ISLAMABAD: Amid str­ong protest by the opposition, the Senate on Mon­day passed a bill seeking to reconstitute the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC) after dozens of amendments were inserted into it.

Leader of Opposition Dr Shahzad Waseem of PTI objected to the “long list of fresh amendments”, suggesting the bill should be sent to the committee again. “They [the government] should have no problem as they have majority in the panel,” he maintained.

While the treasury ben­ches underlined the urgency to get the bill passed saying it’s about the future of medical students, the opposition members alleged that the proposed legislation was meant to “create a lot of incompetent medical professionals and serve the vested interests of a mafia”.

Justifying the amendments, PPP Senator Mandviwala alleged that chairman of the standing committee had behaved in a hostile manner and ridiculed the amendments and members from the treasury benches, compelling them to walk out of the meeting.

PTI senators seek debate on ‘dozens of amendments’; four bills seeking changes to law for trans people tabled

Committee Chairman Humayun Mohmand of PTI rejected the allegation. He said in fact it was the government side that had tried to insult him and sought an apology from him, though he didn’t do anything illegal. “No discussion took place on 98 per cent of amendments,” he claimed.

As Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani allowed the mover of the bill, Mr Mandviwala, to present the amendments, PTI lawmakers started clamouring and gathered close to the chairman’s dais chanting ‘No, No’.

Under the amendments approved by the house with a voice vote, the prime minister will constitute the PMDC by notification in the official gazette.

The council will include three members from civil society, to be nominated by the PM on the recommendations of the minister concerned, a retired high court judge or a practising lawyer with a minimum experience of 15 years, the surgeon general of the armed forces medical services, secretary of the National Health Services, provincial health secretaries, five licensed medical professionals, including one dentist, a chartered accountant, one philanthropist and an elected member from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Pakistan.

The bill, already passed by the National Assembly, will be sent to the lower house of parliament again for its passage with fresh amendments.

After a formal assent from the President, it will become an act of parliament leading to disbandment of the existing Pakistan Medical Commission (PMC).

In October 2019, Presi­dent Dr Arif Alvi had promulgated ordinances, dissolving the PMDC to replace it with a new organisation, PMC.

The ordinances were converted into an act of parliament amid a controversy over appointment of the then PM Imran Khan’s cousin Dr Nosherwan Barki as its head. Inclusion of people from outside the medical profession as its members also raised eyebrows.

‘Dignity violated’

The opposition leader said the way the PMDC bill had been bulldozed was against the dignity of the house. He said the house proceedings had refreshed memories of the recent amendments made in the accountability law by the coalition government, something which is already being labelled as ‘NRO-II’.

He said the coalition government led by PML-N was holding press conference after press conference saying it would investigate the controversial cipher. “We from day one are demanding an investigation into this matter through a judicial commission headed by the Chief Justice of Pakistan,” he pointed out.

Ejaz Ahmad Chaudhary, another PTI senator, said the way the legislation had been made called for bulldozing of the house.

“This…is a black spot on the face of the imported government,” he said.

The senator regretted that inflation had ruined the life of the common man, but the government was least bothered about it and busy getting itself relief in corruption cases. Due to the same reason, he said, Imran Khan has decided to give a call for protest against the government and in the first phase, “we are going to start jail bharo tehreek”.

Legislative business

The house also passed the National Commission on the Rights of Child (Amend­ment) Bill, 2022, the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences Bill, 2022, and the National Assembly Secre­­tariat Employees Amendment Bill.

Besides, four bills seeking to amend the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2018, landed in the house, with JUI-F and JI terming it against the dictates of Quran and Sunnah.

A bill seeking to provide for the management and regulation of Toshakhana also landed in the Senate. It was introduced by Senator Bahram Tangi.

Published in Dawn, October 4th, 2022

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