Students with PoK degrees left in the lurch

High and dry:Over 30 students from colleges such as the Poonch Medical College in Rawalakot, Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, have been left in the lurch.  

Over 30 students from Jammu & Kashmir have been left at a crossroads after the Medical Council of India (MCI) refused to recognise the MBBS degrees acquired from medical colleges located in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK).

Speaking to The Hindu from Muzaffarabad, the Capital of PoK, an MBBS student said, “I enrolled at the Azad Jammu Kashmir Medical College in 2012. After completing my degree, I applied to the MCI for degree validation and entry examination. I was disallowed to write the examination.”

Meritorious student

The student, a resident of Srinagar, was informed by MCI officials that only MBBS degrees from Pakistan, but not PoK, were recognised.

“I am a meritorious student. I secured an MBBS seat in Pakistan against my Class X (94%) and Class XII (92%) marks. Those who landed us in this situation should be held accountable,” the student added.

There are three medical colleges in PoK —Azad Jammu and Kashmir Medical College in Muzaffarabad; Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto Shaheed Medical College in Mirpur; and Poonch Medical College in Rawalakot. All were set up after 2011.

For years now, about 20 students are sent to medical colleges in Pakistan annually on the recommendation of separatist leaders and relatives of divided families in the Kashmir Valley. The children of slain militant commanders are also offered seats in Pakistani medical colleges.

Student protest

The PoK-based medical colleges, which are affiliated to both the University of Azad Jammu and Kashmir, and the Pakistan Medical & Dental Council, have reserved 6% seats for students on this side of the Line of Control (LoC). Over 50 students from J&K are pursuing medicine in PoK currently.

The protest by Kashmiri students in 2016 had forced the PoK authorities to shift 18 students to medical colleges in Karachi and Punjab.

“I am left with no other option but to prepare for the Professional and Linguistic Assessments Board test in the United Kingdom. It’s an extremely costly affair and not all students can afford it. I am an only child and my parents are based in Srinagar, but I don’t want to practice in Pakistan,” said another student.

Srinagar-based lawyer Babar Qadri blamed the Hurriyat for the mess.

“Most students have been recommended by the Hurriyat and their careers are in jeopardy now. I appeal to the governments on both sides of the LoC to recognise each others’ degrees. When we can trade onions, etc., why can’t we exchange students?” said Mr. Qadri.

Mirwaiz Umar Farooq-led Hurriyat spokesperson Shahid-ul-Islam told The Hindu that the Hurriyat “will look into the matter”.

Quotas for Kashmiris

“There are quotas only for Kashmiri students across the LoC and in Pakistan. I appeal to the SAARC nations to intervene in the matter and ensure that no student is victimised. At least education should remain above politics,” said Mr. Islam.

A bus service between J&K and PoK was allowed by India and Pakistan in 2005 and trade links restored in 2008 as part of the confidence-building measures. The links have made it easier for students to travel across for studies.