Islamabad - In a special meeting chaired by Minister of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination Saira Afzal Tarar, National Council for Tibb (NCT) elected Prof Zabta Shinwari as its new president for the next five years.

Traditional medicines have been a conspicuous component of the cultural heritage of Pakistan and have played a significant role in providing healthcare to a large portion of the population. Traditional medicines and practitioners in Pakistan primarily belong to two categories i.e. Tibb-e-Unani and homoeopathic. More than 55,000 registered Hakims, Tabeebs and homoeo practitioners are registered with the National Council for Tibb (NCT). This sector takes care of a significant number of people, particularly in rural areas of Pakistan. Though the Unani, Ayurvedic and Homoeopathic Practitioners Act was passed in 1965 but Drug Regulatory Act of Pakistan (DRAP) was passed in 2012 to regulate this important sector. Unfortunately so far this sector has been ignored and only a meagre amount is its annual budget to control 33 Tibbia colleges, more than 350 herbal companies and 55000 hakims.

The council will focus on actions against fake and unregistered Hakeems. There are 457 Tibbi dispensaries and many private clinics providing treatment to public and out of them nearly 95 dispensaries have been established under provincial governments. There are over 300 herbal and Tibb-e-Unani manufacturing companies operational across Pakistan and Pakistan is amongst the leading exporters of medicinal plants.

Minister for National Services Regulation and Coordination Saira Afzal Tarar who administered the oath said, “If you want to take the sector forward, you must have to work getting out of your personal gains by working for your profession. Knowledge of medicine is a gift blessed from Allah and His messenger (PBUH).”

The minister directed all members to establish system of online registration and should take steps for transparency in examination so that the certificate and degrees of the council must become credible at world level. She further said there is dire need of research in the field of herbals because China has gone far ahead in herbals. “Council must work on herbals so that we can cater to our national needs and also earn foreign exchange by exporting herbals.”

There is a huge potential in value addition of herbal medicine. If quality assured, these medicines can be exported and can also be used locally to reduce burden on national health budget. “Our neighbouring countries are earning billions of dollars from herbal medicine. We need to use modern technology to assure its quality and efficacy,” said the newly elected president.

Pakistan is rich in biodiversity and is having more than 6,000 species of wild flowering plants and according to the recent publications, about 600 plant species were being used in traditional medicines, said the newly elected president.

The echo-system, in which they grew, has an intrinsic association with environment in conserving soil, water and providing habitat for the species. However, the genetic diversity of traditional medicinal plants was under threat of extinction.

The oath taking ceremony of newly elected members of the national Tibb Council was also held. Professor Muhammad Ajmal Khan was elected as vice President of Tibb Council.