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Ban on ex-Pakistan leaves : Experts look askance at Punjab CM’s restriction on tertiary care institutes heads

Ban on ex-Pakistan leaves : Experts look askance at Punjab CM’s restriction on tertiary care institutes heads

LAHORE: Caretaker Chief Minister Mohsin Naqvi has slapped a ban on ex-Pakistan leaves of vice chancellors, principals and executive directors of all the tertiary care institutes of the province, drawing ire of the quarters concerned that term the move unwarranted as it may lead to a drastic negative impact on international research collaborations to improving rankings of the medical universities.

A notification was issued by secretary to chief minister Sumair Ahmad Syed on Saturday.

“The competent authority has been pleased to impose complete ban on ex-Pakistan leaves in case of vice chancellors, principals and executive directors of tertiary care institutes/hospitals in Punjab with immediate effect and till further orders,” reads the notification.

Naqvi’s surprise visits to hospitals also irk medical community

The development came a day after the caretaker CM himself left for a five-day visit to China on an official tour.

An official source said the ban imposed by the CM was against the rules and regulations as it was the domain of the governor being the chancellor of the medical universities. Secondly, he said, the step would also irk the Higher Education Commission (HEC), which has been instructing the VCs to enhance collaborations with the international institutes and medical bodies to improve the rankings globally.

A couple of months back, he said, HEC Chairman Dr Mukhtar Ahmed led a 29-member delegation of prominent academicians, including the VCs, from all over the country to the UK. The Pakistani medics had participated in the leadership development study programme of Pak-UK Education Gateway in London.

When scientists/experts collaborate across borders and disciplines they achieve more than they could do on their own, the official said and added that they could make breakthroughs in research that’s impossible without international collaborations. Another purpose of the international collaborations is to attract the global medics and students to Pakistani institutes.

The official added that after the CM’s sudden order of ban on ex-Pakistan leaves surfaced, many VCs had to cancel their international commitments that brought about embarrassment for the universities as well as the country.

On Sunday, the VC of a medical university sent an email to an international organisation, expressing his inability to attend the scheduled global event where he was to represent Pakistan as the only academician from the region by reading a research paper.

The source said the reaction from the organisation put the VC in an embarrassing position when former asked him to explain as to why the Punjab government had banned ex-Pakistan leaves and the latter had no solid reasons to satisfy it.

The source added that ex-Pakistan leaves had been a fundamental right of the government employees under the law.

The ban on such leaves would gravely impact the medical tourism world over which was a key factor to exchange expertise. The VCs were going abroad to introduce the country’s medical education and to enhance their knowledge of the latest research happening globally.

He said Pakistan had become the third biggest source of foreign doctors in America while according to a report of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Pakistan was the third largest source of foreign-trained physicians in the world.

Like, he said, there were 12,000 Pakistani doctors in the United States and 1,900 of them were from Lahore’s King Edward Medical University while many others from Allama Iqbal Medical College Lahore. The number of Pakistani doctors in the rich industrialised nations of the OECD was 25,607.

The source said the caretaker CM’s frequent and repeated ‘surprise visits’ to the hospitals led to the grouping and politics among the senior doctors as the caretaker CM would bypass the system to issue orders for transfer and removal of senior medics and heads of the institutes, including principals and medical superintendents.

The Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) Lahore voiced its disapproval of the CM’s frequent hospital visits, labelling them as political manoeuvres to gain cheap popularity.

The PMA Lahore held a meeting at the PMA House where its members expressed resentment and decided to make a strategy to stop, what they termed, humiliation of the health professionals by the CM. They argued that the CM’s visits were planted and they were not aimed at bringing about improvement to the system. They demanded a more meaningful approach to the hospital reforms through increased funding and improving administrative capabilities of the health department.

PMA Lahore President Dr Ashraf Nizami expressed his concerns at Mr Naqvi’s raids to the hospitals, saying that the caretaker CM was using doctors as easy targets for his public image.

The PMA presented a clear demand to the Chief Minister, urging him to shift his focus towards tackling pressing issues within the province.

Published in Dawn, September 18th, 2023

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