HEC writes letter to PM, seeking withdrawal of Amendment Bill

ISLAMABAD: Letter written to Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, Higher Education Commission (HEC) Chairman Dr. Javaid R. Laghari has requested for the support of the PM to persuade Members of National Assembly who are from the ruling party to withdraw the HEC Amendment Bill (2012), as it fails to represent the stance of vital stakeholders in the higher education sector.

The letter number 13-1/CHR/HEC/13/ acquired by ‘The News’ explains in detail the position of the HEC in this regard and explains that any such step would have a severe impact on the growth and progress of higher education sector in Pakistan.

The letter highlights that the input of proposed Prime Minister’s Task Force on Higher Education and Research, which is a national dialogue with the various stakeholders, including the universities, provincial governments, chancellors, etc. be also incorporated and presented to the standing committees for approval before the bill is presented to parliament.

It says that the great advances that Pakistan has made under the HEC, under the prime minister’s guidance as the controlling authority which has made it an envy of most developing countries will begin to fall apart if the private members’ HEC Amendment Bill 2012 is passed by parliament in this shape.

The private members HEC amendment bill was moved by two MNAs from the ruling party and was discussed in the NA Standing Committee on Education and Training on January 23, 2013. The bill places HEC as a division under the Ministry of Education and Training, taking away its current administrative and financial powers.

Interestingly, the status of the Ministry of Education and Training is already doubtful as it has been challenged by Senator Raza Rabbani in a Senate Committee presided by Senator Jahangir Badar. After the 18th Amendment, there is no space of such ministry at the federal level.

It proposes that the chairperson of the HEC should not be granted the status of federal minister and the power of allocation of higher education operation, promotion and development funds should be given to a federal ministry. It also suggests the reduction in tenure of members of the commission of HEC from four years to three years.

“The amendment bill, if passed, will take away the autonomy of the HEC, with the prime minister as the controlling authority, and place it under the Ministry of Education and Training as a division, much like the University Grants Commission (UGC) of the previous years,” the letter explains.