Pakistan's traditional unani and ayurvedic systems of medicine came to the United India via Arab physicians. However, the unani medicine currently practised in Pakistan is vastly different from its Greek roots.
Most Pakistanis rely on unani medicine, finding it efficacious, safe, and cost effective. The use of herbal medicines and homeopathy is also widespread. The National Institute for Health has established a section on traditional medicine (tibb).
Unani medicine is widely used throughout the country. About 70% of the population, particularly in rural areas, use traditional and complementary/alternative medicine. Approximately 52 600 registered unani medical practitioners serve the nation through both the public and private sectors in urban and rural areas.
About 360 tibb dispensaries and clinics provide free medication to the public under the control of the health departments of provincial governments. About 95 dispensaries have been established under provincial departments of Local Bodies and Rural Development, and one tibb clinic is working under the Provincial Department of Auqaf. A separate Directorate of Hakims has also been established under the Federal Ministry of Population Welfare Programme, and 16 000 diploma-holding unani physicians of traditional medicine have been involved in the National Population Welfare Programme. About 40 000 homeopathic physicians are registered with the National Council for Homeopathy (53).
Unani, tibb, ayurveda, and homeopathy have been accepted and integrated into the national health system in Pakistan.
Ordinance 65 of 7 June 1962 (165) was issued "to prevent the misuse of the allopathic system". It provided that only registered medical practitioners were entitled to use the title "Doctor", to perform surgery, or to prescribe any specially listed antibiotics or dangerous drugs. These prohibitions were also applicable to practitioners of traditional medicine, it being prescribed that "no person practising the allopathic, homeopathic, ayurvedic, etc., system of medicine may use the title of 'doctor', unless he is a registered practitioner".
Subsequently, the Unani, Ayurvedic and Homeopathic Practitioners Act of 1965 (166) was passed to regulate qualifications and to provide for the registration of practitioners of the unani and ayurvedic systems of medicine. The Act applied to tabibs, practitioners of unani medicine, and to voids, practitioners of ayurvedic medicine, both being prohibited from using the title "Doctor". Under the Act, the Board of Unani and Ayurvedic Systems of Medicine was established in order to arrange for the registration of qualified persons, to maintain adequate standards at recognized institutions, to conduct research, and to perform other activities. Requirements for the registration of practitioners were laid down, and training at recognized institutions was fixed at four years.
The Act established that the following persons might apply for registration: persons passing the qualifying examinations for the award of a diploma in the unani and ayurvedic systems; any tabib or void with not less than seven years of practice; any tabib or void with five to seven years of practice, who either satisfied the Board as to his or her knowledge or skill or passed, within a specified period, an approved test in the theory and practice of the unani and ayurvedic systems; and any person who passed a written and practical examination in the subject of the "old system" of medicine.
The Government thereafter issued the Unani, Ayurvedic and Homeopathic Systems of Medicine Rules of 1965 (167), which included implementing provisions on the registration of practitioners, elections to the boards, and recognition of teaching institutions. The Act introduced the title of "Homeopathic Doctor" for registered homeopaths, although the use of analogous titles was forbidden to practitioners of ayurvedic and unani medicine. Under this Act, courses in homeopathy provided by recognized institutions must be four years in duration, culminating in a qualifying examination. Persons who have passed this examination, persons holding qualifications from an approved homeopathic institution, and certain practitioners of long standing, "possessing the requisite knowledge and skill", are eligible for registration as homeopathic doctors. The Board of Homeopathic Systems of Medicine was established in order, inter alia, to maintain adequate standards in recognized institutions and to make arrangements for the registration of duly qualified persons. The legislation referred to above was also applicable in what was then known as East Pakistan, now Bangladesh.
The Ministry of Health, through the National Council for Tibb oversees the qualifications of practitioners. After successful completion of tibb qualifications, candidates are registered with the National Council for Tibb, allowing them to practise traditional medicine lawfully.
Education and training
Tibbia colleges, Pakistan's unani teaching institutions, are recognized by the Government and are under the direct control of the National Council for Tibb, Ministry of Health, which is responsible for maintaining standards of education in recognized teaching institutions, revising/modifying curricula and syllabuses, and holding annual examinations. Twenty-six colleges in the private sector and one college in the public sector offer four-year diploma courses in Pakistani traditional unani and ayurvedic systems of medicine that follow the prescribed curriculum and conditions laid down in the regulations.
Hamdard University has recently introduced a five-year programme to follow intermediate (FSc) training. About 5000 students are enrolled in its Faculty of Unani Medicine. Annually about 950 persons graduate from the programme. Seventy-six colleges of homeopathic medicine offer officially recognized programmes for the four-year Diploma of Homeopathic Medical Science. Several hospitals, outpatient clinics, and dispensaries are attached to the homeopathic medical colleges (53).