Senate body cancels meeting to protest govt officials’ absence

Updated November 20, 2019

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Members of the committee took up the matter with Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani immediately following a unanimous decision and registered their complaint with the government’s officials. — INP/File
Members of the committee took up the matter with Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani immediately following a unanimous decision and registered their complaint with the government’s officials. — INP/File

ISLAMABAD: The Senate Standing Committee on National Health Services (NHS) cancelled its meeting on Tuesday to protest the absence of the entire government team, including the prime minister’s special assistant and federal secretary.

Members of the committee took up the matter with Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani immediately following a unanimous decision and registered their complaint with the government’s officials.

Tuesday’s meeting was divided into two segments. The first hour of the meeting was held in camera as members had to develop a mechanism to adopt for an effective and results-oriented future course of action for the committee.

Committee secretary Javed Iqbal also had to inform chair Senator Khushbakht Shujat and other members about pending business.

The second portion of the meeting was supposed to discuss health-related issues, and the media was invited to attend.

Special assistant to PM, secretary and director general did not attend meeting; members of NHS committee register complaint with Senate chairman

Senator Bahramand Khan Tangi from the PPP remarked during the meeting that it was unfortunate that Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on NHS Dr Zafar Mirza, the NHS secretary and the ministry’s director general did not attend the meeting.

Another PPP senator, Dr Sikandar Mandhro, also criticised their absence and, while pointing to junior ministry staff, said that they were not taking the parliamentary committee seriously.

Senator Shujat said the committee dealtwith issues related to human lives.

“The ministry’s attitude is wrong and we are not going to hold a meeting unless the ministry takes the matter seriously,” she said.

Committee members also decided to meet with the Senate chairman, along with Leader of the House in the Senate Senator Shibli Faraz. The members recorded their protest against NHS ministry representatives and said they were not giving the parliamentary committee any attention.

Senator Sanjrani said action would be taken against the individuals concerned and directed the government to ensure ministers and federal secretaries are present for parliamentary committee meetings.

Senator Shujat later told the press that this is a very important committee.

“Pakistan has to take issues of health and education seriously. Most of the senators, who are doctors, attended the committee [meeting]. They came from different provinces, but ministry high-ups did not bother to attend the meeting,” she said.

“I came from Karachi. I woke up at 5am and took a flight at 7am, but the ministry’s attitude is casual. When I asked why even the health director general did not bother to attend the meeting, the reply was that there was no need to call the director general,” she said.

She said the meeting’s agenda was circulated more than a week ago.

When contacted, NHS ministry representative Sajid Shah said Dr Mirza was outside the country for a meeting on polio in the United Arab Emirates.

“Health Secretary Dr Allah Bakhsh Malik had to attend the meeting, but there was a meeting of the federal cabinet on Tuesday so the secretary went there, as there was an agenda item regarding vacant posts in the ministry. Otherwise the ministry ensures that there should be proper representation of the ministry in parliamentary committees,” he said.

Published in Dawn, November 20th, 2019