Already passed by the National Assembly and Senate, the landmark law mandates the formation of a high-level authority and evaluation committees, for the removal, storage and transplant of human organs and tissues for therapeutic purposes.
The president signed the bill at a ceremony attended by federal ministers and health experts in the presidency.
The new legislation has prohibited the sale of organs to foreigners and will allow a voluntary organ or tissue donation to any other genetically and legally related person, who is a close relative such as a parent, son, daughter, sister, brother and spouse, with authorisation from an evaluation committee of specialists in the field helped by local notables to be set up for every medical institution and hospital where at least 25 transplants are carried out annually. The minimum age for donors will be 18.
Any individual may voluntarily donate any organ or tissue of his body during his lifetime to another living person genetically and legally related.
The other person must be a close blood relative of the donor and the donation of an organ or a part or tissue by a person for therapeutic purposes shall be regulated in the manner as may be prescribed.
It provides for donation to be effective after death if a person, authorises any medical institution or hospital approved by a 10-member monitoring authority headed by the health minister and including heads of organisations of the medical profession and specialists.
Under the new law, transplants and removal of human organs shall only be carried out by recognised professionals after a written certification from an evaluation committee.
The bill prescribes an imprisonment for up to 10 years and a fine of up to Rs1 million for those involved in the removal and sale of human organs without the prescribed authority.
Contravention of other provisions of the law will be punishable with up to three years of imprisonment or with a fine of up to Rs300,000, or both.
A medical practitioner found guilty of unauthorised removal of human organs for transplant will also be liable to 'appropriate action' by the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council, including removal from its register for three years for the first offence and permanently for the subsequent offence.
Any person may donate any of his organs or tissues for transplant before his death - after a written authorisation duly signed and verified by the respective evaluation committee - and authorise any medical institution or hospital duly approved by the monitoring authority for this purpose.
The evaluation committee, to comprise a surgical specialist, a medical specialist, a transplant specialist, a nephrologist and a neurophysician and local notables having a good record of social service, will be notified by the federal government soon.
The monitoring authority will be headed by the health minister and the health secretary would be its secretary.
Announcing donation of his body organs, President Zardari said he took the decision in the light of Benazir Bhutto's philosophy of 'living for others'. “Pakistan was singled out in the world community because of the notorious trade of organ transplant and now parliament and doctors should create awareness about the issue among the masses,” he said.
He asked doctors to inform the government in case of any violation and help save precious lives. “No law can be effective without people's support,” he said, seeking help of the masses in countering the illegal trade.
Health Minister Makhdoom Shahabuddin said over 50,000 Pakistanis die of kidney failure, 10,000 of liver failure and 6,500 of heart failure every year. He said 42 institutions had been authorised to conduct transplants across the country. He said organ transplant was permitted in Islam and it was legal in a number of Muslim countries.