Amid growing concerns over the delay in medical admissions across the country, the Sindh government on Tuesday set up another committee to investigate the allegations of paper leak in the Medical and Dental College Admission Test (MDCAT) held nationwide over a week ago.
According to a notification issued by the Sindh chief secretary, the body will “probe into the allegations of MDCAT 2023 paper leakage, held on Sept 10, and fix the responsibility against the delinquents”.
The six-member committee will submit its report within one week. Members of the committee also include an official from the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA).
Led by special secretary (BS-20) of the health department, the committee comprises registrar of the Institute of Business Administration (IBA), Karachi, additional secretary of the boards and universities department, deputy secretary of the services and general Administration department, a representative of the director of the FIA’s Cyber Crime Wing (not below the rank of BS-18) and deputy secretary (technical) of the health department.
The inquiry committee is authorised to co-opt members for its assistance.
On Sept 10, nearly 40,000 male and female candidates in Sindh had taken the MDCAT, conducted by the Jinnah Sindh Medical University (JSMU) for 1,700 open merit seats. After allegations of paper leak, the JSMU on Sept 14 had set up an inquiry committee.
However, the latest notification remained short of dissolving the JSMU committee. It was required to submit its report within one week.
Sources said that it could not make any substantive progress, apparently due to “confusion over jurisdiction of entities involved in investigation”.
Besides, they added, there were strong reservations over the committee’s impartiality as JSMU had conducted the MDCAT across Sindh. This compelled the provincial government to set up the new high-level body, the sources said.
“The JSMU committee stands dissolved. A new body has been set up to ensure transparency,” caretaker Health Minister Dr Saad Khalid Niaz said in a brief reply when approached for a comment.
Demand for re-holding of MDCAT grows
Representatives of Young Doctors’ Association and the Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) have demanded that the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC) immediately announce a date for re-holding the MDCAT exam as “irrefutable evidence” of paper leak had emerged across the country.
“Students are losing precious time. We demand that the PMDC provide immediate relief to students by announcing a date for re-holding the paper and giving them at least a month for its preparation,” Dr Farrukh Rauf of YDA told Dawn.
He claimed that the Sindh government had made the high-level committee on students’ demand. “How could the university that had conducted the exam hold an impartial inquiry? Hence, we were demanding that the government set an independent committee for investigation,” he said, adding that students had met with the JSMU vice chancellor on Tuesday and provided him evidence on the paper leak.
Sharing similar concerns, Dr Abdul Ghafoor Shoro of PMA-Centre said that the authorities might continue their investigations for months but the students should not suffer.
“We haven’t seen such a fiasco in medical exams before. The PMDC must make an announcement for re-holding the exam that should be held free of charge, not just for the sake of its lost integrity, but also for the students suffering on account of its failed system,” he said.
In a letter to the PMDC president, the association stated that the exam was poorly organised and administered. “Moreover, there were also technical glitches and irregularities reported during the test, which added to the already existing issues that need to be addressed.”
The situation, it stated, had caused great anxiety and distress to students who had worked hard to prepare for this exam.
“We, therefore, urge the PMDC to take immediate actions to resolve this issue and provide a level playing field to all aspiring medical students. All students who appeared in the test should be given an equal opportunity to appear again and cleared on a merit basis without any external influence,” it said.