ISLAMABAD - Health minister Monday accused Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) leader Dr Asim Hussain of backing irregularities in the top regulatory body of medical education in Pakistan.

Minister of State for National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination Saira Afzal Tarar, speaking to media persons at a briefing, remarked, though he was out of public view, he was working behind the scene.

Former petroleum minister Dr Asim Hussain, who is currently in Rangers custody for his alleged involvement in financial embezzlement and terror financing, served the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council as a council member, vice president and chairman of disciplinary committee from 2007 to 2015.

The health minister stated that PMDC’s own law was standing in the way of any action against Dr Asim in connection with various complaints against him. Miss Tarar vowed to extend cooperation with investigation and law enforcement agencies investigating Dr Asim for the allegations.

But she clarified that his arrest merely coincided with the issuance of PMDC ordinance, otherwise both the events had no relevance. “The ordinance was issued on the directives of the Supreme Court and it was already in the pipeline”.

Dr Asim is no more the head of Pakistan Nursing Council as well and two names have been proposed for the appointment of the head of the nursing council, she added.

The president on August 28 had promulgated Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (Amendment) Ordinance 2015 that consequently had dissolved the ‘controversial’ elected council of PMDC. The ordinance was issued in the light of Supreme Court directives for reforms in the regulatory body. Hearing a petition filed by the suspended registrar of the council, Dr Nadeem Akbar, the apex court had observed that “butchers are being created in medical colleges and why the federal government has no role to play in this fiasco”.

The health minister along with senior health officials briefed the media about the recent developments regarding PMDC. She said a new management committee has been constituted which is entrusted to hold elections within 120 days and may also investigate, if find any irregularities committed in the council.

“The new management committee has been given full powers to ensure transparency and merit and will primarily focus on transparent elections and will give a roadmap in next two weeks”.

The committee comprises the most eminent and well-reputed top professionals of the medical and dental profession namely Major General (r) Azher Kiyani, Professor Abid Farooqi, Professor Nadeem Rizvi, one representative each from Ministry of Law and Ministry of Finance. The basic pre-condition for membership of the management committee was that none of the members had served at any time in PMDC during the last five years. This measure is meant to ensure transparency and foreclose possibility of conflict of interest, the minister said informing that in order to ensure transparent, free and fair elections, the chief justice of the Supreme Court has also been asked to nominate a member of the management committee.

Saira said the size of the new council under the ordinance has been significantly reduced and now there will be 35 members as against the earlier 81, and in line with recommendations of the three-member committee constituted by the Islamabad High Court, the new council shall have equal representation from all provinces and the public and private sector medical and dental colleges. Out of these 35 members, at least 20 will be elected members and 15 honorary representatives.

Regarding the controversy of PMDC registrar, she said the ministry had stated in Supreme Court that “Dr Nadeem Akber is registrar of the council, according to opinion of law division, but now the new committee will decide about the fate of the registrar after going through the rules”.

The PMDC was constantly at loggerheads with the health ministry and concerned parliamentary committees over various decisions and issues. The dissolved council also faced complaints and allegations of registering substandard medical colleges under the political influence. Dr Asim was member of the council and head of disciplinary committee when it was dissolved.

The only way forward to secure the future of doctors and medical students was to reorganise the PMDC in such a manner that it regains its lost reputation within the country as well as at the international level, stated the minister. Now, she maintained, “with the dissolution of council, the era of vested interests, corruption, mismanagement due to which thousands of medical professionals and students were suffering is over”.

It is the second time that the government has dissolved the PMDC elected council by introducing an ordinance. Such an ordinance was introduced in 2014 as well but it could not sail through the Senate and after the expiry of the ordinance, the PMDC law had reverted to the 2012 position and ministry had no say in PMDC affairs.

This time too, though, the government does not have majority in Senate, the state minister vowed to get PMDC Ordinance approved by the parliament saying, it would convince PPP, PTI and JUI to support the bill.

Back there at PMDC, the suspended registrar, Dr Nadeem Akbar, tried to enter the PMDC to assume charge in the light of the law division opinion but the additional registrar who is also holding acting charge of registrar, Dr Shaista Faisal, did not allow him to do so.

“As the ministry has said that the new management committee will decide the portfolio of the registrar, we cannot allow anyone to enter forcefully and take a seat in the absence of any formal orders,” said Dr Shaista Faisal.