ISLAMABAD: Members from the treasury and opposition benches traded barbs in the Senate on Thursday as the opposition-dominated house disapproved the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC) Ordinance by a majority vote days before it was set to lapse.
The ordinance originally promulgated on Jan 5 and revalidated for another 120 days by the National Assembly was on the day’s agenda in the form of a bill. The bill had already been cleared by the relevant Senate standing committee.
Leader of the Opposition in the Senate Raja Zafarul Haq announced plans to oppose the bill, warning that it would lead to tumult in the house and vitiate the atmosphere, before a leave could be granted by the House to introduce it.
On this, Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Azam Swati announced withdrawing the bill. This too could not satisfy the opposition and PPP’s parliamentary leader in the house Sherry Rehman sought to move a resolution disapproving the PMDC Ordinance already on the verge of lapse.
Senators condemn India for state terrorism in Kashmir
The move was opposed by Leader of the House Senator Syed Shibli Faraz who said that there was no moral ground for it after withdrawal of the bill.
Ms Rehman, however, insisted that the ordinance still held the field.
The resolution for disapproval was finally moved by Ms Rehman. It was put to vote and passed by majority.
Mr Faraz rose from his seat to slam the opposition for what he called its dual policy which, he noted, had brought a bad name to the house. He pointed out that opposition members were in majority when the PMDC bill was passed by the committee.
He said a similar bill during the days of the PML-N government had also been opposed by the PPP which had alleged that the then government had some vested interest in it. “We are not here to protect interests of lobbies or mafias,” he remarked.
Mr Faraz said it was an important bill linked with public interest. He accused the PPP of trying to keep medical issues free from any control and allow some people to continue minting money.
In response, Ms Rehman said that the bill was a dangerous move meant to control all hospitals and their resources by placing the PMDC under the president and nominated members. She said the bill also provided for tribunals through nominations and took away the right of an appeal in a high court against their decisions.
She accused the PTI of manipulating the committee and alleged that the rules of the panel had been violated by ‘double voting’. She said the Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) had rejected the ordinance in its present form.
The allegation of manipulating the committee was instantly rejected by Mr Faraz who sought an apology from Ms Rehman for making what he called irresponsible remarks. He also asked the chair to refer the matter to the ethics committee.
The chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on National Health Services, Mian Atiq Ahmad Sheikh, said that he had evidence to prove that he had been approached to get the bill rejected. “I have messages saved with me,” he said and specifically named Dr Asim Hussain of the PPP, claiming that he had not only made several calls to him, but also tried to influence him through his friends.
The house also passed the Heavy Industries Taxila (HIT) Board Amendment Bill that proposes to allow the HIT to establish its own limited company to expand its commercial operations.
Taking part in discussion on the situation in India-held Kashmir, members from both sides of the aisle blasted India for turning the occupied valley into the world’s largest open air jail and continuing state terrorism against Kashmiris who are demanding their internationally recognised right to self-determination.
The house was adjourned till Friday morning.
Published in Dawn, August 30th, 2019