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April 3, 2017

KP reluctant to provide funds for Peshawar Institute of Cardiology


April 3, 2017

PESHAWAR: The future of Peshawar Institute of Cardiology (PIC) seems to be in the doldrums as the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has showed its reluctance to provide funds for this much-delayed project, well-placed sources told The News.

However, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI)-led Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has given go-ahead to the proposed Peshawar Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project at a staggering cost of Rs57 billion. But there are no funds with the government for the PIC.

“Unfortunately, this is true and the government has informed us about the lack of funds for PIC. We have been asked to wait till July 2017,” a senior official pleading anonymity and associated with project told The News. The PIC is a desperately needed project for Peshawar and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as there are no proper cardiac care facilities for a population exceeding 30 million.

The project has remained incomplete for the last 12 years. It started in 2004 and has since been a story of neglect, personal greed and wrong priorities. Successive governments of different political parties have failed to complete it.

The PTI chief Imran Khan has on innumerable occasions talked about the importance of investing in human capital and provision of healthcare should have ranked higher for his party’s government in KP than the Bus Rapid Transit Scheme.

The PIC project, originally envisaged at around Rs3 billion, has been beset by delays from its outset due to intrigues, misplaced priorities and disregard for welfare of the masses.While the PTI government failed to show progress on the PIC, the Punjab government made functional the Rawalpindi Institute of Cardiology (RIC) within three years.

Sources told The News that the PTI government was largely unaware of the existence of the PIC until last year when Dr Nausherwan Burki, Imran Khan’s cousin and the man behind the healthcare reforms in KP, started taking interest in it.

Provincial Health Minister Shahram Khan visited the under-construction building on January 10, 2016 and instructed the authorities to complete it by June 30, 2016 and start recruitment in July 2016.

The deadline came and went but there are no signs that the PIC will be made functional anytime soon. The government failed to ask the project directors, appointed since 2004, as to why this project of public importance has been delayed so much.

When there was some hope of making tangible progress, some vested interest elements prompted Dr Haroon, all-time president of his own faction of Pakistan Medical Association, to file a petition against the government for placing the project under the supervision of the Board of Governors (BoG) of Lady Reading Hospital.

The stay order delayed things by another seven months.  It was vacated on January 14 of this year with the instructions that the government notify a separate board of governors for the project within 30 days of the court order. It has been more than two months and there are no signs that the BoG will be notified. The News has learnt that a summary has been sent to the chief minister for notification of a search and nomination committee for proposing the BoG for PIC.

Given our history of bureaucratic inertia, it will be an exception if any board is notified within the next few months.To make matters worse, the provincial government is now expressing its inability to provide funds for procurement of equipment and recruitment of personnel for PIC.Informed sources said the government machinery might not be interested in funding this project as it will be very difficult, if not impossible, to receive kickbacks and commissions if Dr Burki is at the helm of affairs. It is time the PTI chief Imran Khan took personal interest in this project.

The only hope for an expeditious start to this project is for Imran Khan to convene a meeting of the health minister, law minister, finance minister and respective secretaries of these departments along with Dr. Burki to discuss the impediments and issue a deadline for making PIC functional. The PTI government has less than a year before the elections. KP’s politically mature voters could reject the PTI as they rejected other ruling parties in past elections if it failed to fulfil promises. It needs to answer the question whether the people of KP deserve a decent heart hospital costing Rs 3-4 billion or spending Rs57 billion on the BRT project should be its priority.



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