LAHORE - The technical committee meant to suggest measures to improve the standard of medical education after reports of sacking of Pakistani doctors working in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has created a new controversy, as its convener has pointed finger at people associated with a medical institution, though without naming them.

The specialised healthcare and medical education secretary had notified four-member Technical Committee headed by ex-vice chancellor of the University of Health Sciences Prof Mahmood Shaukat last month to ‘identify latest modalities to improve standards of medical education i.e. induction, training, curriculum and examination system’. Other members include Dean of Children’s Hospital and Institute of Child Health Prof Masud Sadiq, Principal of Allama Iqbal Medical College Prof Arif Tajamal and Deputy Secretary (Medical Education) Dr Nasir Mahmood Shakir.

The committee was tasked with comparing both programmes (MS/MD) offered by various medical universities as well as FCPS offered by the College of Physicians and Surgeons Pakistan (CPSP) in terms of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) and Career Structuring as per the given ToRs. The Committee came up with suggestions to bring both programmes on a par with national and international programmes.

Along with the preliminary report, convener of the Technical Committee, in his personal capacity, sent a separate letter, suggesting a thorough probe into the alleged dirty role of an institution that paved the way for sacking of doctors in KSA and Middle East.

As per insiders, the convener resorted to this move after other members insisted on sticking to the given ToRs for preparation of the preliminary report.

Prof Mahmood Shaukat insisted that a separate letter was aimed at suggesting the department to take the matter to its logical end instead of the past practice of putting such issues under the carpet.

“The members have deliberated on the matter in depth. The report has been drafted strictly in line with the assigned ToRs. The deputy secretary had however given some information as a preamble to the issue. Though the committee decided not to comment on that, I am writing this personal note as I consider the information vital and immensely important for the future of medical education in Pakistan. Unfortunately, we are in the habit of putting issues under the carpet and this gives a wrong message to those engaging in any undesirable activities, contrary to the goals and objective of the government and people. I have not made any opinion as to the allegations in this case, but feel that the matter should be taken to its logical conclusion by holding an unbiased and transparent inquiry. If any evidence of irresponsible behaviour of a government employee is found, strict disciplinary action should be taken. It is unimaginable that a person is found working against the institution he heads after having applied for the post by choice. If the allegations are even partly true, we still need to learn lessons from this bitter experience of placing people with a distinct and clear conflict of interest on position of authority. On the other hand, if the allegations are baseless, those behind the move should be awarded strict punishment,” the letter reads.

In the personal note, Prof Mahmood Shaukat suggested professionals seeking to work for other institutions should be allowed to do so on deputation to avoid ‘split loyalty’ and tussle between institutions that could lead to maligning each other.

Doctors privy to the recent development believe that the move of Prof Mahmood Shaukat was aimed at grilling the past opponents.

“He (Prof Mahmood) contested elections for consultants slot in PMDC. Prof Abrar Ashraf Ali won that election due to backing of Friends Group of CPSP. Pointing finger at professionals associated with the Friends Group could be due to that grudge. Moreover, he applied for slot of VC of a medical university but could not get the same,” said a senior doctor who wanted not to be named due to cordial relations with both Prof Mahmood and the other group.

“There were clear ToRs, which should have been followed. He (Prof Mahmood) should have avoided giving personal opinion after refusal of other committee members. This act will only add fuel to the fire, which should have been avoided. Professional will strongly react to this letter,” he said.

Prof Mahmood Shaukat, however, denied having three year back incident in mind while sending personal note to the health authorities. “I applied for the post of University of Health Sciences (UHS) VC and that too on the last moment on the insistence of health department high ups. I have no bad feelings for VC of any university,” he said, adding, the personal note was an attempt to improve working of the institutions and nothing more than that.

“I have not mentioned any name. I don’t know how and why this personal note has been leaked to the media. Ideally, it should have been kept secret,” Prof Mahmood said.