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HEC's devolution opposition blasted

Hoti blasts opposition to HEC's devolution
Mardan, April 11: Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Ameer Haider Hoti on Sunday said that some elements were making hue and cry over the devolution of the Higher Education Commission as they were not happy over the empowerment of the provinces under the 18th Amendment.

Talking to reporters at the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa House after administering oath to the newly elected office-bearers of the Mardan Press Club here, he said that a committee comprising officials of the provincial government and vice-chancellors of public sector universities had been set up to submit a report on the promotion of higher education within 15 days.

Hoti said there should be a department at the federal level to maintain quality of higher education and its chairman should be appointed from all the provinces for a specific term.

About target killings in Karachi, he said that all the political forces should join hands to unmask the elements involved in the killing of innocent people. He said that Karachi did not belong to a particular group and those resorting to violence should be dealt with an iron hand.

To a question about the reopening of Pakistan People's Party founder and former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's case, the chief minister said that nobody should object to the reopening of the ZAB case as the PPP leaders had termed his execution as a "judicial murder", so they have the right to get the case reopened.

Hoti said no efforts would be spared to resolve the problems of local journalists. He said construction work on the Media Colony would start within one-and-a-half month while the newly constructed building of the Press Club would be handed over to journalists within 10 days.

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"The devolution process of ministries is underway according to the 18th Amendment and the Implementation Commission is working on it in the right manner. The education ministry is also among the five ministries that have to be devolved in this phase. All the functions, including curriculum, planning, centres for excellence and implementation were on the concurrent list and have to be devolved to the provinces under the 18th amendment. After the 18th Amendment, the role of HEC has been completely changed and it would not have a monopoly over financial matters. A debate is underway on the devolution of HEC; some people are criticising it and others are supporting it. It is very shocking that PML-N has also joined the chorus and is singing against this step. On the other hand, PML-N is part of the devolution process of ministries under the18th Amendment. This devolution will not affect international funding and the teachers who are working in different colleges and universities would also not be affected. Educational institutions are expected to be more autonomous after this devolution. The ultimate beneficiaries will be the students. Through devolution, the provincial educational institutions will become autonomous, will get more foreign financial aid and we will get more opportunities. The government should also take strict measures to free education of the clutches of profiteers disguised as academicians."
Name: Sadaf Nazeer
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Participants of dialogue advocate HEC devolution
Peshawar: Participants of a dialogue here Sunday advocated devolution of the Higher Education Commission (HEC) to the provinces.

They resolved to resist any hurdle in the way of devolving power to the federating units and said opposing the 18th Amendment was betrayal of the Constitution as the amendment had been passed by the elected parliament.

Pakhtunkhwa Civil Society Network (PCSN) had organised the dialogue on '18th Amendment and Institutional Arrangements at Provincial Level after Devolution of Higher Education Commission' attended by people from different walks of life including professors, doctors, activists of NGOs and representatives of political parties.

The speakers including Dr Khadim Hussain, managing director of the Baacha Khan Trust Education Foundation, Dr Shafiq, former president of Peshawar University Teachers Association, Prof Ijaz Khan, chairman of the Department of International Relations UoP, Dr Said Alam Mahsud, leader of Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party, Idrees Kamal of PCSN, opined that the devolution of HEC and constituting bodies for higher education at provincial level would lift the education standard and create more opportunities for higher studies.

Provinces can manage and nominate students for PhD aboard according to their requirements in a better way and research on local level would be more affective and credible, they argued, adding that a research scholar on local level would be more credible as compared to research done while sitting hundreds of miles away.

"As far funds availability is concerned, the provinces will get five times more funds than the present allocations. The foreign scholarships would also increase," said one of the speakers. He said the HEC had so far sent only 38 students from KP out of 500 sent for PhD and the number would be three times high after the devolution of the HEC.

The speakers were of the opinion that devolving HEC and making bodies on provincial level would enhance academic capacity, access to research market besides reducing cost of higher education.

Regarding the propaganda by some elements that HEC was punished for verification of parliamentarians' degrees, they argued that the HEC played the role of just a post office as verification was the domain of relevant institutions like universities and not of HEC. They, however, called for accommodating stakeholders like teachers and students in the consultation committee and autonomy of the Higher Education Commission on provincial level.

Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain said the decision to devolve HEC was final and no hurdle in devolving power under 18th amendment would be tolerated. He said the amendment had been passed by the parliament after hectic debate and homework and all political forces in the country were taken on board.

The minister said the opposition to 18th Amendment was tantamount to opposing the Constitution that could not be tolerated and all political and progressive forces were behind Senator Raza Rabbani and the committee he was heading.

He expressed satisfaction at Chief Minister Ameer Haider Hoti's meeting with vice-chancellors of universities in the province and formation of a committee for amicably resolving the issue and forming such a body at the provincial level.

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HEC devolution 'to cause financial problems for provinces'
Islamabad: The devolution of Higher Education Commission (HEC) would not only affect higher education sector but also cause serious financial problems for the provinces, which would not receive any extra funds in the forthcoming fiscal budget to run public sector universities, sources told this scribe here on Sunday.

Sources said that the statement of Implementation Commission Chairman Mian Raza Rabbani in the Senate has given weightage to rumours that the federal government would ask the provinces to allocate funds for the public sector universities from their share in the National Finance Commission (NFC) award as it would not provide separate funds for this purpose after the HEC devolution.

Sources said that the HEC devolution would transfer the financial burden of the higher education sector to the provinces, which would be forced to arrange some Rs24 billion annually for recurring budget in addition to development budget that currently stands at Rs15.7 billion.

"If the provinces would be asked to arrange money for higher education sector from the NFC Award then it would lead to the situation where existence of many higher educational institutions would stand doubtful. Given the financial constraints the provinces cannot be able to bear financial burden that would also ruin chances of future scholarship schemes for talented students," sources said.

Sources claimed that the finance minister, in his meeting with the HEC officials last year, clearly said: "Forget about any future scholarships because we don't have any money for such schemes."

They said that the federal government is also going to establish the Commission for Standard Higher Education under the Cabinet Division to run higher education sector because if there is no central body at the federal level the loan worth $300 million announced by the World Bank for the HEC would stand terminated.

According to sources, there is a clause in the agreement between the WB and HEC that any change in the legal status of the HEC would end the agreement at once so the federal government would set up a new commission to avoid termination of the agreement. It is also believed that presence of any such commission would enable the federal government to directly receive donations and loans from foreign agencies.

Sources said that the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab governments were quite hesitant and not willing for devolution of the HEC but later they indicated go-ahead after frequent visits by members of the Implementation Commission. But now the PML-N has realised the intensity of the situation and clearly stated that it is against devolution of the HEC because it believed that the step would adversely affect the higher education sector.

A senior official said that the finance minister used to say higher education institutes in foreign countries often generated their own funds through marketing of their research products but "he needs to know that proper planning and investment for decades can enable the universities to reach this stage. So if they want our universities to achieve such standards then they should continue to provide them with financial support and avoid devolving the HEC to save some money."

He said despite the fact that many foreign universities generate their own funds through their research products their respective governments are constantly increasing allocations for the education sector in the annual budgets.

Talking to this scribe, former HEC chairman Dr. Atta-ur-Rahman said the provinces would definitely face financial burden after devolution of the HEC. He added: "The issue of degree verification is the real cause so some political parties want to protect their members holding fake degrees at any cost."

He said that legal minds like S M Zafar and Waseem Sajjad have categorically stated that devolution of the HEC would be a clear violation of the 18th Amendment as its functions are fully protected in the Federal Legislative List.

Dr. Atta-ur-Rahman also submitted an application requesting the court to take suo moto notice of the matter to 'save' the higher education sector.

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'HEC devolution not to affect anyone'
Karachi: The devolution of the Higher Education Commission to the provinces will neither affect the universities nor the students vis-a-vis funds and scholarships.

This was stated by the head of the 18th Amendment Implementation Committee, Senator Mian Raza Rabbani, during a meeting with the Chief Minister of Sindh, Syed Qaim Ali Shah, at the Chief Minister's House here on Sunday.

It was also decided at the meeting that the Sindh government would soon call a meeting of all the vice chancellors of the public-sector universities in the province to address their concerns and anxieties over the devolution of the HEC.

Rabbani and Shah also exchanged views on the devolution of other departments and ministries and how to cope with the problems that might arise out of the exercise, especially the ones pertaining to employees and assets.

Rabbani, who is also the federal minister for inter-provincial coordination, informed the chief minister that 10 departments had so far been devolved to the provinces, and others would be devolved after consultation with the stakeholders.

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HEC devolution a test case for government
Karachi: Is Sindh or other provinces ready to attain complete provincial autonomy that will be handed over to them by June 30, 2011? The answer will be definitely no, for politicians and political parties are responsible for this failure. They are yet to prepare themselves to take control of the additional departments that are going to be devolved under the 18th Constitutional Amendment.

This amendment was passed by both the National Assembly and Senate and all the political and religious parties having representation in parliament had unanimously supported this amendment.

But these parties are now opposing the devolution plan just for political scoring and the question arises as to whether they did not understand the aims of the 18th Amendment when they signed the document. They were supposed to understand as to what would come out of the 18th Amendment for which they claimed credit and drew appreciation.

Now they are opposing this devolution plan. They must have understood that the failure of devolution plan vis--vis provincial autonomy would prove disastrous and make political parties lose their credibility. And the typical mindset interested to continue with the present system will take advantage from such a situation. People of this country struggled more than 60 years for provincial autonomy, and this was the main demand of the former East Wing of the country. The actual demand of Bengalis was provincial autonomy and Pakistan was divided when this demand was refused by the then dictatorial regimes. Balochistan and former NWFP were also making the same demand and both provinces suffered during the struggle for autonomy.

Following the implementation on 18th Amendment, more than 10 departments have been devolved and more departments would follow the suit by 30th June, 2011, after which only four subjects will remain with the federal government. In fact, Pakistan will be a new federation after the end of this period. Provincial governments will generate their revenue and use it independently. They will also be empowered to make loan deals with foreign institutions as well as controlling and exploring their natural resources and reserves, and running the whole system at their own, including the education system. But, unfortunately, neither Sindh nor other provincial governments are mentally prepared to practically take over the additional departments.

This was the main reason behind the on-going debate on the devolution of Higher Education Commission (HEC). A hue and cry has been started in media, as the educationists have been strongly opposing this devolution. The experts in the most respected field of education are angry and defending the existing system. This situation would not have arisen if the provincial government was prepared for such development. There is no structure in the provinces to take over the control of the higher education system. In fact, the lower education system and its standard had been under question mark, as the people have doubts that as to how the provincial governments would control the higher education system. This impression led to the criticism against the devolution plan. The provincial governments did not have the ability to establish good governance, as the ruling parties are engaged in political tussle and score settling. They were not focusing to bring improvement in the administration as well as education and health systems.

Chief Minister Sindh Syed Qaim Ali Shah convened the meeting of vice chancellors of public sector universities when the VCs from the whole country opposed devolution of the HEC. The CM convinced the VCs of the public Sector universities of Sindh that the system will not get disturbed.

Federal Minister for Provincial Coordination, who is also the incharge of the implementation of the 18th Amendment, Senator Raza Rabbani also briefed the VCs about the actual plan of HEC devolution and assured them that the system will not get disturbed, saying, HEC will remain intact with some other name and they will have the powers only to make recommendations. He said that there would be no financial crisis in the universities and the students securing scholarships here and abroad would not be affected.

Rabbani said that the concerned elements having particular mindset were opposing this plan because they know that such development would hurt their interests. He assured that in the coming days the implementation committee of the 18th Amendment will talk to the educationists with regard to bringing improvement in the system.

Political observers say that the political parties have no interest in improving the education standard in the country as they are only interested to remain in power. The devolution of HEC is a test case for the democratic government since it is linked to the entire devolution plan vis--vis the provincial autonomy. Political tussle among the ruling PPP and coalition partners in Sindh is the main reason behind the incompetence and failure to deliver by the government, and if the provincial government fails in this test case, the entire political system will bear the impact of the events to follow. The news

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HEC's dissolution
Islamabad: The Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaaf Chairman, Imran Khan, on Sunday came down hard on the government for what he charged taking a vindictive action against the Higher Education Commission (HEC) for pursuing the case of legislators' fake degrees.

In a statement, the PTI chief said that a parliament and government formed on bogus votes with majority of parliamentarians contesting elections on fake degrees was shamelessly pursuing its agenda of controlling all state organisations, particularly those that had the courage to question their illegitimacy.

He said the government policies framed with malicious intent had proved destructive even though on paper they appeared to promote consensus issues such as devolution to the provinces. He said without building the capacity of the provinces with appropriate resource allocations, education and health institutions were being destroyed under the garb of the 18th Amendment.

Imran Khan said the lack of proper planning led to complete chaos at the federal and provincial levels. He said if the present chaos was allowed to persist, vital foreign investment in health, education, and energy development would be lost.

He said chaotic and corrupt governance by the PPP-led federal government was fast transforming vast areas of the country, particularly in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, into lawless areas without basic governing structures leading to an Afghanistan-like situation. Such situation would further breed extremism in the country, he added.

The PTI chairman said that a country that spent less than two percent of its GDP on education could not afford the destruction of a body that promoted higher education. He said the HEC was contributing to higher education by establishing a digital library in Pakistan, tripling university enrolment from 135,000 in the year 2003 to 400,000 in 2008, promoting research, improving the educational standards of public sector universities, and by supporting 5,000 PhD students by providing scholarships in technologically advanced countries. The news

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