The military is already entrenched into the government of the country – that much was obvious after Ranger’s operation and the establishment of the military courts – yet it keeps asking for more and more, without any reasonable justification or regard for civilian institutions. On Monday, the Senate defense committee passed the National University of Medical Sciences (NUMS) bill giving sweeping powers to the army-run medical university to set its own standards, bypassing the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC), the federal watch dog and regulatory body of medical education throughout the country.

The need for such a change has been explained to no one- why should NUMS be governed by separate rules? The only thing clear is that the military wants this – and that is reason enough these days it seems. Even the makeup of the committee is tilted towards the military, inhibiting any chance of a balance rational debate. Army officers, Defense Ministry members, NUMS board members, even the deputy surgeon general of the Pakistan Army, all had a place in the committee, while no one represented PMDC, or any civilian institute for that matter. On the Senate floor the valid objections of senators such as Farhatullah Babar were not even refuted; he was told that accommodating his concerns would take too long – apparently the men in boots don’t like to wait.

Beyond the fact that the military is eschewing the back seat for a much more direct role, this decision has important implications for the medical profession. The need for a singular regulatory body should be obvious, with the PMDC setting separate standards and NUMS setting separate ones, which ones do perspective medical professionals follow? Which rules should the patients follow? In an environment that is already cluttered with redundant and conflicting licenses, certifications and degrees, adding another standard setting body – which has an ambiguous scope – will only complicate the field further.

The Senate committee also did not consider the effect of this bill on the PMDC. Does this bill mean that the PMDC is substandard? Does it mean that body will be eventually replaced? All these question only serve to undermine the civilian institute, while the men in boots strengthen their own lot. The tragedy is that the military is not even bothering to construe this reshuffle of authority as a national necessity.