ISLAMABAD: A key Senate committee is set to take up a number of important issues, including the sacking of hundreds of employees of the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC) and the Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority (Erra), in its meeting on Nov 21.
The Senate Functional Committee on Human Rights, headed by opposition Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), is also scheduled to receive briefings by the vice chancellor of the Balochistan University on “harassment and blackmailing of students by the university staff”, reveals the agenda for the meeting issued by the Senate Secretariat.
The committee has also called Higher Education Commission (HEC) Chairman Dr Tariq Banuri for briefing on the “policy of installation of cameras at campuses of universities across the country and its increased misuse by the universities staff concerned”.
Hundreds of PMDC and Erra employees had been protesting for the last several days against their sacking by authorities.
President Dr Arif Alvi had promulgated an ordinance on Oct 19, leaving the PMDC dissolved and paving the way for establishment of a new organisation named Pakistan Medical Commission (PMC).
The PMC is a body consisting of three components: the Medical and Dental Council, the National Medical and Dental Academic Board and the National Medical Authority, which will act as a secretariat of the commission.
The next day, despite being Sunday, the Ministry of National Health Services (NHS) sealed the building of the PMDC and it was informed that services of 220 employees of the council had been terminated.
The opposition members belonging to different political parties have been visiting the protest camp, set up by sacked employees outside the PMDC building, to express solidarity with them.
On Nov 7, the government had tabled the PMC Ordinance in the National Assembly and, contrary to the usual practice, passed the bill without referring it to any standing committee, prompting a protest by opposition lawmakers.
The PMC Ordinance is among those ordinances on which the government and the opposition had reached an understanding that these bills would be withdrawn and would be passed after a thorough discussion in standing committees.
When contacted, the chairman of the committee, Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar, said they had taken up the matter because the government’s decision had put the future of hundreds of PMDC employees, including pensioners, at stake.
He said that if the government had agreed to withdraw the ordinance, then it would have to officially state its position before the committee.
The agenda for the Senate’s human rights committee meeting shows that the committee members would receive a briefing from the Erra chairman “on sacking of more than 260 low-grade employees of the authority on verbal telephonic orders despite the fact that these employees rendered more than 7-8 years’ service and subsequent arrest of the said employees”.
The issue of the alleged harassment and blackmailing of students by the staff of the Balochistan University had been taken up by the committee in its previous meeting last month.
During the meeting, when some students of the university complained about the presence of the personnel of security forces in the campus, the committee had observed that deployment of security forces in the university campuses was not conducive as it had added to the general climate of fear.
Mr Khokhar had asked the vice chancellors of all universities in the country to review deployment of security forces within campuses.
“The VC of University of Balochistan is directed in particular to meet IG of Frontier Corps and IG of Balochistan police to reassess deployment of security forces inside the campus, preferably only at entry and exit points and places of prime importance,” Mr Khokhar had stated while issuing directives.
Published in Dawn, November 18th, 2019