According to the latest stats available with World Health Organisation, Pakistan spends 2.7 % of its GDP on national health. This percentage of expenditure on national health is far lower figure than what Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) thinks is necessary to spend on national health, i.e., 6 % of country’s GDP. As the general elections are at hands, PMA’s hosted a program to know about political parties’ priorities and policies in the health sector.

Presenting the case of People’s Party Pakistan, a senior leader of the party, Taj Haider failed to inform the participants about the policies and issues of health that his party felt necessary for the improvement of the health sector. Despite the tall claims that he made that his party revolutionised the health sector on the district level, children kept dying in Thar and other underprivileged areas of the province because of lack of basic health facilities.

Likewise, Arif Alvi, who participated on behalf of Pakistan Tehreek Insaf (PTI), did not talk of his party’s performance in the field of health in Khyber Pukhtoonkhwa (KPK). While he correctly pointed out that political will was the highest virtue for greater results, however, he failed in presenting his party manifesto’s articles and clauses that deal with national health. Similarly, Nikhat Shakeel of Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), Khawar Malik of Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP), Mairajul Huda of Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) repeated what the other speakers had said while presenting the cases of their respective parties.

Unfortunately, none of the participants presented a holistic policy for meeting the challenges that Pakistan faces in the health sector. It is saddening to note that 45% of children in the country are stunted. Maternal mortality rate ratio in Pakistan is one of the highest in the world, i.e. 178 per 100,000 live births. Under-five mortality rate per 1000 live births is 78 only better than some of the African countries. Data acquired by the WHO for the year 2016 ranks Pakistan the worst country considering the neonatal mortality rate – 45.6 per 1000 live births.

It is high time for all the political parties to work closely with PMA and accept the organisation’s recommendations if they are serious about improving the health sector. The argument that Pakistan is a developing economy with resource limitations is not an excuse when we look to other low-income countries that have made great strides in healthcare in the last few decades. The experiences of these countries provide illuminating lessons that should be applied in Pakistan. All political parties need to make public health the central political issue of their electoral campaign.