Angry over govt’s replies, opposition walks out of Senate

Published January 23, 2021
The opposition staged a walkout in the senate over lack of a satisfactory response from the government on pertinent questions related to the CPEC Authority.  — Screen grab via DawnNewsTV
The opposition staged a walkout in the senate over lack of a satisfactory response from the government on pertinent questions related to the CPEC Authority. — Screen grab via DawnNewsTV

ISLAMABAD: The opposition in the Senate on Friday staged a walkout from the house as a mark of protest against “government’s unsatisfactory response” to questions related to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) Authority.

The opposition questioned the status of the CPEC Authority and asked how could the organisation continue to function when the ordinance about it had lapsed.

During the question hour, queries were raised about the legal nature of the administrative and financial decisions taken by the authority so far.

In a written reply, the government said the CPEC Authority Ordinance lapsed in May 2020 and the CPEC Authority Bill was pending in the National Assembly. It said that all administrative and financial decisions of the authority were being taken according to the rules and regulations of the related ministries.

Federal Minister for Industries Hammad Azhar chided the opposition over “its desire” to see an individual involved in the Broadsheet and Panama Papers cases as prime minister of the country.

Treasury members grilled over CPEC Authority; assault on provincial autonomy alleged

Members of the opposition parties termed the replies to their queries “inadequate” and staged a walkout in protest.

The government also came under fire over what was termed “an assault” on provincial autonomy.

Opposing the federal government’s possible takeover of some hospitals in Sindh, Parliamentary Leader of the PPP in the Senate Sherry Rehman said: “Sindh’s National Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases, National Institute of Child Health and Jinnah Sindh Medical University are renowned all over Asia for their world-class care. People from all over the country go there for treatment because there are no other hospitals in the country that offer the same quality of care, but plans are being made by the federal government to take them over.”

She said employees of these hospitals were feeling that they would be treated the way those of the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences, Islamabad, were. “This is completely illegal under the 18th amendment. Service delivery, which is with the province, cannot be taken over by the federal government. As it stands, the service delivery record of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) in health and education is abysmal. You only need to see the state of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa institutions to understand that.”

Senator Rehman said Sindh was attracting doctors from the private sector by paying them handsome salaries and offering them incentives. Instead of making the provinces more independent during the Covid-19 pandemic, the government wanted to take down the only functional hospitals in the country. “We strongly condemn these attempts by the federal government to take over Sindh’s hospitals.”

Turning to the issue of Medical and Dental College Admission Test, she said: “A total of 121,000 students are protesting against the Pakistan Medical Commission (PMC) over their abrupt decision to ‘centralise’ MDCAT from this year. How can they conduct exams without consulting the province(s)? All rules have been violated to conduct these exams. The students say that in the MDCAT paper they were given questions that were from outside the syllabus. They also claim that the names on the result certificates given to them were incorrect. Their degrees will not be accepted anywhere and their future is at risk,” Senator Rehman said.

“… There’s news that someone is running PMC from abroad via Skype without any rules and regulations. How can a person sitting abroad run a key medical institution? Even the courts have said that it will run according to certain laws but the same laws are openly being violated. Pakistani doctors are acknowledged worldwide and their preliminary degree by the PMDC (Pakistan Medical and Dental Council) held a lot of value and credibility. But now PMDC has been destroyed by this government,” she added.

She said if PMC was not capable of handling such a complicated exam then why was it controlling the process. She claimed there was no transparency in its structure and cronies were being awarded.

“…Why is tabaahi sarkaar bulldozing all our institutions? Any state institute or regulatory body that was once working, whether it’s the PIA, PTDC or PMDC, has now been bulldozed by this incompetent government. Why is merit being ignored to award cronies? Meanwhile, another construction amnesty has been given to business cronies through a presidential ordinance, while the government is unable to meet their target for collecting taxes. This only happens when the institutions are weak.”

Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani referred the matter to the Senate Standing Committee on National Health Services.

Published in Dawn, January 23rd, 2021

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