Pakistan: The strike at the Nishtar Medical College of Multan

On May 6, hundreds of students gathered in front of the college campus and protested against the affiliation of the Nishtar Medical College of Multan with the University of Health Sciences (U.O.H.S). The mass demonstration comprising of male and female students chanted slogans like “Down with privatisation”, “Stop the economic murders of poor students”, and “We want human rights.”

On May 6, hundreds of students gathered in front of the college campus and protested against the affiliation of the Nishtar Medical College of Multan with the University of Health Sciences (U.O.H.S). The mass demonstration comprising of male and female students chanted slogans like “Down with privatisation”, “Stop the economic murders of poor students”, and “We want human rights.” The peaceful and organized protestors showed their annoyance against the one-man-show policies of the state and the decaying health system. YFIS-Pakistan (Youth for international socialism) fully supports the genuine demands of the students and has vowed to fight for them.

NMC and the crisis of affiliation

The Nishtar Medical College and hospital is a traditional teaching health institute in southern Punjab that has been providing basic health facilities to two major divisions viz. Multan and D.G. Khan in the southern Punjab since 1954. For a long time the doctors of the NMC have been serving not only in the backward rural areas of Pakistan but have also won laurels from abroad. The NMC has been affiliated to the B.Z University in Multan and has been examined by the above-mentioned university.

Health University means a crisis

This latest proposal that their institute is being affiliated to the University of Health Sciences has fallen like a bolt of lightning from a clear blue sky on the students of the Nishtar Medical College. Students have become desperate and frustrated while the suppression and state blackmailing is on the order of the day at the NMC.

Health University is a disputed institution

The University of Health Sciences has become a disputed territory of education.

It is alleged that this university was founded to uphold the influence of a single person, who has remained as federal minister of health and does not want to lose his “grip” on the health facilities. This person is alleged to have close contacts with Sheikh Zaid Bin Sultan Al Nahyanan, a reactionary Gulf Monarch, and, thus has won the premises of Sheikh Zaid hospital Lahore for the Health University. Whilst two major health institutes, i.e. King Edward’s Medical College and the Fatima Jinnah Medical College, have refused to accept affiliation to the U.O.H.S, the Nishtar administration has been quick to accept this offer. This is due to the Machiavellian personality of Dr Hayat Zafar who has been chairman of the Board of Governors of the NMC and proposed V.C of the U.O.H.S.

The frustration of the students

Students have become desperate to find out that their traditional studies will be directed by the Lahore authorities which are too far away and expensive to travel to from Multan. The U.O.H.S is not recognized by international health organizations and hence its graduates have no opportunity to get jobs abroad or to continue studies abroad. These latest proposals represent a clear-cut disaster for middle class families.

The students will have to face additional hardship and unnecessary delays. Their exam results will be slow to be released and will reach Multan probably, after long delays in the traditions of the old bureaucratic methods. Medical education and healthcare will thus become even more expensive. Hence it will be beyond the reach of students and patients of the oppressed classes, who have indeed, been downtrodden for centuries.

Demands of the students are:

- Nishtar should be given the status of an autonomous, internationally recognized medical college.
- The Health University should be abolished because it is a symbol of state oppression.
- Interference of the imperialists, like Sheikh Zaid and others, in student affairs here should immediately stop.
- Privatisation of health should be stopped immediately.
- Different health and education systems for different classes should be abolished and a classless system should be introduced immediately.