The Taliban’s Controversial Decision: Applicants for Completion of Specialization Must Await Future Years

By: Amin Kawa

The Taliban-controlled Ministry of Public Health has announced the recruitment of applicants who took the entrance exam for specialization completion in the solar year 1400 (2021-2022) for the program of the solar year 1401 (2022-2023). However, this decision has raised concerns among those who prepared for the exam. Applicants for specialization completion argue that the exam should be conducted based on national and international standards, as it is a competitive program. They question the recruitment of applicants who failed the entrance exam in the solar year 1401 (2022-2023). These applicants express concerns about abuse and corruption in the field, which they believe will lead to a disastrous healthcare system and undermine the medical profession in the country. They call for measures to prevent the Talibanization of the healthcare system and emphasize that medicine requires professional knowledge and specialized skills. The imposed actions by the Taliban should not push the field of health toward catastrophe. Meanwhile, the ministry had initially announced that the specialization completion program exam would take place in the month of Jawza (May-June) of the current year.

The National Examination Board, currently under Taliban control, has published the results of the specialization completion positions on its website. In a press release, the institution attributed this decision to the directive from the Ministry of Public Health, which is managed by the Taliban. According to the press release, there are 37 vacant positions available in the surgical and internal medicine departments, and interested applicants are requested to register within four days. The statement further explained that the National Examination Board received a total of 394 submissions for the inclusion of specialization completion candidates from the solar year 1400 (2021-2022) exam into 1401 (2022-2023) program. After evaluating the submissions, 357 candidates with the highest scores were selected as eligible for the positions, and their results have been announced through the provided link.

While the “Medical Specialist Cadre” law recognizes the completion of a specialization program as a vital requirement in the country’s healthcare system, this action contradicts the accepted standards. The law mandates that graduates from government, private, and foreign universities participate in an annual competitive exam for the program. The Ministry of Public Health is responsible for ensuring a transparent and equitable selection process for applicants. Unfortunately, this program has been marred by allegations and controversies over the past two years.

According to some doctors, individuals who previously failed the National Examination Board are now being recruited as eligible candidates without having to retake the exam. In an interview with Hasht-e Subh Daily, Dr. Ahmad Seyyar (pseudonym) raises concerns about the acceptance process for applicants of the completion of the specialization program. He questions the legitimacy of considering those who failed once as eligible without undergoing the exam again. Mr. Seyyar emphasizes that this practice is controversial and raises doubts. He suggests that a fair approach would have been to reopen these positions for competition, where only those who succeed would be deemed deserving. The current actions by the Taliban, according to him, mock the examination process. Candidates who were initially deemed unsuccessful suddenly become successful without any proper procedure. Furthermore, the divisions are not even made equitable, as individuals with a score of 55 are accepted while those with a score of 70 are not considered eligible.

For months, Hekmatullah Darwish has been eagerly awaiting admission to the completion of the specialization program. In an interview with Hasht-e Subh Daily, Mr. Darwish expressed his disappointment with the Taliban’s “meaningless and unlawful decisions,” which he finds humiliating and shameful. He stated that the exam for the completion of the specialization program should be conducted in accordance with national and international standards, as mandated by the Medical Specialist Cadre law. Mr. Darwish strongly believes that the opinions and preferences of Taliban militants, who lack knowledge and awareness of medical science, should not influence such important decisions.

Other applicants for the completion of the specialization program level accusations against the Taliban, alleging unprofessionalism, ethnic discrimination, linguistic bias, and financial corruption. They assert that these actions are leading the healthcare system toward “disaster and tragedy.” According to these applicants, the Taliban should differentiate the healthcare system from other government institutions. They argue that cheating in the medical specialization program jeopardizes the lives of countless individuals seeking treatment from specialized doctors. In their perspective, the Taliban’s “shortsighted” actions foster increased skepticism towards the country’s healthcare system.

In an interview with the Hasht-e Subh Daily, a doctor who has dedicated a year to preparing for the entrance exam of the specialization program expresses the need to prevent the Talibanization of the healthcare system. He asserts that expertise and professional knowledge are vital in the field of medicine. Including Taliban militants or individuals with battlefield first aid experience in the completion of the specialization, program would result in a disastrous outcome.

Meanwhile, sources from the Ministry of Public Health under Taliban control informed the Hasht-e Subh Daily that the recruitment program for applicants in the solar year 1400 (2021-2022) was implemented to address the existing needs in government hospitals. According to these sources, certain healthcare centers are currently experiencing a shortage of specialists, and by enlisting these individuals, the vacant positions in hospitals will be filled.

According to the information, the exam for the volunteers who have prepared to register for the completion of the specialization program is expected to occur in approximately one to two months. However, these sources indicate that it is improbable for women who have prepared to enter the completion of the specialization program to participate in the exam. The sources further state, “The Taliban’s decisions are unpredictable, and there may be multiple changes until the program is finalized, but currently, there is a possibility for men to take the exam.”

Male doctors, who were already discouraged from specializing, have been further disheartened by the recent action of the Taliban. This is due to the previous deprivation of female medical graduates from registering for the government program “Exam Exit,” which consequently obstructs their entry into the completion of the specialization program. As per the regulations of the Ministry of Public Health under Taliban control, medical graduates who do not pass the government’s “Exam Exit” are prohibited from taking the official entrance exam for the completion of the specialization program and being employed in healthcare centers across the country.

The Medical Specialist Cadre Law stipulates that the completion of a specialization program is conducted for continuous medical specialization studies within specialized medical hospitals. The head of the specialization program is tasked with organizing the entrance exam for applicants in accordance with national and international standards. Additionally, the head is responsible for monitoring and evaluating the academic documents and professional skills of specialists in this field.

Amidst growing despair among educated youth regarding their educational situation and future prospects, doctors express their concerns about the Taliban’s decision. Many young individuals who were eagerly anticipating this program have already left the country and abandoned their studies. The Taliban’s plan to attract new applicants and their response to those who have been waiting for the exam for almost a year remain uncertain.