Combating AIDS, TB, malaria programme : Political wrangling delays appointment of common unit head


ISLAMABAD: Though the three programmes such as HIV-AIDS, TB, and malaria have been integrated into a single project in order to manage the global funds one-and-a-half-month ago, the government has yet to appoint a head for the programme mainly due to political wrangling.

The National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination (NHSRC) minister merged HIV-AIDS, TB and malaria into a single project in the post devolution scenario with the new name ‘common unit’ on the Planning Ministry’s advice on March 9, 2017, in order to manage the global funds.

Sources privy to the development told Pakistan Today, though the three programmes have been consolidated into one unit, the ministry could not issue notification for the appointment of the head for the unit despite a lapse of several weeks.

Since the position is of paramount importance; hence it has become a bone of contention between Dr Nasir head of TB and Dr Abdul Baseer Khan Achakzai head of AIDS and malaria, because both the officials claimed to be legitimate candidates for the slot, the sources said.

The efforts are being made to appoint Dr Nasir as the head, while Dr Baseer is also lobbying for the post.

Dr Nasir emerged as the stronger candidate for the slot, because of his backing by Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) leader Hanif Abbasi despite the fact he headed only TB programme and he was on deputation, they added.

The sources said that though Dr Nasir has strong political backing, his appointment to the post could create legal problems since the Supreme Court (SC) had already issued orders to send all the employees on deputation back to their parent departments.

They said that the delay in the appointment of the programme’s head has caused great anxiety and uncertainty among the employees who have been working for the last ten months without salaries.

A senior official said that the ministry took the decision of integration of the three programmes sans any homework and preparation due to which several problems surfaced.

It is quite worrisome that Pakistan is among the few countries where AIDS, TB, and malaria are still prevalent, the official added.

The merger of AIDS, TB, and malaria into one consolidation unit created an issue of the signatory, as the ministry only accepted Dr Nasir’s signature though no notification had been issued of his appointment as the head.

When Pakistan Today contacted National Health Services and Regulation Ministry Secretary Muhammad Ayub Sheikh said that the appointment would be made purely on merit, without giving any specific timeframe.