—Sources say committee faces problems in the selection process as majority of shortlisted candidates are facing NAB cases
—FAPUASA pushes selection committee for finding a man of integrity for the coveted position
ISLAMABAD: The six-member search committee tasked to select the next Higher Education Commission (HEC) chairman held its second meeting to discuss the appointment of the new chief after the seat falls vacant on April 14.
Sources privy to the development told Pakistan Today that the meeting of the search committee was held under the chairmanship of Syed Babar Ali on Tuesday.
They said that during the meeting, the participants mainly focused on shortlisting candidates for the vacant post, scrutinising the candidates, finalizing the date for interviews and setting the criteria for the interviews so as to ensure that only the most qualified candidates were selected for the coveted position.
They said that this time around, the selection of the HEC chairman was proving to be a Herculean task since a number of shortlisted candidates were fighting cases in the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).
The sources further said that the selection of the incumbent HEC Chairman Dr Mukhtar Ahmed had raised serious issues for the commission, particularly after NAB took notice of his shady appointment and started an investigation into the matter.
They said that Dr Ahmed and University of Agriculture Faisalabad ex-Vice-Chancellor Iqrar Ahmad Khan were among the serious contenders for the position, however, they both were facing cases in NAB. Hence, they said that the selection committee was facing a daunting task to ensure merit-based selection of the commission’s new chairman, though this time no politician was made a part of the search committee.
They further said that around 100 applications have been received for the post, out of which the committee had to send three names to the prime minister for selection.
The prime minister had appointed reputed academicians and representatives of the civil society as members of the search committee to identify and appoint the most qualified person as the head of HEC.
Members of the committee included Syed Babar Ali, Dr Sania Nishtar, Dr Faisal Bari, Shahnaz Wazir Ali, Mir Qamar Baig and the Federal Education and Professional Training secretary.
Meanwhile, the Federation of All Pakistan Universities Academic Staff Association (FAPUASA) wrote to the search committee to follow merit while selecting the new HEC chairman.
Through a letter addressed to members of the search committee, the academic staff association and Working Group on Higher Education Reforms have emphasised the need to make a transparent and merit-based appointment.
Appreciating the efforts for initiating the process to appoint a new chief of the commission on merit, the FAPUASA Islamabad President Dr Shehzad Ashraf said that it was a matter of utmost satisfaction that the first phase of the selection process, including advertising the position and submission of applications/nominations, had been successfully completed.
The letter stated that the next phase of shortlisting of the candidates was the most important part of the entire process. Keeping in mind the discrepancies in the appointment of the last HEC chief, certain recommendations were sent to the members of the search committee for review and consideration.
According to the recommendations, the scrutiny and shortlisting should be undertaken directly by the search committee members by excluding officials from the education ministry or from HEC in accordance with the advertised criteria and per the provisions of HEC Ordinance 2002, which stated, “The controlling authority [i.e. the prime minister] shall appoint a person of international eminence and proven ability who has made significant contribution to higher education as a teacher, a researcher or an administrator, as chairperson on such terms and conditions as it may determine.”
The recommendations also mentioned that with a budget of Rs90 billion, the position of HEC chief should be occupied by a person of integrity and strong character. The candidates who were currently being investigated by NAB for misusing authority, providing fake credentials and corruption should be avoided at all costs, the letter said.
It also said that the selection process should not be completed in haste, rather all the candidates should be carefully scrutinised and the new HEC chairman should be selected after thorough deliberations.