Pakistani doctors working in the Gulf are facing the sack following Saudi Arabia's decision not to recognise Islamabad's postgraduate medical degree programs. Several Arab states have followed suit including the UAE, Bahrain and Qatar in a policy that is likely to have serious implications for Islamabad.
Hundreds of highly qualified medics have been told to leave or face the prospect of deportation as senior medical officials in Pakistan face an uphill battle to save the reputation of one of its more prestigious sectors.
The Saudi Ministry of Health claimed that Pakistan's degree lacked structured training programmes, which is a mandatory requirement to hire medics for important positions. According to Dawn, Pakistan's oldest and most widely read English newspaper, most of the affected doctors were hired by a team of the Saudi health ministry in 2016 when it conducted interviews in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad after inviting applications online.
A copy of the termination letter issued by the Saudi Commission for Health Specialties (SCFHS), said: "Your application for professional qualification has been rejected. Reason is that your master degree from Pakistan is not acceptable according to the SCFHS regulations."
One of the affected doctors told Dawn the decision had brought embarrassment for them since the same degree programme offered by India, Egypt, Sudan and Bangladesh was acceptable in Saudi Arabia and other countries.
Some of the doctors who now face an uncertain future have directed their anger towards the College of Physicians and Surgeons Pakistan (CPSP) and accused the college of damaging their career.
Members of Pakistan's medical elite are reported saying that this was a "setback for Pakistan's major degree qualification and disrespect to the highly qualified cream of the nation."
A spokesperson for the Association of University Physicians and Surgeons Pakistan even hinted at a power struggle within different medical bodies in Pakistan, alleging that CPSP had presented distorted facts to a Gulf delegation about Pakistan's university programme to maintain a monopoly.