Vacant for the last few weeks, the government has finally filled in the post of Chairman of Higher Education Commission (HEC) Islamabad, by a temporary appointment, saying that the post can’t be filled on a permanent basis until the Sindh High Court (SHC) allows. The controlling authority of the HEC made the decision to appoint Ahmed Farooq Bazai as new HEC chief on acting charge. He was the Vice Chancellor of the Balochistan University of Information Technology, Engineering and Management Sciences. The academic circles, however, are concerned that to appoint a provisional nominee against this key post, is highly discrimination with entire higher education system. As per HEC act, the Prime Minister of Pakistan is the controlling authority of the Commission while the chairman is tantamount to a federal minister. In accordance with the decision, the Ministry of Federal Education Professional Training notified the appointment. The notification reads “ the controlling authority is pleased to nominate Engr. Ahmed Farooq Bazai, Vice-Chancellor of the Balochistan University of Information Technology, Engineering and Management Sciences, [and] member [of] the Higher Education Commission to act as Chairperson in terms of Section It (3) of the Higher Education Commission Ordinance, 2002”. It further reads; “By operation of the Higher Education Commission (Amendment) Ordinance, 2021, Dr. Tariq Banuri has ceased to hold the office of the Chairperson [of] Higher Education Commission, w.e.f. 26 March 2021”. The ministry has clarified that according to the order dated March 29, 2021, passed by the Sindh High Court in Suit No 774/2021, the post of the Chairperson should be kept vacant. “Therefore, no new appointment shall be made to fill the post of the Chairperson till the order of the Court remains in the field”. “The operation of this notification shall be subject to the orders passed by Honorable Sindh High Court in Suit No. 774/2021”. Ahmed Farooq Bazai, originally, hails from Quetta with his early schooling in Kohat. And opted for the field of Engineering and earned MSE construction engineering and management at the University of Michigan. According to the available information, the post of HEC chief fell vacant on March 27 when Prime Minister Imran Khan approved the Presidential Ordinance under which the then Dr Tariq Banuri was removed from the post with immediate effect. Earlier, the Cabinet Committee for Disposal of Legislative Cases (CCLC) approved the aforementioned ordinance and forwarded it to the Prime Minister for his official nod to put it on the federal cabinet agenda. The Federal Minister of Education, who is also a member of CCLC, was supposed to brief the Prime Minister over the committee’s recommended legislation. On that time, the ordinance was approved from the cabinet members through a circulation method and President Dr Arif Alvi signed the ordinance. Last year, the Prime Minister constituted CCLC with the mandate to examine whether a fresh legislation or amendments to the existing laws were in line with the constitutional scheme, not in violation of any existing law, and fall within the mandate of parliament. It would have the mandate to also examine the contents of fresh legislation/rules as well as amendments to the existing laws/rules and give its recommendations as to whether the same were in line with the policy of the government and constitutional/legislative scheme. The CCLC a few days back took up the agenda of HEC (amendment) Ordinance 2021. After deliberation, the CCLC in its last meeting, which was chaired by Minister for Law and Justice Farogh Naseem unanimously, approved the Ordinance. Dr Banuri was appointed in 2018 during the tenure of PML-N when Shahid Khaqan Abbasi was the Prime Minister, since the premier, as per rules is the controlling authority of the HEC. Abbasi picked Dr Banuri out of the four names forwarded to him by a six-member search committee for final selection. The committee consisted of Dr Sania Nishtar, former lawmaker Shahnaz Wazir Ali, educationists Faisal Bari, Mirza Qamar Baig and Syed Babar Ali and the then federal secretary education. His appointment process raised many questions, as according to the record available with the Daily Times, Dr Baunri is around 72 years old, and his appointment against such a key position raised concerns. Dr Banuri also holds dual nationality in violation of a Supreme Court of Pakistan’s judgment , which prohibited dual nationals from holding any public office of the country. Since his appointment Dr Banuri’s performance was dismal. His failures, according to HEC sources, caused his removal. The Commission is a monitoring authority of over 300 universities across the county. Dr Banuri’s unsatisfactory performance has also been highlighted in some parliamentary standing committees. The sources disclosed that the Education Minister Mahmood was also unhappy with Dr Banuri over his poor management. Since he resumed charge, many pivotal projects in the Commission winded up due to his administrative failures.Adding insult to the injury Dr Banuri merely focused on appointing Consultants in the Commission against hefty salary packages. Such irregularities also perturbed the anti-corruption watchdog National Accountability Bureau (NAB), owing to which NAB has already begun an action against Dr Tariq Banuri over accusations of misuse of power and corruption. Other than premature dismissal of Dr Banuri, the amended Ordinance 2021 includes 18 members of the commission; reducing their future terms from 4 to 2 years (thus rendering them ineffective); and transferring authority to a government-appointed executive director, who could be changed on a moment’s notice. Even though the HEC is based in Islamabad, four of the 18 members of the HEC Commission represent the provinces while two represent the Federation.