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September 28, 2019

KP Assembly adopts Regional & District Health Authorities Bill amid protest


September 28, 2019

PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly adopted the KP Regional and District Health Authorities Bill, 2019 on Friday amid strong protest by the joint opposition as well as doctors and paramedical staff of the province.

Speaking about the legislation, the joint opposition members said doctors and paramedical staff were on strike and the police baton-charged the protesters and used tear gas against them. They termed it a cruel act on the part of the government.

Opposition leader Akram Khan Durrani, parliamentary leader of the Awami National Party (ANP) Sardar Hussain Babak, Inayatullah Khan of Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), Nighat Orakzai and Sher Azam Wazir of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), Sardar Mohammad Yousaf of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Maulana Lutfur Rahman of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) and Bilawal Afridi of Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) condemned the police baton-charge against the protesting doctors and paramedics and said the government should engage them in talks instead of using force.

They demanded inquiry into the use of force against peaceful protesters and called for bringing to justice those responsible for ordering baton-charge and teargasing of the protesters.

They argued that the MTI Act was actually privatization of the health institutions. The opposition lawmakers demanded that all the arrested doctors should be set free immediately and engaged in talks to resolve the issue.

They also termed passing of the bill as bulldozing the legislation and said the Speaker put the bill to vote when the opposition members left the House for Friday prayers. The opposition lawmakers left the House after Azan, arguing that according to Islamic injunctions all kinds of business should be closed when the call for prayers is given. However, the speaker continued the proceedings and put the bill to vote. It was adopted with majority.

Interestingly, Sahibzada Sanaullah of PPP did not support the opposition viewpoint and said it should be known as to why doctors and paramedics were holding protest and what was wrong with the reforms act.

“Being public representatives we should keep public interest in mind instead of supporting unjustified demands of doctors. In my constituency almost all Basic Health Units (BHUs) are without doctors. If doctors are not willing to perform duty in their home districts then how we can demand from the minister health to fill the vacant posts,” he argued. He clarified it was his personal view when his party (PPP) members and other opposition lawmakers objected to his remarks.

The joint opposition also held a press conference against passage of what they called controversial bill and baton-charging and teargasing of the doctors and paramedics. Addressing the press conference, Akram Khan Durrani said through this bill the government wanted privatization of the health institutions. He was flanked by Sardar Hussain Babak of the ANP, Sher Azam Wazir of PPP, PML-N’s Sardar Yousaf and JUI-F’s Mian Nisar Gul, He said the speaker bulldozed the legislation in absence of the opposition. He added that the opposition condemned the use of force against medical professionals and wanted immediate release of the arrested doctors. He said the PTI government was suppressing the media, medical professionals, teachers and other communities.

“This is the failure of the government. The NTS and FTS papers are leaked and posts are being sold,” he alleged. He said the chief minister’s discrimination in allocation of uplift funds forced the opposition to move the court of law. He said the opposition was thankful to the chief justice of the Peshawar High Court who ordered the government to prepare the mechanism for equal distribution of funds to all constituencies.

In his reply, Minister for Health Dr Hisham Inamullah rejected the impression of privatization of health institutions and said he will resign if anybody proved that under the MTI Act the health facilities were being privatized.

He said some elements with vested interest were behind the strike as they were unwilling to perform duty in the remote areas and in the districts of their domicile.

“How many of the 6,600 doctors and 17,000 paramedics in the province are on strike?” he asked. He claimed a handful of the elements with vested interest were trying to make the health reforms controversial.

Earlier, the assembly unanimously adopted the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Enforcement of Women’s Property Rights Bill, 2019 and KP Employees of Transport and Mass Transit Department (Regularization of Services) Bill, 2019.