LAHORE:19 July: Much to health authorities’ surprise, the search committee found a desperate response to interview calls sent to senior medics for the appointment of principals of three government medical colleges of Punjab. The search committee had called 30 senior most professors for interviews from amongst the “official seniority list” prepared by the Punjab health department. The committee, which was headed by Allama Iqbal Medical College ex-principal Prof Eice Mohammad, conducted interviews of the candidates on July 17 and 18 as per the circulated schedule, an official privy to the information told Dawn. Of 30 professors, nine appear for interview in two days He said it was quite shocking for the search committee that on the first day (July 17), only five candidates appeared for interview from amongst 15 senior medics. Those appeared included Prof Hamid Butt, Prof Arif Tajamul, Prof Umtullah Zarin, Prof Tahira Murtaza Cheema and Prof Abdul Manan Babar. Similarly, he said, only four medics appeared [for interview] on the second day out of 15 others. They are: Prof Mohammad Tayyab, Prof Salim Ahmad, Prof Aftab Mohsin and Prof Ghiasunnabi Tayyab. The official said the health authorities put their heads together to come up with some solution to the issue. In order to avoid embarrassment, he said, the health department decided to call more medics other than 30 those senior medical teachers who were notified by the search panel from the official seniority list. “An official was designated who contacted on Wednesday other senior doctors on their mobile phones requesting them to appear for the top vacant slots of the three medical institutions,” he said. The official said many of them got surprised to find all of a sudden calls by the health department on a very short notice. However, six more professors appeared on the second day, he said adding that some of them seemed ‘confused’ as they were not fully prepared. Those appeared included Prof Ayesha Arif, Prof Nadeem Hafeez Butt, Prof Mohammad Tariq, Prof Zafar Tanvir, Prof Agha Shabbir and Prof Sheikh Khawar. The official said the move was taken to show presence of maximum number of senior medics as the health authorities had failed to meet the deadline given by Chief Justice of Pakistan Saqib Nisar to complete the process of hiring of regular principals of Allama Iqbal Medical College, Post Graduate Medical Institute (PGMI) and Sahiwal Medical College. He said the CJP on June 6 had directed the health department to finalise the process within 10 days. The search committee will shortlist a panel of three medics against each medical institution in next meetings to dispatch them to the chief minister for final approval.Specialised Healthcare & Medical Education Secretary Saqib Zafar said as the search committee required a panel of three candidates against each institute, those who appeared for interviews are sufficient to serve the purpose. “However, one of the reasons behind poor response of the candidates was the summer vacation and some other issues,” he said. He dispelled the impression that the senior medics didn’t take interest in the ongoing process of appointment of regular principals of three medical colleges.Published in Dawn, July 19th, 2018.