All eyes are on selection of new HEC chairperson

ISLAMABAD: All academic circles have strummed their eyes on process to be adopted for selection of Search Committee members to seek new chairperson of the Higher Education Commission (HEC) Pakistan, as the slot is going to be vacant in April this year, Daily Times has learnt. The Higher Education Commission (HEC) has responsible entity to devise policies for over 180 universities across the country. Since its inception in 2002, the person against the post of chairmanship is ever considered very integral and he/she had been major protagonist to upgrade or degrade the mechanism in par with terrific educational systems.

As almost two months are ahead in completion of incumbent chairman Dr Mukhtar Ahmed tenure over superannuation of his four years’ service in the Commission, The Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training, sources disclosed, has forwarded a summary to prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi for formulation of search committee to find new HEC chief. As per act, Prime Minster is controlling authority of the Commission.

Former chairman HEC Dr Attaur Rehman who was first one against the slot and among the founding members of the commission told this correspondent that there should be particular criteria for search committee.

“If the standards in the law are declared for selection of chairmanship, then specific criteria for the selecting committee should also be there”, he said.

While suggesting prime minister, Dr Attaur Rehman said that he should make an impartial committee and purely free from any politician.

Beside this, Federation of All Pakistan Universities Academic Staff Association (FAPUASA) Pakistan in a letter to Prime Minster Khaqan Abbasi, requested that to form an un-biased, apolitical search committee for transparent selection of new HEC chairman.

The federation said that “the political interference in the higher education has brought a culture of extension, nepotism and non-transparent appointments of top leadership at HEC and Vice Chancellors at universities”.

The letter added that with more than Rs 90 billion annual budget, the HEC plays an important and leading role towards building a knowledge based economy in Pakistan through quality assurance, development of new institutions and uplift of existing institutions in Pakistan”.

“Unfortunately, higher education in Pakistan, now-a-days is facing some problems of severe nature, which has damaged its image and progress. Working without its governing board since 2015, HEC has not published its annual report,” letter reads.

It further stated that a merit-based and transparent mechanism should be applied while filling the vacancies in higher education sector especially Chairperson HEC and Vice Chancellors. Instead of granting extensions, which has already caused irreparable loss to higher education in Pakistan, there is dire need to create opportunities for dynamic and eminent personalities to lead the higher education sector.

Incumbent chairperson, Dr. Ahmed is the third chairperson of the HEC, formed by the former military ruler General Pervez Musharraf. The first HEC chief, Dr Attaur Rehman, was appointed by Musharraf in 2002 while its second chief, Dr Javed Laghari, was appointed by the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) government in 2009. After Laghari, the post remained vacant for seven months until Dr Ahmed’s appointment through a selection board in April 2014.

The sources said that there were some prophecies among HEC senior officials, that Dr Ahmed might get extension. However, education Minister Balighur Rehman desired to make development through search committee to avert any controversy, said an official wishing anonymity.

He said that PM Abbasi was also not in favor to give Dr Ahmed extension as he has many reservations over loopholes in the HEC, adding that the PM Abbasi is not more satisfied over performance of the Commission.

Published in Daily Times, January 19th 2018.