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Punjab, KP against HEC's abolition

Professor Atta reveals Punjab, KP against HEC's abolition
Islamabad, March 04: The former Chairman of the Higher Education Commission (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.

"This will be a national disaster of horrendous magnitude that will push Pakistan back by 40-50 years. We have already seen the mess in the provinces at school level education through the multiplicity of standards and multiplicity of boards of education. The same is now happening at the higher education level," the eminent professor said when his views were elicited on the planned disbandment of the HEC and its devolution to the provinces.

He said the HEC was the baby of the prime minister, who appointed its chairman and its governing body members. He appealed to him to intervene and save this wonderful organization rather than allowing it to be carved up into little pieces and handed over to the provinces.

The president and the prime minister need to personally intervene and stop this tragic development.Prof Attaur Rahman asked if HEC's dissolution was not contempt of the Supreme Court, what it was. "In its landmark judgment, the court had asked the Election Commission to get MPs' degrees verified by the HEC.

The HEC's dissolution and movement of its core function of degree recognition and maintenance of standards under the Cabinet Division means the government would now have direct control on whose degree to recognize and whose to not recognize. The shift of the HEC degree recognition and attestation function to the Cabinet Division has nothing to do with devolution and everything to do with MPs with fake degrees."

He said that the 18th Amendment changed the 4th Schedule of the Constitution and added key provisions, having links to higher education, to the Federal Legislative List: All regulatory authorities established under a Federal law; national planning and national economic coordination, including planning and coordination of scientific and technological research; legal, medical and other professions; standards in institutions for higher education and research, scientific and technical institutions; and inter-provincial matters and coordination.

According to him, all powers and functions of the HEC defined under its legislation are covered and protected in these five provisions of the 18th Amendment through the 4th Schedule (Article 70(4) Federal Legislative Lists Part-I and Part-II). Moreover, the 18th Amendment fully supports and protects the HEC's current powers and functions from devolution and specifically mentions higher education and research as federal subjects.

Prof Attaur Rahman said all the Vice Chancellors of public sector universities unanimously resolved in November 2010 that the HEC functionality should not be changed and the status quo be maintained since the HEC has performed exceptionally well and it is completely covered under the 18th amendment.

He said that discussions with the Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa governments have made it clear that they did not desire the devolution of higher education to the provinces since it is believed that higher education is part of the Federal List in the 18th Amendment. These provinces are extremely satisfied with the HEC performance.

Prof Attaur Rahman said that an impartial analysis of the constitutional, strategic, functional and operational impact of the 18th Amendment on higher education leads to the clear conclusion that the HEC legislation should not be modified, and the status quo of operation of the HEC should be maintained.

He said that the Pakistan government has successfully negotiated a $300 million Tertiary Education Support Programme with the World Bank that would provide budgetary support to the Finance Ministry so that the HEC medium term development framework 2011-16 focused on universities building economies, communities and leadership. It requires that the HEC legal structure should not be unilaterally altered by the government. Essentially, the HEC has the credibility and confidence of the international development agencies and were the HEC to be changed, and the World Bank funding would no longer be available, he feared.

Prof Attaur Rahman said that the HEC was 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. They are nominated for a four-year term and may not be removed, save on proven charges of corruption, inefficiency, permanent disability. This structure is what gives the HEC autonomy and allows it to pursue its function with merit and rule of law as the only arbiters. This is what permitted the HEC to defy every pressure and not verify degrees of the MPs that did not meet its set strict standards of verification. Without autonomy, a new commission will then presumably rapidly clear the backlog of unverified degrees of MPs, he said.

He said the new commission would also have the power to recognize new universities being formed all over Pakistan that are substandard and did 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 few room structures. By granting recognition to such entities, the degrees of all Pakistani universities will become suspect, he apprehended.

Prof Attaur Rahman said the HEC attests more than 200,000 educational documents each year. Every Pakistani going for work abroad must have their degrees attested by the HEC which is recognized by the entire world to be a fair and impartial body whose attestation is accepted at face value. The HEC is a Board Member of the Asia Pacific Quality Network and is a member of 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 the HEC. By creating a new commission, all degrees issued by Pakistani institutions will not be accepted at face value despite any stamp that any new commission may issue. The world is carefully following the fake degree scandal of Pakistani MPs and can see what the dissolution of HEC entails, he said.

He said that today researchers from the Kohat University of Science and Technology publish more papers in the world's leading research journals than many local universities established decades ago; the University of Gujrat boasts as the best Industrial Design department in Pakistan; Karakoram International University, Gilgit, hosts the Rector of the University of Bonn Germany to study climate change; Shah Abdul Latif University, Khairpur, works with Egyptian biotechnologists for propagation of date palms while researchers at the Lasbela University of Agriculture, Water and Marine Sciences, are pioneering shrimp farming on the Balochistan Coast.

These, he said, are some glimpses into the accomplishments of the universities that have been established during the past eight years only while those that existed before have gone on to join the ranks of the premier science and technology universities of the world, such as the National University of Science and Technology ranked number 274 in the World in 2010 while the University of Engineering and Technology, Lahore, is ranked 281 by QS World University Rankings. From the Australian National University in Canberra, Australia, to Cambridge University in the UK, just about every leading university in the world has close academic and research linkages with top Pakistani universities, he said.

Prof Attaur Rahman said that the HEC, in fact, was the regulatory body for higher education since it prescribed conditions under which universities were opened and operated and also has ultimate authority for recognition of degrees, diplomas and certificates issued by the universities. He said that the subject of the higher education has close, deep and multidimensional links to the National Policy and Planning; Economic Growth; Scientific and Technical Research; Defence Production; Industrial Growth and National Innovation System.

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HEC being devolved 'for its tough stand on degree verification'
Islamabad: The unexpected decision to devolve the Higher Education Commission (HEC) has pushed the federal government into hot water in the face of allegations being levelled by various quarters for victimising this prestigious institution for its strict stance over degree verification issue, said well-placed sources.

According to sources, the two members of the Implementation Commission in their private discussion opined that the HEC had lost favour of the government the day when it refused to bow down before its demand to avoid speedy measures in verification of degrees of lawmakers.

"The government has found out a permanent solution of any possible threat of degree verification in future by transferring core function of degree recognition, equivalence and attestation to a new commission to be constituted under the Cabinet Division," said a source.

He said that transferring these key powers to the cabinet means that the government would have strong influence on the process of degree verification and equivalence in future which was not possible under the autonomous status of the HEC. "Without autonomy, a new commission will presumably rapidly clear the backlog of unverified degrees of parliamentarians," the source believed.

He further revealed that the new commission working under the Cabinet Division would also have the power to recognise new universities being set up 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 refused recognition since they do not have faculty, libraries, internet connectivity and are housed in a few rooms. By granting recognition to such entities, the degrees of all Pakistani universities will become suspect," he said.

Sources said another member of the Implementation Commission, who is currently abroad, clearly stated some time back that the HEC could not be devolved because it had been fully protected in the 18th Amendment. They also claimed that some influential quarters that also supported the HEC in avoiding wrath of the government after initiation of degree verification process could again influence the situation in favour of the HEC.

A senior official said that the HEC is neither a federal ministry nor it falls under any federal ministry as it is an independent institution that directly comes under the prime minister. "Research and foreign scholarships have been designated federal subjects in the 18th Amendment that is why functions being performed by the HEC have been placed in Part II of the Federal Legislative List (FLL)," he said.

It is pertinent to mention here that the Implementation Commission viewed that the HEC falls in the concurrent list due to which it has been devolved in favour of provinces. But there is a difference of opinion among educationists and legal experts with some of them claiming that the 18th Amendment provides legal cover to functions of the HEC.

HEC Executive Director Dr. Sohail Naqvi told this correspondent that they have been trying to approach the Implementation Commission to give another presentation with an aim to highlight functions and achievements of the commission.

To a question, he said that they were not expecting devolution of the HEC and no one ever gave such impression to them. "Personally speaking, we are really shocked over the news of devolution of the HEC and now we are trying to come out from this situation that would serve no purpose," he said.

Talking to this scribe, HEC Chairman Dr. Javaid Laghari said that the world has faith in the degrees of Pakistani universities because of the HEC. "By creating a new commission, all degrees issued by Pakistani institutions will not be accepted at face value despite any stamp that any new commission may issue. The world is carefully following the fake degree scandal of Pakistani parliamentarians and can see what the dissolution of the HEC entails," he said.

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Top professor fired for speaking up
Islamabad: After the infamous thrashing incident in an army-run university a year ago, a professor of the Pakistan Navy-run Bahria University has not only been roughed up but also terminated from service.

His guilt: Asking questions about the regimental-style running of the university which has the Naval Chief as its pro-chancellor and a retired admiral as rector. When the professor signed a receipt on the register confirming his termination, sent through a peon, he wrote the famous verse of Habib Jalib: "Main nahi manta..."

The brutality and humiliation of Professor Qamar Riaz Mahmitkhel, who teaches 'leadership', sent the already weary students of the university into fury and a protest demonstration is planned on Monday noon outside the Naval Headquarters at Shaheen Chowk, situated at Margalla Road.

An immediate reaction of the Bahria University administration to the sacking of the professor was not immediately available, but the protest demonstration of the students on Monday will show how the officials react.

The incident occurred on March 31 in the packed auditorium of the university where chairman of Higher Education Commission (HEC) Dr Javed Leghari delivered a talk followed by a Q&A session.

As Professor Qamar asked what the real purpose of the university and that whether the innovation and creativity could flourish in a regimental environment, it was the breaking point that landed him in trouble. The students had greeted the question with round of applause, said a participant.

The question was addressed to the HEC chairman, but the Rector, Vice Admiral (R) Muhammad Haroon, stood up to answer. Professor Qamar went on blasting the university's administration for reducing the campus to a garrison.

A commando action followed this rumpus when the director campus of the university, a retired commodore Muhammad Ali, led his team and surrounded the blunt professor, forcing him out, roughing up on resistance, the victim said. He was thrown into his office, declaring it a kind of sub-jail as three staffers, presumably intelligence persons, were posted as guards outside to scrutinize visitors of the professors, Prof Qamar said.

The next day, April 1, Professor came to the university with his hands-cuffed and his mouth gagged. He made a round of the campus especially the auditorium where he was roughed up. The purpose of the exercise was to protest the frustrating environment where nobody is allowed to speak freely, including the academicians, he said.

He was delivered a termination letter in the next couple of hours after the protest and through a peon instead of routing it through the head of the department. As he was asked to receive the letter, he instead wrote the famous verse "main nahi manta...." of Habib Jalib.

The professor said he had been receiving threatening calls urging him observe silence instead of speaking out against the university's administration. But he is determined to attend the protest being organised by the student community today (Monday) in front of the Naval Headquarters at Shaheen Chowk.

This incident is a second of its nature in armed forces-run universities and within Islamabad as previously a civilian professor, Tahir Malik of NUML was thrashed by a brigadier-registrar of the university. The students had then went on strike for a week, finally forcing the NUML administration to remove the brigadier.

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Australia launches Scholarships Alumni Association in Pakistan
Islamabad: The AusAID Scholarships Alumni-Pakistan (ASA-Pakistan) Association was launched by the Australian High Commissioner to Pakistan, Tim George, at an official event here on Friday, says a press release.

The event was attended by alumni from all over Pakistan who have completed their studies at Australian Universities in recent years. The ASA-Pakistan aims to reconnect Pakistani alumni who have studied in Australia since 1991 under various AusAID scholarship programmes. Through the Association, AusAID alumni from the public and private sectors as well as civil society will be able to build networks and create professional opportunities that will contribute to Pakistan's development priorities.

"The Australian Government regards ASA-Pakistan as a very important new network that will make a valuable contribution to Australia-Pakistan relations," said Mr George during his address to alumni at the launch event.

"Many past AusAID scholarship recipients have become leaders in government, the private sector and non-government organisations in Pakistan. The skills they acquire during their studies not only contribute to Pakistan's development but also help to build mutually beneficial links between our governments, non-government organisations, businesses and academia," said Mr George.

AusAID has provided more than 400 scholarships to Pakistani students since 1991. In 2009 the scholarships programme was redesigned in consultation with the Government of Pakistan to better address Pakistan's key development priorities including maternal, neonatal and child health, primary education, rural development, food security and agriculture.

ASA-Pakistan is supported by AusAID and managed by the Australian Development Scholarships (ADS) Office in Islamabad. AusAID scholars are encouraged to register as members of the AusAID Scholarships Alumni Association online on the ADS website:

Applications for the 2012 Masters scholarship intake for study at Australian Universities under the Australian Development Scholarships (ADS) programme are open until 8 April 2011. Further details on how to apply are available on the ADS website.

Contact: Charlotte Kennedy, Australian High Commission, Telephone: +92 51 835 5500.

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Admission forms for nursery
Islamabad: The admission form for nursery classes in all educational institution of the federal capital will be issued from today (Monday). The classes will start from May 2. According to the Federal Directorate of Education, admission forms will be available from April 4 to 14. Examination test will be held of April 21 and list to successful candidates will be displayed on April 26. Eligible candidate's age should be above 4 years and below 5 on March 31. Moreover, residents of federal capital and government servants living in Rawalpindi are also eligible to apply for their children.

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FBISE employees call off strike after demands met
Islamabad: The strike by the employees of Federal Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education (FBISE) have been called off after the successful negotiations between the chairperson and administration that lead to the acceptance of all demands of employees.

According to the information, the FBISE Chairperson Shaheen Khan immediately transferred the money back to the Habib Bank Limited (HBL) after which the issue regarding distribution of matriculation papers was also solved. "Half of the money has already been transferred while the other half would be transferred by Monday," said an insider.

The second demand was immediate removal of Secretary Mudassar ul Hassan, who has been reappointed after his retirement, has also been accepted. The employees of FBISE believed that the corruption has increased manifold since Mudassar ul Hassan has taken over the charge.

According to information, the employees wanted Mumtaz Ali Khan to be the secretary, however, he himself has refused and has nominated Controller Examination Mansoor Ahmed as Secretary. "Mansoor Ali Khan has currently been given additional charge of the secretary," the source said.

The other main demand of the employees was the vacation of guesthouse being occupied by the FBISE Chairperson Shaheen Khan. The employees were of the view that the chairperson was illegally occupying the guesthouse of the board when she has acquired a house in F-10 on hiring. It has been informed that the chairperson would vacate the guesthouse within one week. The employees also had objection on the ongoing housing project of the FBISE.

They said that they didn't have any idea about the location and value of the property. New project director Aleem Qureshi has been appointed for the housing society who would bring out the facts in black and white.

It has also been learnt that a committee has also been constituted to probe into the alleged corruption in housing project and would look if the project should be continued or not. "Most of the employees are having suspicions about the project and want their money back," said an insider.

The last demand of the employees was the removal of assistant secretary finance. According to information, the demand has also been accepted and the chairperson has pledged that she would transfer the existing assistant secretary to the Ministry of Education and would appoint new assistant secretary after getting approval from the cabinet.

It is pertinent to mention that the employees believe that it was the upcoming matriculation exams that have forced the chairperson to accept the demands of employees. "She was mindful that the distribution of papers and other matters could postpone the upcoming matriculation exams so she acted promptly to accept the demands of the employees," an insider said.

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Islamabad: A Pakistani student Amjad Mehmood has been awarded postgraduate degree in Mass Communications with news industries, from University of Bedfordshire, Luton, United Kingdom, says a press release. The major areas of his research were Media and Cyberculture and Modern Approaches in Journalism. He did his final project on the recent Music Reality TV show between Indian and Pakistani kids 'Do Daishoun ki Eik Awaz' to assess the political blend in entertainment television industry.

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AAUR's Students' Week activities continue
Rawalpindi: The third day of the Students' Week, an annual activity of the Pir Mehr Ali Shah Arid Agriculture University Rawalpindi (PMAS-AAUR) continued on Saturday.

Different competitions, regional dress show, flower arrangement and video games were held on the third day. In regional dress show students of different departments in their respective traditional dresses participated, which was held with an aim to give the students an opportunity to interact with other cultures and hence create an atmosphere of harmony and intercultural integration. As many as 25 students represented cultural variety showcasing socio-culture lifestyle of all provinces. The audience appreciated the efforts of the participant for the wonderful show. Saifullah, Maqbool Ahmad and Sadia got first position while Amna and Fahim got second and Maria stood third in the regional dress show.

Video games competition was held with an aim to increase mind ability of the students. It was a competition among faculties on the virtual ground. In the competition Muhammad Rashid (Student of Agriculture BSc Hons) stood 1st and Kalimullah (Student of UIIT) stood 2nd.

In flower arrangements competition, more than 20 students participated. In the fresh flower arrangement Shalinee (Student of Agriculture Faculty) got first position and Komal (Student of Veterinary Faculty) second. In the dry flower arrangement, Sundas (Student of Agriculture Faculty) got first position while Shumaila Ishaq (student of Science Faculty) got second positions. and Fahim got second and Maria stood third in the regional dress show.

Video games competition was held with an aim to increase mind ability of the students. It was a competition among faculties on the virtual ground. In the competition Muhammad Rashid (Student of Agriculture BSc Hons) stood 1st and Kalimullah (Student of UIIT) stood 2nd.

In flower arrangements competition, more than 20 students participated. In the fresh flower arrangement Shalinee (Student of Agriculture Faculty) got first position and Komal (Student of Veterinary Faculty) second. In the dry flower arrangement, Sundas (Student of Agriculture Faculty) got first position while Shumaila Ishaq (student of Science Faculty) got second positions.

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