ISLAMABAD: The Higher Education Commission’s (HEC) governing body member seats, the supreme decision-making body of HEC, have finally been filled after remaining dysfunctional for over two years.
The incumbent Prime Minister (PM) Imran Khan has given approval to the appointment of the long-delayed hiring of ten members of the commission. Federal Education and Professional Training Minister, Shafqat Mehmood has formally notified of the approval, putting an end to the issue.
Sources privy to the development told Pakistan Today that the former HEC chairman had tried his best to complete the commission quorum and even sent the names to former premier Nawaz Sharif to get the approval of decisions taken unilaterally for over two years.
However, the controversy-riddled government did not take any decision in this regard and the incumbent government had to take the decision.
The Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training in its notification, a copy of which is available with Pakistan Today, reads, “In pursuance of section 6(4) read with Section 6 (3) (a)(b)(c) of Higher Education Commission (HEC) Ordinance, 2002 the competent authority has been pleased to appoint following persons as members of the HEC for a period of four years with immediate effect.”
Members of the commission include Dr Sania Nishtar, former federal minister Dr Shams Kassim Lakha, former federal minister for education and science and technology Lt Gen (r) Muhammad Asghar, former National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST) rector Naveed Malik, Virtual University (VU) Rector Lt Gen (r) Asif Mumtaz Sukhera, former Rawalpindi General Headquarters (GHQ) Surgeon General Dr Bhawani Shankar Choudhry, Jamshoro Mehran University of Engineering and Technology (UET) Faculty Dean of Electrical, Electronics and Computer Engineering Professor Dr Javed Iqbal, University of Balochistan Vice Chancellor Ahmed Farooq Bazai, Balochistan University of Information Technology (UIT) Vice-Chancellor, Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology (SZABIST) President Shahnaz Wazir Ali, former special assistant to the PM, and Institute of Development and Economic Alternatives (IDEA) Senior Research Fellow Dr Faisal Bari.
Sources said that the appointment of Lt Gen (r) Muhammad Asghar, former NUST rector was made against the set rules because he is already working with the HEC and only two people from the commission are allowed to be members; one is the HEC chairman and other is executive director (ED).
“According to the HEC Act, the commission is to comprise of 18 members including the HEC chairperson, secretaries from Ministry of Education and Science and Technology, four nominees of the provincial governments, ten nominees of the PM and executive director ED of HEC,” they informed.
They said that his appointment is a conflict of interest because he is already the HEC consultant on CPEC.
The sources also said that three members of the commission including Dr Faisal Bari, Shahnaz Wazir Ali and Dr Sania Nishtar were part of the search committee which finalised the name of the new HEC Chairman Dr Tariq Banuri.
“As per the HEC Act, all key decisions related to higher education have to be taken by the commission’s board and the secretariat acts as the executing wing of the commission which is responsible for the implementation of all orders, decisions, directives given by the board,” they added.
They said that powers of policy-making decisions, approval of HEC budget and appointment of senior officials rests with the ‘commission’. But the commission had been dysfunctional for the last two years and the regulatory body of higher educational institutions failed in appointing members of its own commission.
Furthermore, according to the HEC act, the meeting of the commission shall be held at least twice in a financial year at a time and place determined by the chairperson.
However, the sources added that all the decisions including approval of the budgets of the HEC, appointments, the establishment of a testing council and allocations of the funds to higher education institutions for research and academic purposes were made without the approval of the commission in the last two years.