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HEC devolution & 18th amendment

No constitutional provision to dissolve, devolve HEC
Islamabad, April 05: Though preparations for burial of Higher Education Commission are almost complete the serious question being asked is if HEC's functions have been covered in the Federal Legislative list then why it was being devolved.

Chairman, Higher Education Commission along with the Vice-chancellors of various universities have given a presentation to Mian Raza Rabbani and his committee giving a clear picture of HEC's status but of no avail.

"They do not give any reason but only say that they are devolving HEC", said one source privy to the recent developments regarding HEC.

Chairman HEC Javed Leghari had written to Mian Raza Rabbani on March 30, 2011 saying: "HEC fully supports the 18th Amendment and the devolution process. We believe that items 16, 17 and 32, in Part-I of the Federal Legislative List, and items 6, 7, 11, 12, and 13 in Part-II of the Federal Legislative List fully support the current functions of HEC, including higher education, research, scientific and technical institutions, regulatory role, planning, professional education and inter-provincial matters. To implement the 18th Amendment, the way forward would be to jointly review the current functions of the HEC, and how they relate to the Federal Legislative List, and maintain the current status of HEC as a national organisation.

The HEC and the vice-chancellors' representatives would be glad to meet the implementation committee anytime so that the 18th Amendment is implemented in its true spirit and key functions of the HEC, as defined in the 18th amendment including, but not limited to, higher education policy and planning, standards, accreditation, quality assurance, knowledge sharing, university-industry linkages, linkages with international educational and research organisations, research, foreign students and federal universities and retained with HEC."

Sources in HEC say what the government was going to do was not devolution but segmentation of HEC as key functions of HEC would be gifted to various federal ministries. Chairman HEC when approached said that HEC supports 18th amendment but the function that are covered in the Federal Legislative List should remain with HEC. A recent cabinet meeting has decided to pass on the HEC's functions to the Cabinet Division, Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT), Ministry of Inter-Provincial Coordination and Ministry of Foreign Affairs, documents available reveal.

More importantly, no roadmap has been devised how to step into the shoes of the HEC dealing with academic matters of significant nature, especially when the departments being assigned this task have no experience of dealing with education.

The affairs relating to the equivalence of degrees, verification of degrees, standard of doctorate etc will be dealt with by Cabinet Division.

Likewise, the universities situated in Islamabad and its vicinity would be looked after by Islamabad Capital Territory for the first time in history. Foreign scholarships will now be administered by the Ministry of Inter-Provincial Coordination. By this way the process of degree verification of lawmakers and public servants will now be handled by the cabinet division.

Former chairman of the HEC, Prof Attaur Rahman, says corrupt politicians, having their eyes on Rs40 billion annual budget of the HEC and on prime lands worth billions, are out to destroy it (HEC), but Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are against its dissolution. Well-placed government sources said that all HEC research functions would cease to exist including some 1,000 research projects on the most important issues confronting Pakistan. The Foreign scholarship programme for nearly 5,000 scholars in 28 countries would be moved to the Ministry of Inter-Provincial Coordination.

The HEC tracks every foreign scholar and provides him one-year employment in any university of his choice, along with a start-up research grant. After dissolution, graduating PhD students from all over the world would have no entity to coordinate return and placement in local universities. Nearly 5,000 Indigenous Scholarship programmes would be transferred to the provinces in a manner yet to be determined. New desks in some provincial ministries would perhaps be created to deal with financing and management of PhD scholarships.

The Pakistan Education and Research Network (PERN) providing high-speed 10 GB connectivity among universities would also stop. The Digital Library Programme would also come to an end. This programme provides access to 45,000 e-books and 23,000 e-journals to all scholars in Pakistan. More than 1,000 scholars per year would be deprived of the opportunity to travel abroad to present research papers. All programmes for linking research activities among Pakistani universities and for improving pedagogical skills of teachers in universities would cease. Nearly 5,000 teachers have already benefited from this programme.

The recently approved US$ 300 million World Bank loan to government for improving education, it is feared, would be withdrawn or at best re-negotiated. The USAID Plan for US$250 million for supporting higher education sector in Pakistan, which is now in an advanced stage, would go back to the drawing board.

The sources reminded that the HEC is an autonomous body reporting directly to the prime minister and not to any division. Two-third of its members are appointed by the prime minister (from a panel of three) for four-year term and may not be removed, save on proven charges of corruption, inefficiency or permanent disability. This structure gives HEC the much-needed autonomy and allows it to pursue its function independently. This is what allowed the HEC to defy pressure and not verify degrees that did not meet the strict standards of verification set by the Commission. Following its dissolution the core function of degree recognition, equivalence and attestation will be shifted to a new commission to be constituted under the Cabinet Division.

Without autonomy, the new commission will neither have local nor international credibility. The new commission would also have the power to recognise new universities being formed all over the country that do not meet the existing criteria for a university. Already, many such universities have been denied recognition by HEC since they do not have proper teaching faculty, libraries and Internet connectivity and are housed in a few rooms.

The HEC attests more than 200,000 educational documents each year. Every Pakistani going for work abroad must have his degrees attested by the HEC, which is recognised by the entire world to be a fair and impartial body whose attestation is accepted. The HEC has membership of the Asia Pacific Quality Network and the Network of Quality Assurance Agencies of the World. This membership has to be earned and is not transferable. The world has faith in the degrees of Pakistani universities because of HEC. By creating a new commission, all degrees issued by Pakistani institutions will not be accepted at face. The world is carefully following the fake degrees scandal in Pakistan and can see what the dissolution of HEC entails, the sources added. The news

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USAID puts $250m project on hold
Islamabad: Showing its deep concerns over the devolution of Higher Education Commission (HEC), the USAID has put $250 million project on hold, while the World Bank, another international donor, has threatened of scraping its $300 million programme.

Sources informed that USAID officials called on HEC Chairman Dr Javaid Laghari in his office and discussed the current scenario in the wake of the transfer of key functions of the commission to different federal and provincial institutions.

The sources said that the USAID was supposed to provide first instalment for the project of "Financial Assistant and Development Programme" which has been put on hold and the rest of the funding has also been frozen till the situation is not cleared about the roll of the HEC in future.

It has been learnt that the World Bank has also showed concern on the transfer of key functions of HEC to other ministries and institutes. It is very likely that the proposed devolution may deprive the HEC of $300 million soft loan to run its various programmes for three years.

According to the officials of the commission, confusion exists at the moment as no person in the government has officially spoken to any HEC officer about any plan and discussed the role of the commission in the future. The reality is that 80 per cent of the programmes actually being executed by the HEC are related to the federation, as they are defined in the Federal List Part I or Part II of the Constitution of Pakistan. They are of the view that there is no legal compulsion to devolve HEC under the 18th Amendment.

It is feared that if the HEC is devolved and a new commission, working under a government ministry, is created without autonomy, it will never be able to have the credibility that HEC enjoys, which will jeopardise the value of degrees issued by all institutions of Pakistan. Besides, that, the question does come to mind as to what kind of devolution is to be done with the moving degree recognition authority. It certainly does not happen anywhere else in the world, and this move will certainly diminish the credibility of degrees of all Pakistani institutions.

Scientists, vice chancellors, professors, university students have been showing their concerns against the decision through different means including press conferences, Facebook, blogs, print media and protests.

Dr NM Butt, Scientist Emeritus Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission, former chief scientist/D.G, PINSTECH, former chairman, Pakistan Science Foundation (PSF) and former chairman of Pakistan National Commission on Nano Science and Technology (NCNST) in a letter has appealed to the President and the Prime Minister, in the interest of nuclear security and progress of Pakistan to intervene and reverse any HEC dissolution steps.

He maintained that HEC dissolution would be a huge setback for Pakistan and high quality human resource is a fundamental requirement of the nuclear programme of Pakistan, whose destruction has long been a wish of the enemies.

The PhD scholars at the University of Oxford have also written a letter to High Commissioner of Pakistan Wajid Shamsul Hasan to urge the government to reconsider the decision to devolve the HEC fearing that the devolution would left scholars stranded in the middle of their programmes and will have numerous negative consequences for the country as well.

They requested him to voice their concerns to the Government of Pakistan on the devolution of the HEC to help minimise any negative implications of this immensely consequential restructuring.

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HEC rendered toothless
Islamabad: The federal government has stripped the Higher Education Commission (HEC) of its key functions including verification of MPs' degrees and transferred these responsibilities to other federal departments, sources said on Saturday.

HEC that stands defunct as a result of the decision of the Implementation Commission on 18th Amendment in the name of devolution, was created by the former military ruler President General (r) Pervez Musharraf as a tool to promote valuable higher education in the country.

The well-placed sources told TheNation that four key functions have been transferred to different divisions and ministries at the federal level. Sources further said that if the functions remain with the federal government, it is not a devolution at all and hence no reason to make fragments of the Commission.

As per reports, degree verification cell will be transferred to Cabinet Division, universities established at the federal level to ICT administration, students studying under the foreign scholarship programme to Foreign Affairs Division and the welfare of international students to Inter-Provincial Coordination Ministry. It has been decided that a body - Commission for Standards of Higher Education will be set up which will work under the Cabinet Division. The core function of the degree recognition, equivalence and attestation will be shifted to the new commission.

The HEC is an autonomous body reporting directly to the Prime Minister and not any division. Two-thirds of its members are appointed by the Prime Minister from a panel of three names of eminent academics. These members are appointed for a four-year term and may not be removed except on proven charges of corruption, inefficiency, permanent disability. This gives the HEC an autonomy and allows it to pursue its functions and goals on merit observing rule of law as the only arbiters. This is what allowed the HEC to defy every pressure and not verify degrees of parliamentarians that did not meet the strict standards of verification set by the Commission. Without autonomy, a new Commission will then presumably clear rapidly the backlog of unverified degrees of parliamentarians.

Sources said it's a matter of interpretation as all the functions that the HEC performs are protected and remain with the federal government in the two Federal Legislative Lists in the amendment. And the amendment devolving education to the provinces is not the higher education. The commission's 80 per cent functions are already related to federal level and the provincial universities are autonomous bodies and have representation in the commission.

The new commission working under the Cabinet Division will also have the power to recognise new universities being formed all over the country that are substandard and do not meet the existing Cabinet Criteria for a university. Already, many such cases have been blocked by the HEC and not granted recognition since they do not have faculty, libraries, internet connectivity and are housed in a few rooms structures. By granting recognition to such entities, the degrees of all Pakistani universities will become suspicious.

HEC Chairman Javaid Laghari said he had requested the prime minister, controlling authority of the Commission, to convene a meeting with the HEC representatives, vice chancellors of the provincial universities so that the actual status and situation of the Commission could be clarified to him.

Source told TheNation that Planning Commission had a meeting with vice chancellors of the provincial universities wherein they had been asked to take up the projects run by HEC. Regarding funding, they were told that they would get it from NFC Award. But the provinces have no money to run these projects.

The officials have been fearing that all the projects run by the provincial universities with the financial support of the HEC will be halted and about 1,200 students sent abroad by the provincial universities will have to come back due to non-provision of funds.

The scientists, experts, vice chancellors and HEC officials have already expressed their reservations saying that the HEC is not attached to the Education Ministry and the 18th Amendment, through the 4th Schedule (Article 70(4) Federal Legislative Lists Part-I and Part-II, fully supports the current powers and functions of the HEC, and includes higher education and research as federal subjects.

Pakistan has invested more than Rs 97 billion for development of the universities since formation of the HEC - a 12-fold increase over Rs 7.5 billion spent during the period from 1978-2002 by the University Grants Commission.

If we compare the worldwide densities of scientists and researchers, Pakistan has only 162 researchers and scientists per million population, which is among the lowest in the region. Turkey has 562, China 926, South Korea 4,162 and USA has 4,651 scientists and researchers per million population. Clearly, Pakistan needs a much larger science and technology workforce, and research in critical areas.

According to experts we need to increase the number of scientific and research personnel by at least four times in the next 10 years if we are to become a regional leader. Thus, for national integration and prosperity, it is essential that HEC must continue to perform its functions which it has been doing successfully for the last 8 years.

And the HEC is a role model federal organisation which empowers equal and full participation of all universities and provinces to facilitate higher education for the socio-economic development of Pakistan. The nation

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Bahria students stage demo as Naval Intelligence intervenes
Islamabad: As protests in Bahria University have erupted over the beating and termination of Professor Qamar Riaz Mehmatkhel, the administration, instead of revising its decision, has now fired his head of the department, a foreign qualified and the youngest PhD in Pakistan, for speaking in defence of his sacked subordinate.

Meanwhile, Dr. Shafqat has had his vehicle surrounded by two cars in the F-8 Markaz on Monday by, what he said, were sleuths of the Naval Intelligence who did not allow him to move an inch for hours, only releasing him after the protest being carried out three kilometres away ended.

Likewise, the BU students were warned of expulsion in case they participated in protests or expressed solidarity with the outspoken professor. The BU main gate was closed to stop the students from going out. Nevertheless, the bravos not only showed up in a reasonable strength but also resolved to do so again on Tuesday when the sacked professors would deliver lectures on the roadside on the issue of leadership. The BU Rector, vice admiral (retd) Haroon, has meanwhile left for Hong Kong on vacation, as the situation grew tense in the university. Registrar of the university, retired commodore Mumtaz Raza, was called several times, messages were dropped, requesting for his version on the conflicting situation but he did not return the calls.

Dr Shafqat who earned doctorate in management sciences is only 32 years old but has authored three books and 50 research articles in international journals. He returned to Pakistan last year with a passion to serve his country after teaching in reputed UK universities for eight years where he was inducted into the academic staff at the age of 23 after earning distinctions in post-graduation.

Dr. Shafqat, who heads the department of Management Sciences, was expecting this showdown for a long time as he confronted the university administration on a number of occasions. Now when the administration decided to sack Professor Qamar Riaz, the termination letter was to be served through him. And he refused.

Instead, he asked for a proper inquiry to establish Qamar Riaz's guilt. It was not done and the professor was roughed up and later sacked. It followed the termination of Dr. Shafqat. Interestingly, the sacked professors are regular employees and no notice was served nor any inquiry ordered into their conduct.

As Dr Shafqat had to attend the protest rally on Monday, he was passing through the F-8 Markaz for some business and was surrounded by two cars. "Do you know who we are?" said the sleuths as they came out of the cars, Dr. Shafqat said. "I got the point that they were 7-9 persons of Naval Intelligence." They had him locked in there until the protest was over.

Dr. Shafqat has been at unease with the university's administration since he joined it. First, he refused to keep three children of Navy officers in MBA classes, as they did not fulfil the admission criteria. Dr Shafqat had refused to take them notwithstanding the fact they were already granted admission by the registrar's office, he said.

"The Registrar said we have to enrol the scions of Navy officers. I said, OK but you will have to devise a policy. Then that was never done but the pressure always keeps mounting."

Likewise, Dr. Shafqat refused to take into the faculty a female teacher, the daughter of a serving rear admiral, and he was then put on warning: "You will face the consequences." He also faced the wrath of the administration when he bluntly refused to comply with a wish list also including a Naval officer who desired to be inducted into the faculty when he was already taking classes at the same department. Dr. Shafqat said that he had also taken up the issue of the harassment of female students by some officials of the administration. The female students submitted a written application, naming the officers who harassed them. "As I took up the issue, the administration reprimanded me for doing this", Dr Shafqat said.

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FDE to conduct class one admission tests on April 6
Islamabad: Federal Directorate of Education (FDE) will conduct placement tests for class one admissions for the session 2011-12 in all the institutes on April 6.

Talking to APP, Director Colleges Tariq Masood said that the test will be conducted in all the model colleges including the re-designated Islamabad Model Schools on the same day.

The list of successful candidates is scheduled to be displayed on April 12 while the classes will be commenced from April 18, he said.

The centre institutions including Islamabad model College for Girls (IMCG) Korang Town, Islamabad Model College for Boys (IMCB), Bhimber Tarar, IMCB Humak, IMCG Rawat and Islamabad Model School (IMS) Sihala will deal the admissions of the areas including Lohi Bher, Korang Town, Pind Malakan, Bhimber Tarar, Herodogher, Rawat, Mohra Nagial, Mughal, Sihala and Humak.

The centres for the areas of Bhara Kahu, Chak Shehzad, Noorpurshan, G-6, G-7, G-9, F-6, F-7, F-8, E-7, E-8 and E-9 include IMCB, Chak Shehzad, IMS, Bhara Kahu, IMS, G-6/1-3, IMCG, G-7/2, IMS, F-7/2, IMS, G-8/4, IMS, G-9/2, IMS, G-9/3, IMS, F-8, ICG, F-6/2, IMCG, F-6/2, IMCG, F-7/4, IMCG, F-8/1, ICB, G-6/3, IMCB F-7/3 and IMCB F-8/4.

While the centres for the sectors G-10, G-11, F-10, F-11, E-11 and Golra are IMS G-10/3, IMS G-11/2, IMS F-10/2, IMCG Golra, IMCG F-10/2, IMCG F-10/3, IMCB F-11/1, IMCB F-11/3, IMCB G-10/4, IMCB G-10/2 and IMCB G-11/1.

The centres for sector H-8, I-9, I-10, Tarlai, Panjgran, Jhang Sydian are IMS I-8/1, IMS I-9/4, IMS I-10/4, IMCG I-8/4, IMCG I-10/4, IMCB I-8/3, IMCB I-10/1, IMS Tarlai, IMCG Panjgran, IMS Jhang Syidan.

To ensure uniformity in education system in islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) institutes, the re-designated model schools/colleges have been declared as English medium as per directives of Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani. While the qualified teachers will be appointed and the fee structure will be similar to the model colleges. The news

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Partial strike in IIUI over students' clash
Islamabad: A strike was observed in the male campus of International Islamic University Islamabad (IIUI) on Monday after a clash between Islami Jamiat Talba (IJT) and Pukhtun Student Organisation (PSO) on arranging a musical night on Friday.

Noor-ul-Bashar, nazim IJT Islamabad, said the musical night violated the norms of the university.

He said the musical night in the university premises on Friday night with 'dance and singing' was severe violation of the university's code of conduct and rules.

However, President People's Student Federation (PSF) Waqas Ahmad Abbas said the PSO arranged a traditional cultural programme with light dance (Athan) to mark the annual celebration of renaming of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Around 200 students attended the cultural programme.

He said soon after the programme ended, the members of IJT came on motorbikes and attacked around 45 students coming back from the programme. Waqas said around 21 students have been injured.

Senior Secretary of PSO Aftab Alam said the cultural programme was held to celebrate renaming of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the 18th amendment.

The university management is silent over this issue and the police are not ready to register FIR, he said.

Rector IIUI Professor Fateh Mohammad Malik claimed that the matter has been settled after negotiations with both the parties and the strike has been called off.

He said the outside elements were involved in provoking the students and spoiling the image of the university.

He said it was a partial strike as mid term exams were held. The regular classes will be held in the university on Tuesday, the rector said. app

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Inter-university Qiraat, Naat competitions
Rawalpindi: All-Pakistan Inter-University Qiraat and Naat, Arfana Kalaam and solo performance competitions were held at the Pir Mehr Ali Shah-Arid Agriculture University Rawalpindi (PMAS-AAUR) here on Monday.

Eleven universities participated in the competitions, including Pir Mehr Ali Shah-Arid Agriculture University Rawalpindi, Fatima Jinnah Women University, Rawalpindi, Federal Urdu University, Islamabad, Foundation University, Government College University, Lahore, Islamia University, Bahawalpur, University of Sindh, Jamshoro, University of Agriculture, Faisalabad, University of Azad Jammu and Kashmir, University of Peshawar, University of the Punjab and Quaid-i-Azam University.

In Qiraat competition, Hafiz Muhammad Tayyab of Punjab University got first position while Obaid Ullah of Government College University, Lahore, and Hafiz M. Sohail Ahmad of Agriculture University, Faisalabad, obtained second and third positions respectively.

In Naat competition, Muhammad Sohail of Agriculture University, Faisalabad, obtained first position, while Ansar Ali Zahoori of Islamia University, Bahawalpur, and Anila Qamar of Fatima Jinnah Women University, Rawalpindi, came second and third respectively.

The judges for the Qiraat and Naat competitions were Qari Muhammad Shahzad, Hafiz Muhammad Qasim and Qari Rehan Habib.

In solo performance, Muhammad Asim of Punjab University, Lahore, got first prize, while Mansoor Hameed of Agriculture University, Faisalabad, and Ahmad Najeeb of Federal Urdu University, Islamabad, got second and third positions respectively.

In Arfana Kalaam, M. Saad Farooq of Government College University, Lahore, Tayyab Manzoor of Agriculture University, Faisalabad, and Hafiz Adnan Riaz of Islamia University, Bahawalpur, got first, second and third positions, respectively.

The judges for the solo performance and Arfana Kalaam competitions were Afzal Lateefi, Ovais Niazi and Arshad Minhas.

Faculty members and a large number of students were present on the occasion. The audience highly appreciated the performance of the participants. The news

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