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HEC devolution & parliament legislation

HEC 'storm in a teacup' spills over in NA
Islamabad, April 14: Pre-emptive politics. Conspiracy against provincial autonomy. Attempt to degrade parliament.

Such angry comments came from lawmakers as what Senator Raza Rabbani saw as only "a storm in a teacup" over mainly the financial devolution of the Higher Education Commission (HEC) to provinces spilled over in the National Assembly on Tuesday.

And when he received an apparently incomplete information during his speech in the lower house that the Supreme Court had issued a stay order against the planned devolution, Mr Rabbani, Minister for Inter-Provincial Coordination and Chairman of the Parliamentary Commission for the Implementation of the Eighteenth Amendment, remarked: "Probably we are writing a new history to stop parliament from legislation."

It later emerged that a three-judge Supreme Court bench, headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, had only issued an interim order on a challenge to the devolution plan that the HEC's present status would continue unless altered by a new legislation a course Mr Rabbani said was already in the works to meet the requirements of the Eighteenth Amendment.

The senator said he was ready to face a detailed house debate over what he described as "a storm in a teacup" he blamed on unspecified opponents of provincial autonomy, though he clearly accused the present HEC chairman and some university vice-chancellors of playing "pre-emptive politics" after his commission had explained to their delegation the necessity of the devolution and the plan to form a new "standards of higher education commission" as an autonomous body by amending the existing Musharraf-era ordinance.

He said the commission had assured the delegation members they would be consulted again before bringing the amending law to parliament. "But instead of waiting, they resorted to pre-emptive politics and tried to create confusion and a fear factor that (foreign) scholarships (awarded by the HEC) would be terminated."

Mr Rabbani assured the house the present scholarships would not be hit, whatever their duration and explained that the funding of the universities now done through the HEC would, under the new plan, be done by the provinces - already having administrative control of most of the country's universities - from their share of finances received through the National Finance Commission.

He also rejected fears about any adverse affect on foreign funding, which he said is actually made to the Pakistani government and is given to a government-designated institution, though he said he would not say anything at the time about funding by the World Bank.

And Mr Rabbani had a stern warning for those campaigning against the devolution plan. "If things escalate, and a situation arises, it would become necessary to inform this house and the Senate of factors working to create hurdles in the way of provincial autonomy."

Contours of new commision
He informed the house of what he called "broad contours" his implementation commission had prepared for the new commission that will be replace the HEC. These are:

- Cause evaluation of the performance of institutions.

- Prescribe conditions under which institutions for higher and technical education, including those that are not part of the state educational system, may be opened and operated.

- Set up national and regional evaluation councils or authorise any existing council or similar body to carry out accreditation of institutions, faculties and disciplines by giving them appropriate ratings.

- Cause to be set up testing bodies or designate any existing body for the purpose.

- Determine the equivalence and recognition of degrees, diplomas and certificates of higher education awarded by institutions within the country and abroad.

- Develop guidelines by evaluation of performance of faculty members and institutions.

- Collect information and statistics on higher education and institutions.

- Perform such other functions consistent with the provisions of the new law.

After a PML-N member, Khurram Dastagir, accused the government of "confusing the issue" while, he said, a cabinet decision in the matter did not stipulate transfer of any of HEC function to the provinces a charge rejected by Mr Rabbani - an angry ANP member, Advocate Pervaiz Khan, accused "vested interests" of conspiring against provincial autonomy as he said was being done also against devolution of culture ministry, and added that there was no need for the HEC or even another commission after education had been devolved to provinces under the 18th Amendment.

He said despite being part of the coalition government, his party did not agree with guidelines cited by Mr Rabbani for a new commission.

But another ANP member, Bushra Gohar, called for reposing confidence in what the implementation commission was doing while blaming what she called "thekedars (contractors) sitting in the HEC" for initiating a "conspiracy" against provincial autonomy.

PPP's Privatisation Minister Naveed Qamar said that like administrative control, the financial control of universities was rightly being transferred to the provinces, while another PPP member, Nawab Mohamad Yousuf Talpur, said he thought the anti-devolution campaign was a conspiracy against the 18th Amendment that he feared could also hit devolution of other subjects.

Former interior minister Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao, who heads his PPP-S faction, saw in the controversy "an attempt to degrade our parliament" and asked why some members have opposed the HEC's financial devolution while their parties had not even given a dissenting note on the issue when the 18th Amendment was drafted by an all-party parliamentary committee.

PML-Q's president for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, Amir Muqam, also supported the HEC devolution plan and said there would be no use of parliament or its committees if their decisions were stayed by courts.

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HEC to keep functioning till new legislation, SC says
Islamabad: The Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that the Higher Education Commission would continue to discharge its functions till the time the government introduced a legislation spelling out its fate.

"The status of the HEC assigned to it under the HEC Ordinance 2002 with its functions covered by constitutional provisions namely entries at serial number 16 and 17 of the Part I and serial 7, 11 and 12 of the Part II of the Federal Legislative List shall remain intact unless the same is not changed by promulgating some legislation in this respect," a three-judge SC bench said in an order after Attorney General Maulvi Anwarul Haq informed it that a draft law was being prepared and before its finalisation all stakeholders, including HEC representatives and vice-chancellors of universities, would be invited.

The bench comprising Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, Justice Mohammad Sair Ali and Justice Ghulam Rabbani has taken up petitions challenging the government's plan to devolve the HEC to the provinces.

The petitions have been filed by Rector of the Rippah International University Professor G.A. Miana, Director General (Islamabad Campus) of the University of Lahore Brig Mohammad Ajaeb and parliamentarians Marvi Memon of the PML-Q and Azam Swati of the JUI-F.

Former HEC chairman Professor Attaur Rehman has moved an application requesting the court to intervene in the controversy to protect the higher education sector.

The order said the March 31 notification of devolving the HEC to the provinces would have no effect on the functioning of the commission in view of the attorney general's statement that the notification had no nexus with the ordinance.

"In case of any conflict or overlapping between the notification and the ordinance, the latter will prevail. The interim application stands disposed of in view of the statement," the order said.

Dr Attaur Rehman said Pakistan was among a few countries where a student of any university had free access to 45,000 textbooks and 25,000 journals because the HEC paid for it. When the commission was not there, he added, no university in the country had so much repository of knowledge.

The chief justice acknowledged the fact that thousands of students getting education in foreign universities would suffer and degrees awarded by Pakistani universities would not be accepted abroad if the commission was dissolved.

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Dar backs HEC devolution
Islamabad: Senator Ishaq Dar of the PML-N supported devolution of Higher Education Commission to the provinces on Wednesday.

When asked repeatedly at a press conference about disparity between his stance on the issue and that of the PML-N, Mr Dar said: "I am not responsible for everybody in the party."

Chairman of the Parliamentary Commission on the Implementation of the 18th Amendment Senator Raza Rabbani, Senator Zahid Khan of the ANP and Federal Minister for Petroleum Naveed Qamar were present on the occasion.

In reply to a question, the PML leader said: "I was out of the country since Feb 25 for personal reasons, but I am here to categorically clear whatever Senator Raza Rabbani has said on devolution of the HEC. I fully support that."

Parroting the statement made at the outset of the press conference by Raza Rabbani, Senator Dar said the only issue which people should understand was that the HEC was not being devolved, but its functions were being redefined.

Asked as if his statement should be taken as a formal stand of the PML-N on the HEC issue, Mr Dar sidestepped the question and said: "Whatever I am saying is the position under the Constitution after the passage of the 18th Amendment." He criticised the media and certain political commentators for politicising the HEC issue for no genuine reasons.

He said the University Grants Commission, which was replaced by the HEC, had a role like a post office in transferring funds to the universities. However, the HEC had been given a much bigger role by the former military regime and the implementation commission was reviewing that role, Senator Dar said.

PML-N spokesman Ahsan Iqbal has repeatedly said that his party was opposing the HEC devolution on principles. Interestingly on Tuesday, Mr Iqbal also forcefully denied the claim made by some people that his party's Senator Ishaq Dar had supported the HEC devolution in the meetings of the Parliamentary Commission on the Implementation of the 18th Amendment. Dawn

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AIOU Spring Semester 2011 forms on website
Islamabad: The Allama Iqbal Open University (AIOU) has finalised the first part of admissions for the Spring Semester 2011 and placed complete information of objectionable admission forms on its website. AIOU Director Admissions Sohail Nazir Rana said that some admissions forms were found incomplete during scrutinising so these have been placed on the website ( and students are advised to remove these objections immediately. The students from Matriculation to Ph.D level in different disciplines are asked to immediately contact the AIOU Admission Department in Sector H-8. The news

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AIOU to teach national languages through Internet
Islamabad: Allama Iqbal Open University (AIOU) is planning to teach national language through Internet, said AIOU Vice-Chancellor Nazir Ahmed Sangi.

'New generation of the country who settled abroad should get in touch with national language and culture of the country as its the basic need to maintain connection with the motherland' Sangi said, while exchanging views with Pakistani Educationist (settled in

UK), Dr. Zahoor Anwar Chaudhry who is the Educational Advisor of Birmingham Council.

Dr. Sangi said that as per suggestions of Dr. Zahoor Anwar, AIOU will prepare a comprehensive programme of online teaching of national and Pakistani languages.

Dr. Sangi said that Urdu E-Learning and Urdu Olive level programmes of the University in Computer Science Department, which prepared under his own supervision will prove an important source for the purpose.

Dr. Sangi appointed Chaudhry Bashir Ahmed, Director Regional Campus Mirpur (AJK) as Coordinator for this significant programme while Dr. Attush Durrani, Director Multi Media (Urdu Electronic Learning) and Dr. Daud Khattak, Computer Science Department are nominated as Technical Advisor of the Committee.

On the occasion, Dr. Zahoor Anwar said that students from minimum one thousand schools in the entire UK want to learn Urdu language but no teacher is available to them. Daily times

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Students go to school without books
Islamabad: The new academic year in all the schools run by Federal Directorate of Education (FDE) began last Monday but the students are going to school without textbooks.

The parents fear that their children will not be able to complete the syllabus, if they are not provided books on time, whereas some others are anxiously waiting for successful candidates list for Class-I admissions, which was scheduled to be displayed on April 12.

"It will be difficult to complete the syllabus after the proposed two-day weekly off likely to be announced by the government in a couple of days," Nazia, a mother of two children, said.

An official of the FDE said that the list of successful candidates for Class-I admissions was not displayed as few more students were allowed to apply for admission and appear in the test. The list would be displayed in the next week after which the classes would be started.

About delay in provision of textbooks, the official said that the delay was on the part of National Book Foundation (NBF) which was responsible for publishing and providing textbooks to the directorate. app

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