The O'level Dilemma
On Monday or Tuesday, I will be going to Peshawar. I need to go in order to finally get around to getting my PMDC registration done, something which, until now hasn’t been a priority with me. To explain why I need to do the registration now, I have to explain Shakir’s story.
Shakir did his O’levels outside Pakistan and his A-levels in Pakistan. He did very well in both and was admitted to Aga Khan, where he completed his MBBS last year. Since then he’s gone on to score a 99 in Step 1 and a 92 in Step 2. He’s currently in the US on the interview trail along with the rest of my friends, Uzer, Hussain, Moiz, Usman and Aya. After his MBBS exam, Shakir when to get his PMDC registration done. As it turns out the PMDC required his Matric and F.Sc scores. Shakir had done O’levels and A’levels instead, so it was a simple matter of getting these scores converted, which was a routine affair.
When he went to get this equivalence certificate from the relevant office, he was told that from 2005, a rule was passed that made it mandatory for any Pakistani in the O and A levels system to have done Urdu, Islamiyat and Pak Studies, otherwise an equivalence certificate would not be issued. Shakir had done his O and A levels in long before this rule was introduced, but apparently, they were applying it retrospectively as well. This meant that Shakir, who had not done these subjects because he did his O’levels in a foreign country, was now required to pass O’level Urdu, Islamiyat and Pak Studies before he could be given his equivalence certificate. Shakir went to everyone he could, including the big guns at AKU, asking for help to be exempted from this rule. He tried very hard and ran everywhere, but the rule would not be changed for him. He had to do these three O’level subjects in order to get his equivalence certification which he needed to get his PMDC registration, which he needed to get a residency in the US.
After finding this out, he put the matter side and studied for his Step 1 and Step 2 exams. He scored very very well on both exams, and right after he passed the Step 2 exam, he moped for a while, then finally got the O’level books for Urdu, Islamiyat and Pak Studies and started studying for the October/November O’level exams.
So here was Shakir, a doctor, from Aga Khan, who scored 99/92 on his Steps, studying for his O’level exams. As a result of this experience, the Aga Khan Medical University has reportedly changed it’s prospectus to warn incoming applicants of this problem.
Now while this sounds funny and completely insane at the same time, it had another level of relevance to me. I, like Shakir, also did my O’levels from outside Pakistan and A’levels within Pakistan, and I, like Shakir had not done Urdu, Islamiyat or Pak studies. I actually cannot even read Urdu, let alone pass the O’levels in it.
The crux of the matter was/is the equivalence certificate. Therein lies a crucial difference b/w me and Shakir. Aga Khan recognizes O’levels/A’levels as is, they don’t need an equivalence certificate in its stead. However all government colleges in Pakistan, including the one I went to, required an equivalence certificate, and so when I applied to my college, I had to have one made. At that time, there was no rule that required Urdu/Islamiyat/Pak studies to be done, so I never had that problem. So I had made my equivalence certificate before entering college, whereas Shakir had not.
However the problem has been bugging me because things can still go wrong for me. All of my original equivalence documents are still with the college. What if they’ve lost them and I need to get new ones? That’s not impossible considering the gross incompetence of our Student Affairs Section. What if the PMDC requires new equivalence certificates and won’t accept the ones I made in 1999?
When Shakir told me his story a couple of months ago, I brushed my own concerns away because I had already made equivalence certificates before. I decided I’d embark on the bureaucratic adventure of my PMDC registration after my Step 2 exam was over in March.
However, since then I’ve made a firm commitment to be in the US to give my Step 2 CS exam by mid-April (I applied for the exam they other day). My father then reminded me that if I’m going to be in the US by mid-April, then if the PMDC gives me any trouble, I might not be at hand to try to fix the problem. Hence I have decided to get this headache over with now.
I called the PMDC registration a bureaucratic adventure. Here is what I need to do in order to get my PMDC registration done:
First I must get my medical transcript from my college. But they won’t just give it to me if I show up, no, no, no! That would be far too easy and simple. In order to get my transcript I have to prove that I have no outstanding dues from any department associated with the college. This means I have to get a signed release form (clearances) from the people in charge of those departments. The departments in question are:
The transport department (to make sure I don’t have outstanding bus dues).
The library (to make sure I don’t have any books left with me)
The accounts section (to make sure my fees are all paid up)
The sports department (don’t ask me why)
The boy’s hostel number one,
The boys hostel number two,
The boy’s hostel numbers three. (Even if you have never lived in any of the hostels)
I also have to get an unemployment certificate. I have no idea why, but the fun part is that it must be done from some mysterious office miles away from the college.
I’m pretty sure there are a couple more departments I have forgotten that will make their presence felt when I go there. To add more fun to this trekking adventure, most of these departments are located far apart from each other. The hostels, for one thing are a 15 minute walk from the college and from each other. To make things even more fun, it is wholly possible that the people in charge of any one department might be on vacation or at home sick from naswar poisoning, and if that happens, I absolutely have to wait until they are back before I can complete my clearances. If even one person is away on extended leave, I am stuck until he comes back. The guy in the transport department is particularly notorious for being difficult to find. To make my life even more exciting, all these people have to sign the same piece of paper (the clearance sheet). I’m literally going around collecting signatures that attest to the fact that all my dues are paid up. If one person is missing and I decide to come back later, I have to take this paper with me, so I can’t even leave anything with him to sign in case I am not there when he decides to return to work.
When all this is done, I will receive my medical transcript and all other original documents (including my equivalence certificates) from the student affairs section.
After that is done, I have to have the detailed marks certificates (DMCs) of all my years in college (1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th) and get them, as well as my photographs, my equivalence certificates (let’s hope I don’t have a problem there!!) attested. This can be done by only 3 professors in our college, so I had better pray they are there. When this is done, I have to lay these documents down humbly at the feet of our local PMDC office (assuming the man in charge is there) and beg them to have them processed.
After these simple steps are done, I will receive my PMDC certification in a month’s time.
Unless of course, my equivalence certificates are lost, or the PMDC decides they will not accept them. In which case, I will have to learn how to read and write Urdu, cancel my plans to go to the US and sit for my O’levels.
And you thought Frodo had it hard?