NA body approves HEC amendment bill
ISLAMABAD, Jan 23: The National Assembly standing committee on education and professional training on Wednesday approved the draft of Higher Education Commission (Amendment) Bill 2012.
After the passage of the bill from the National Assembly and the Senate, the chairman of the HEC will not be enjoying the status of a federal minister.
The committee at a meeting chaired by PML-N MNA Sheikh Rohail Asghar debated the topic extensively on Wednesday.
Yasmeen Rehman of the PPP, who had originally submitted the legislation in October after discords between the HEC management and politicians regarding funding and appointments, discussed some of the points of the bill.
It may be noted that the issue of HEC was also debated in the National Assembly on Tuesday when Ms Rehman through a call attention notice informed the house that the commission had recently paid its chairman’s private membership fee of Islamabad Club.
On Wednesday, she informed the committee that in Pakistan the HEC was simultaneously responsible for the funding, accreditation and ranking of universities, whereas in other countries different organisations addressed each of these tasks.
In addition, the chairperman and members of the HEC, as well as the vice chancellors of universities, should have the tenure of three years instead of four, she argued.
She was of the view that the HEC should be placed within a ministry and that its chairman should not have the status of a federal minister “because there cannot be two ministers in one ministry.”
Most of the committee members supported the amendment but the HEC attempted to resist the move by the politicians.
The HEC chairman, Dr Javaid Leghari, said because the commission was an autonomous body directly under the prime minister, there can be no question of two ministers.
Engineer Syed Imtiaz Hussain Gilani, the acting executive director of the HEC, while addressing the politicians said: “None of you send your children to government schools running under the ministries because of the poor quality of education they provide. Yet all of you want to admit your children to public sector universities regulated by the HEC.”
If the bill is passed, he added, “You should take care that the 77 public universities are not treated like the schools.”
Noorul Haq Qadri, an MNA from Fata, had resisted some of the bill’s recommendations, saying if the HEC chairperson’s ministerial status was beneficial for higher education it should not be withdrawn.
At the end of the debate, however, he too agreed that the chairperson should not have the status of a federal minister.
The HEC is not the only body that the standing committee has been discussing recently. Since October, members of the committee have also taken up the allegations of corruption and other issues against Shaheen Khan, the chairperson of Federal Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education.
“I sent a letter to the Ministry of Education and Training on October 6, and a reminder on November 16, but no one at the ministry ever bothered to reply,” said Mr Asghar, the chairperson of the committee.
Believing that the ministry is “protecting” Ms Khan against an investigation, he tasked four members of his committee to conduct an inquiry and report back within three working days.