Bolan Medical College (BMC), the only operational medical institute in Balochistan, was established in early 1970s. Since then it has been affiliated with University of Balochistan (UOB) as its Degree Awarding Institute. However, UOB is a general university and not a medical university and therefore a medical university had to be established in the province.

With the passage of time, pressure by Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC), which is accreditation and regulating body of medical institutes, grew on provincial government to get BMC affiliated with a medical university and that meant establishment of a new medical university. In that backdrop, work started on the draft of Bolan University of Health Sciences. This proposed university is designed on the model of University of Health Science Lahore. It would be fully autonomous internally but will be under control of the office of Chief Minister (CM). The draft of Bolan University of Health Sciences, Act 2015 was prepared by Health Department in February this year and so far there has been no headway on it.

At the moment there are different competing interests who want to mould the university according to their own interests. This is further delaying the establishment of the much needed university in the province.

First major interest group in this entire debate is the Governor Secretariat. Governor has become a ceremonial position after the addition of provincial autonomy clauses in constitution through the 18th Amendment. Still, the Governor has the control over the university as the chancellor. However, these powers will be taken back once a province passes its higher education act. In this case, Governor House is allegedly not facilitating the Bolan University of Health Sciences act because it has been initiated by the Health department and it has taken the authority of appointment of Vice Chancellor from Governor and handed it to Chief Minister. As a result Governor Secretariat is reportedly not allowing further progress on establishment of the proposed Medical University in its proposed form.

The second interest group is the BMC faculty members who want the formation of university on urgent basis so that they can escape from the control of the health department. At the moment, the faculty members of BMC report to the health department and they consider it to be an additional hurdle for doing their jobs. When a medical university is established then the faculty members will not report to the health department anymore and it will be a sigh of relief for them. As a result the BMC faculty members are lobbying for establishment of the medical university as soon as possible. However, they are not much bothered about the basic details and also prepared to make compromises on the act of the university.

Furthermore, the third interest group is the office of the Health Minister of the province. At the moment, BMC and all of its affiliated hospitals are under the authority of the Health Minster. These are the areas where the Health Minister can exercise his authority and earn benefit in different ways. If BMC is upgraded into a medical university then all the teaching hospitals and BMC would get out of the control of Health Minister and this is one of the reasons that he is allegedly opposed to idea of establishment of the medical university in the province.

The fourth interest group in this case is PMDC. This body also wants the creation of medical university in the province so that medical education in Balochistan is in line with PMDC rules. As a result PMDC gave a deadline of October to form a university in the province or else BMC would be de-recognized. After a few days, PMDC extended the deadline by another 6 months. Inside sources say that PMDC will continue the extension of exemption and threat of de-recognition should not be a cause of concern because it’s just a bluff.

The idea that proposed the medical university should be under control of CM rather than Governor sounds good. The reason is that this university will have hospitals under its umbrella which are involved in service delivery. If provincial government loses full control of these hospitals then it will be a nightmare from the governance standpoint. So, the claim by the Governor Secretariat that the proposed medical university should be under its control is absurd and should not be entertained.

The sensible and prudent way to solve the crisis is to avoid making any decisions in haste. This means that the draft of the medical university should not be amended and passed in haste as it would create more problems than it would solve. All the concerned stakeholders should negotiate on the draft and take as much time as possible to reach an agreement. In short, it’s better to not have a medical university for the time being rather than having a one which is inherently flawed in its nature due to interference made by competing interest groups in its act.

It’s really unfortunate that politics and the vested interests have hijacked the educational institutes. At least education should be above any political interference and manipulation because there are several other arenas where politicians can earn a fortune. Medical university in Balochistan is a test case for the incumbent government. Either they will establish a model medical university which is free from political control or they let the vested interests of different groups hijack the idea of the university.