The Punjab Healthcare Commission has suddenly decided to clamp down on assorted treatment centres in the province. These health centres had been operating for a long time but now the PHC has put them out of commission by declaring them fake.
While many have questioned the motives behind such a move, the PHC teams sealed 99 health centres, calling the operators of the clinics quacks. According to the official report, among 55 general quacks, 28 were dentists, 14 bonesetters, and two hakeems. In what is being called an anti-quackery campaign, the findings are very interesting. Gujranwala topped the list having 42 fake treatment centres operated by 20 general quacks, 15 dentists, and seven bonesetters. The number of bonesetters in the city of wrestlers and roadside barbeque delights surpasses any other city. Wrestlers are certainly more likely to suffer cracked bones and dislocated jaws than ordinary citizens.
But quacks should take heart because such government moves are usually short-lived. They are also justified to contend why they have been singled out when a host of fakers in other fields operate merrily. Former CJP Anwar Zaheer Jamali, while hearing an election-related appeal, had pointed out how hundreds of fake lawyers practised in Islamabad courts. According to an investigative report in an English daily, about 400 fake lawyers practise law in the courts of the capital. All one has to put on is a black coat and tie and there’s no looking back.
To outshine their peers, the smart ones among the lawyers even write ‘Dr’ with their names. Monticello University was once famous for conferring PhDs in law until it had to shut down for issuing fake degrees. The last PhD it conferred was upon one of our own who now runs a successful legal practice besides lecturing on ethics. According to another report, “There are advocates without licences or licences obtained on fake degrees in every bar association, big or small. The situation in smaller bar associations, away from media glare, is worse as many lawyers there do not have a licence at all.” No one dare ask such lawyers to show their degrees. That would amount to stirring a hornet’s nest.
So when lawyers with fake degrees can allegedly practice with impunity, why single out poor quacks? Quacks are justified in nurturing a gripe against the provincial government. Whenever an axe falls on them, the other class of charlatans that goes underground to wait for the storm to pass is soothsayers, practitioners of black magic and prescribers of aphrodisiacs to the needy. These artists call themselves professors; hence, the number of professors, and some calling themselves both professors and doctors, has multiplied in the last few years. Even men of religion have acquired doctorates to their exalted status.
This raises a pertinent question. What if quacks and bonesetters appealed to the chief justice of Pakistan to help save them from starvation? The quacks could take the plea that when hundreds of lawyers, including some reportedly hired by government departments, are said to have thrived unquestioned, why treat the helpless quacks differently. Quacks serve humanity by their glib tongues, as do lawyers without degrees.
Some years back, the Pakistan Bar Council, along with other bar councils, wanted to verify the degrees of the lawyers with the help of NADRA and the HEC. After verification, the lawyers were to get special identity cards but the plan failed because the majority of lawyers were not impressed with the idea of degree verification. Justice demands that as long as fake lawyers remain entrenched in the legal system, quacks too be allowed to carry on their practice.
The writer is a freelance columnist based in Lahore.