Politics breeds hypocrisy in politicians. Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) till this day laments the Model Town incident, but its leadership is mum on the rough treatment of the doctors in Peshawar. The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) government invoking the West Pakistan Essential Services Maintenance Act, 1958 for three months, is yet another step to curtail the doctors’ right to protest against the enforcement of the much-contested Regional and District Health Authorities Act, 2019. PTI’s KP government is giving new meanings to democracy. But are the fears of the doctors based on the misperception that the Act makes them children of a lesser god? And is it misleading to say that the said Act is nothing short of privatising the public hospitals?

A close reading of the 14 pages bill suggests that under the pretext of reforming the health sector, it gives unprecedented and enormous powers to the health minister. He can remove any member from the regional health authority. Vesting such powers in the person of health minister is the new definition of “dissolution of power”. Moreover, far from depoliticising, the bill will further politicise the health sector. That hospitals will be generating revenue on their own means nothing but increasing the costs of tests, and check-ups for the public. If this is not privatisation, the Act is a step towards privatisation.

There are severe flaws in the said Act that the government has enacted. Even the Chief Minister (CM) realised that the bill could be improved further. However, the implementation of the said bill left the KP’s Chief Minister (CM) earlier meetings with the representatives of the Young Doctors Association (YDA) completely meaningless. The fact that the CM asked the doctors to discuss contentious sections of the bill suggests that the piece of legislation is not without flaws. Why did then provincial government show such haste in bringing in the bill to be passed from the provincial assembly? It is only natural that the doctors felt betrayed. Hence the sit-in, which the police raided with batons.

Of all political parties, PTI should not forget that the constitution gives the right of protest to the citizens of Pakistan. But, the use of brute force against the doctors informs one that the ruling party loves to be infested with goldfish memory and encourage public amnesia. It is pertinent to mention here that the way KP government has dealt with the doctors goes against the Prime Minister (PM) Khan’s consistent pleas that he makes before the overseas Pakistanis to come back and serve the country. Who will come back to serve the people, if the government does not incentivise the professionals?