by Amir Saeed
ISLAMABAD: The government has provided Rs 16 billion to Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) as cash support to improve its working conditions. Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Sheikh Aftab Ahmed informed this to the Senate on Friday while responding to a question. He said the government is closely watching the performance of the national carrier and has already taken steps to turn it into a profitable organisation.
The minister said the government has also spent some Rs 52 million on acquisitions of 15 aircraft on dry lease, said the Minister in reply to a question raised by a senator. The Minister while replying to another question also informed the senators that at least 26 million unverified (Subscriber Identification Modules) SIMs were blocked since the start of verification process for mobile phone SIMs across the country.
Meanwhile, the Senate unanimously passed a bill for setting up the military-run medical university (National University of Medical Sciences) but only after a robust discussion and a categorical assurance by the Defence Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif that government will support the amendment brought by two senators subsequently as private members initiative.
Opposition senators of PTI and PML-Q said that Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC) was corrupt institution and had become redundant. However, PPP senators rejected argument and said that any institution cannot be absolved of its duties only because of allegations of corruption. “People say that Parliament is corrupt then its role of making legislation should be ended,” Saeed Ghani said.
Senators Farhatullah Babar and Maulana Ata-ur-Rehman had moved amendments calling for the over arching oversight of the PMDC – a body set up by the Parliament to regulate all aspects of medical education ranging from academic standards to qualifications of academics in all medical institutions in the country. During a discussion on the amendments in which more than a dozen members participated there was consensus that the NUMS be subjected to the rules of the regulator, the PMDC. There was however disagreement over whether the proposed amendments be passed now or later.
The defence minister contended that if the amendments were passed now it will delay the final adoption of the bill as it will have to be sent back to the National Assembly which had already passed it. Senator Farhatullah Babar and Senator Talha Mahmood on behalf of Moulana Ataur Rehman agreed to withdraw the amendments and the government pledged that it would support the amendments to be tabled subsequently.
Earlier, explaining the rationale for amendment, Farhatullah Babar said that while no one objected to a military-run medical university but “it must be subject to rigorous oversight of PMDC like any other medical university in the county”. He said that although there were several clauses in the Bill that merited review but all these could be condoned if the university was brought under the over arching oversight of the PMDC.
He said the bill placed too vast powers in the hands of the administration. Giving examples, he said the Pro Chancellor who is also the chief of army staff not only had the powers to appoint members of the policy making body the Board of Governors and the vice chancellor but also had the powers to sack them.
He also had powers to direct the board of governors to reconsider any of its decisions and in the event of non compliance could serve it with a show-cause notice and appoint a review panel over the head of the governing body.
The qualifications required for critical positions were loosely defined such as “notable academician with finest credentials”. The PMDC is the regulator and its role cannot be entrusted to the administration of the medical university even if it was run by the military. The administrator of the university cannot be allowed to become its regulator also, he said. “The vote today is not merely over the oversight role of PMDC; the vote today is about the primacy and ascendancy of legally established civilian regulatory institutions,” he said.
Source: Business Recorder