr Faraz is not a member of the standing committee but has “especially” been invited to the meeting.

Subcommittee has rejected the ordinance, declaring it ‘a constitutional fraud’

The source said Mr Faraz had geared up efforts to persuade some opposition senators to withdraw the earlier decision taken by the subcommittee. At present both the government and the opposition claim the support of six members each in the standing committee, but the role of two independent senators in it is crucial.

According to the procedure, the committee will give its decision through a show of hands. “Whatever the outcome is, both the treasury and opposition may clash again over the issue when the Senate’s next session begins on Aug 29 as the government has put the ordinance in the house agenda for a final voting,” the source said.

“The subcommittee expresses its strong concern over the re-promulgation of the earlier ordinance as the PMDC Ordinance 2019 which is not justifiable on any ground,” read the minutes of the meeting.

The subcommittee was constituted to examine the ordinance. Senator Dr Ashok Kumar was its convener while senators Dr Asad Ashraf and Dr Sikandar Mandhro were its members. Senators Mohammad Javed Abbasi and Dr Ghous Mohammad Khan Niazi were especially invited to the meeting for their input on professional and legal aspects of the ordinance.

“All members of the committee have unanimously disapproved the PMDC Ordinance 2019,” read the minutes of the meeting held on Aug 9. “The committee is of the consensus view that the government may introduce a bill in parliament to amend the PM&DC Ordinance 1962 if it so desires.”

Established through the 1962 Ordinance, the PMDC is the only apex and public regulatory body of medical profession in Pakistan.

The senators noticed that both the PMDC ordinances were somewhat identical except the following:

i- The composition of the council has been changed from the PMDC Ordinance 1962 and in the re-promulgated PMDC Ordinance 2019, the council is totally nominated by the prime minister and all the elected representation in PMDC Ordinance 1962 as amended/added by the Act (2012) has been eliminated. By bypassing the parliamentary deliberations and process, the government has installed the PMDC nominated by it through the Ordinance.

ii- In the PMDC Ordinance 2019, the government has shed all its powers and responsibilities by giving the same to the council to avoid accountability.

iii- Under the PMDC Ordinance 2019, all grievances against the decisions and actions of the council cannot be taken for adjudication to high courts under Article 199 of the Constitution and all grievances arising from the actions of the council, which is a body nominated by the prime minister, shall be decided by a medical tribunal, also a body nominated by the PM.

The subcommittee was of the view that if the above measures were needed, they should have been brought about in the shape of a bill to amend the PMDC law before parliament, not through a presidential ordinance. It said the promulgation of an ordinance should not be brought as a parallel source of law, bypassing parliament and the parliamentary process as had been done through the PMDC Ordinance 2019.

Published in Dawn, August 26th, 2019