Saudi Arabia and along with other Arab countries have rejected the century-old postgraduate degree programme of Pakistan - MS (Master of Surgery) and MD (Doctor of Medicine) - removing it from the eligibility list of the highest paid tier, the media reported on Wednesday.
The move by the kingdom has reportedly rendered hundreds of highly-qualified medics jobless, Dawn newspaper reported. It said that a majority of them are in Saudi Arabia who have been told to leave or be ready for deportation.
The Saudi Health Ministry, while rejecting Pakistan's MS/MD degree, said it lacked structured training programme -- a mandatory requirement to hire medics against important positions.
After the kingdom's move, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain also took the similar step, according to the report.
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.
One of the affected doctors told the daily that the decision "brought embarrassment for them" since the same degree programme offered by India, Egypt, Sudan and Bangladesh was acceptable in the kingdom and other countries.
The daily said that it obtained copies of service termination letters of several doctors issued by the Saudi Commission for Health Specialties (SCFHS).
"Your application for professional qualification has been rejected. Reason is that your master degree from Pakistan is not acceptable according to the SCFHS regulations," read a letter.
Some of the affected doctors and senior health officials in Pakistan blamed the College of Physicians and Surgeons Pakistan (CPSP) for "damaging their career", the report said.
A spokesperson for the Association of University Physicians and Surgeons Pakistan, Dr Asad Noor Mirza, called the move "a setback for Pakistan's major degree qualification and disrespect to the highly-qualified cream of the nation".
He claimed that CPSP delegations during their visits to Saudi Arabia and some Gulf states had presented "distorted facts" about Pakistan's university programme.
Noor said that now Pakistan had to face a huge loss of foreign remittance in addition to sufferings of the medics in the form of joblessness.
Dr Ali Usman, an affected medic in Saudi Arabia, said: "I had done five-year postgraduate qualification from the University of Health Sciences, Lahore, with training from Lahore General Hospital... But all of a sudden the Saudi Health Ministry terminated my job contract, landing me and my family in immense shock."
University of Health Sciences Vice Chancellor Prof Dr Javed Akram, however, said that "the MS/MD degrees are enriched with dynamic... and structured curriculum... at par excellence of international standards designed by the World Federation of Medical Education".
Dean (academics) of the CPSP, Prof Dr Ghulam Mustafa Arain, rejected the allegations levelled by the affected doctors and said the institution "can't think of degrading any medical education programme of Pakistan abroad".