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Senate adopts NUMS Bill but only after assurance to later support amendments

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Islamabad October 9, 2015: The Senate today unanimously passed bill for setting up the military run medical university (NUMS) but only after robust discussion and a categorical assurance by the defence minister that government will support the amendment brought by two senators subsequently as private members initiative.

Senators Farhatullah Babar and Moulana Ataurehman had moved amendments calling for the over arching oversight of the Pakistan Medical and Dental council (PMDC)– a body set up by the Parliament to regulate all aspects of medical education ranging from academic standards to qualifications of academics in all medical institutions in the country.

During discussion on the amendments in which more than a dozen members participated there was consensus that NUMS be subjected to the rules of the regulator, the PMDC. There was however disagreement over whether the proposed amendments be passed now or later. The defence minister contended that if the amendments were passed now it will delay the final adoption of the bill as it will have to be sent back to the National Assembly which had already passed it.

A via media was found under which the movers Farhatullah Babar and Senator Talha Mahmood on behalf of Moulana Ataur Rehman agreed to withdraw the amendments and the government assured to support the amendments to be tabled subsequently.

Earlier explaining the rationale for amendment Farhatullah Babar said that while no one objected to a military run medical university but “it must be subject to rigorous oversight of PMDC like any other medical university in the county”.

He said that although there were several clauses in the Bill that merited review but all these could be condoned if the university was brought under the over arching oversight of PMDC.

He said the Bill placed too vast powers in the hands of the administration. Giving examples he said the Pro Chancellor who is also the chief of army staff not only had the powers to appoint members of the policy making body the Board of Governors and the vice chancellor but also had the powers to sack them. He also had powers to direct the board of governors to reconsider any of its decisions and in the event of non compliance could serve it with a show cause notice and appoint a review panel over the head of the governing body. The qualifications required for critical positions were loosely defined such as “notable academician with finest credentials”.

The PMDC is the regulator and its role cannot be entrusted to the administration of the medical university even if it was run by the military. The administrator of the university cannot be allowed to become its regulator also, he said.

He said that if the principle of oversight by lawful civilian institutions over the military run medical university was not accepted it would become precedent for the future giving rise to parallel and competing centers of power. “The vote today is not merely over the oversight role of PMDC; the vote today is about the primacy and ascendancy of legally established civilian regulatory institutions”, he said.

Farhatullah Babar had also dissented when the Bill was considered by the Senate Defence Committee about a week ago and his dissenting note was made part of the report that was presented by the Chairman of the Committee Mushahid Hussain Sayed on Monday last in the senate.

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