Political parties extend support to striking doctors

Updated October 07, 2019

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The political parties have been assuring the striking health employees of their support despite their inability to make efforts for stoppage or incorporating amendments to health-related laws passed by the assembly. — AFP/File
The political parties have been assuring the striking health employees of their support despite their inability to make efforts for stoppage or incorporating amendments to health-related laws passed by the assembly. — AFP/File

PESHAWAR: The political parties have been assuring the striking health employees of their support despite their inability to make efforts for stoppage or incorporating amendments to health-related laws passed by the assembly.

The members of Grand Health Alliance including doctors, nurses and support staff has been protesting against Regional and District Health Authorities Act, 2019 and other issues for the last 11 days. The leaders of the alliance will address a press conference at Lady Reading Hospital on Monday (today).

All the political parties, except the ruling PTI, have thrown their weight behind the protesting health workers. The leaders of the alliance have been holding meetings with political leaders for resolution of their issues.

However, these parties have failed to block the law passed by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly with ease and convenience. Prior to RDHA, the government had passed Medical Teaching Institutions Reforms Act (MTIRA), 2015 at a time when Jamaat-i-Islami was its coalition partner in the province.

During the last few days, JI chief Sirajul Haq had enquired after the health of doctors injured in police action at Lady Reading Hospital last week and extended them support.

Protest of health workers continues in KP on 11th day

On Sunday, JI provincial chief Mushtaq Ahmed Khan bitterly criticised the government and encouraged the doctors that protest was their right while addressing a public gathering in Timergara.

The JI held three ministries, including local government, finance and Zakat in the PTI-led government in 2013 during which the controversial MTIRA, 2015 was passed and enforced. Even the JI chief remained finance minister under the PTI.

Same is true for Qaumi Watan Party, which also shared powers with PTI but didn’t oppose the law. Now both the parties say they stand by the protesting health workers in these trying times.

JUI-F has also been supporting the protest of GHA against the government. On Friday, the leaders of the alliance held a meeting with JUI-F chief Maulana Fazl Rehman to enlist his assistance in their struggle.

GHA leader Dr Sajjad Yousafzai told Dawn that they would organise medical camps during Azadi March announced by JUI-F from October 27. “The party has been supporting our stance, therefore, we want to serve their people as well. We are doctors and treating humanity is our aim,” he said.

GHA spokesman Dr Hazrat Akbar said that they would clear their stance in press briefing. “We are not political party and our only concern is privatisation of health sector,” he said.

PPP has held at least two press conferences during the past one week in support of doctors but the party never made serious attempt to block such laws at the floor of the assembly.

More than 15 health-related laws have been passed by the government during the past six years but none of the lawmakers ever protested against them. Awami National Party is also backing the strike but its members have not stopped the law against which the health employees are agitating.

A senior member of GHA said that the opposition parties could not block passage of the law because PTI enjoyed majority in the assembly. However, he said that they could have stopped passage of MTIRA if JI and QWP had opposed it when they were coalition partners in the government.

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Prohibition of Smoking/Tobacco Products and Protection of Non-Smokers Health Bill, 2016 meant to prohibit use of tobacco at public places, its sale near educational institutes and promotional activities by the makers to safeguard non-smokers against its potential effects on health is yet to be passed.

It has been sent to a select committee because many lawmakers, both from treasury and opposition benches, are associated with growing tobacco and the law can harm their business interests.

The medics are protesting against MTIRA, passed in 2015, and RDHA, approved by assembly over a week ago.

Published in Dawn, October 7th, 2019