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January 23, 2021

Status of CPEC Authority: Opp storms out of Senate over govt reply

Top Story

 
January 23, 2021

By Mumtaz Alvi

ISLAMABAD: Opposition legislators stormed out of the Senate Friday on the opening day of the new session against the ‘dissatisfactory’ reply by the government on the status of the CPEC Authority after its ordinance had lapsed last year.

During question hour, Jamaat-e-Islami Senator Mushtaq Ahmad and Muhammad Javed Abbasi of PML-N asked supplementary questions about CPEC Authority, whereas Senator Mushtaq had asked questions, in writing, on this count.

Senator Mushtaq had asked from Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives in written questions, “Is it a fact that despite the repeal of the CPEC Authority Ordinance, the authority is still operating without any constitutional authority and legal justification. If so, what is the legal status of the administrative and financial decisions taken by the authority so far and the steps taken?”

Asad Umar, in a written reply, said that the CPEC Authority Ordinance expired in May 2020 while the CPEC Authority Bill was pending in the National Assembly, while all administrative and financial matters related to CPEC projects were being looked after by the Ministry of Planning. “All administrative and financial decisions relating to CPEC projects are being taken by the relevant ministries/departments in accordance with the laws and rules in vogue,” he noted.

Minister for Industries Hammad Azhar, present in the House, also said that all matters relating to the authority were being taken care of by the Ministry of Planning. To this, some senators raised questions about its former chairman. And, then they walked out of the House, expressing dissatisfaction over the replies given by the treasury side.

Speaking in the House, PPP Parliamentary Leader Sherry Rehman strongly opposed what she called the federal government’s bid to take over Sindh hospitals. She argued, “Sindh’s National Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases (NICVD), National Institute of Child Health (NICH) and Jinnah Sindh Medical University are renowned all over Asia for their world class care. People from all over the country come there for treatment since there are no other hospitals in the country, which offer the same high quality of care and treatment but plans are being made by the federal government to take them over.”

She pointed out that the employees were already feeling threatened that they would go down the same route as PIMS. This was completely illegal under the 18th Amendment. Service delivery, which was with the province, could not be taken over by the federal government. “As it stands that the service delivery record of PTI in health and education is abysmal. You only need to see the state of KP institutions to understand that,” she contended.

Senator Sherry wondered why they wanted to get into something they were not capable of handling. Why they want to damage the quality of these hospitals and added Sindh was attracting doctors from the private sector by paying them more and giving them incentives. She noted that instead of making the provinces more independent during the pandemic, this government wanted to take down the only functional hospitals in the country. “We strongly condemn these attempts by the federal government to take over Sindh hospitals,” she said.

On the MDCAT issue, Senator Rehman said, “ As many as 121,000 students are protesting against the Pakistan Medical Commission (PMC) over their abrupt decision to ‘centralise’ the Medical and Dental College Admission Test (MDCAT) from this year. How can they conduct exams without consulting the province and the syllabus? All rules have been violated to conduct these exams. The students have said that in the MDCAT paper they were given questions out of the syllabus. They also claimed that the names on the result certificates given to them were incorrect. Their degrees will not be accepted anywhere and their future is at risk”.

“PMDC employees have been neglected and no one is taking responsibility. There’s news that someone is running PMC from abroad via Skype without any rules & regulations. How can a person sitting abroad run a key medical institution? Even the courts have said that it will run according to certain laws but the same laws are openly being violated. Pakistani doctors are acknowledged worldwide and their preliminary degree by PMDC held a lot of value and credibility. But now PMDC has been destroyed by this government,” she added.

She emphasised if PMC was not capable of handling such a complicated exam, why it was controlling this process. There was no transparency in their structure and cronies were being awarded. Sole appointing authority is always under the board’s control but ironically, when it comes to the PMC, this authority lies with the PM. “Why is ‘Tabahi Sarkar’ bulldozing all our institutions? Any state institution and regulatory body which was once working, whether it’s PIA, PTDC or PMDC, is now bulldozed by this incompetent government. Why is merit being ignored to award cronies?”

“Meanwhile, another construction amnesty has been given to business cronies through a presidential ordinance, while the government is unable to meet their target for collecting tax. This only happens when the institutions are weak,” she regretted.

Senator Sherry demanded that an inquiry must be conducted and a committee should be appointed to investigate this matter. This issue should be referred to the committee with a timeframe.

Leader of the House Senator Dr Shahzad Waseem said that there should be no politics of allegations and added that the Centre was keen on working with the provinces to lift the standard of health services. He noted that after the 18th Amendment, the hospitals were handed over to Sindh but their own employees had gone to High Court that their pay and other facilities were being impacted.