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Supreme court verdict : HEC shall continue

HEC case: VCs, varsities happy over
Islamabad, April 13: The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed that the Higher Education Commission (HEC) shall continue discharging its functions and duties as it had been doing in the past unless and until a fresh legislation was promulgated.

A three-member bench of the apex court comprising Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, Justice Muhammad Sair Ali and Justice Ghulam Rabbani also held that the notification of March 31, 2011 shall have no effect on the functioning of the HEC in view of the provisions of the Ordinance 2002 and in case of any conflict and inconsistency between the notification and the provisions of the ordinance, the ordinance shall prevail.

Anwar Mansoor Khan, Arshad Ali Chaudhry, AOR, with Prof Attaur Rehman, former minister, Senator Azam Khan Swati and Marvi Memon, MNA, appeared for the petitioners, while Maulvi Anwarul Haq, the Attorney General for Pakistan, appeared on court notice. Chief Justice Iftikhar said the HEC had maintained its standards, and huge problems would be created, if the commission was devolved.

In response to a notice issued earlier, the learned attorney general appeared and submitted that the status of the Higher Education Commission as it had been assigned to it under the Higher Education Commission Ordinance, 2002, with its functions covered by the constitutional provisions namely entries at Srl.Nos.16, and 17 of the Part-I and Srl.7, 11 and 12 of Part-II of the Federal Legislative List, shall remain intact unless the same was changed by promulgation of some legislation in this behalf. He submitted that the HEC shall continue discharging its functions and duties as it had been doing in the past unless and until a fresh legislation was promulgated. He further stated that the notification of March 31, 2011 shall have no effect on the functioning of the HEC in view of the provisions of the Ordinance, 2002 and in case of any conflict/inconsistency between the notification and the provisions of the ordinance, the rdinance shall prevail.

The court observed that CMAs for the interim relief stand disposed of after hearing the learned attorney general for Pakistan.

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Major parties, leaders, oppose HEC's death
Islamabad: In an interesting scenario, three major political parties who have signed the 18th Amendment and formed a major chunk of the National Assembly, have opposed the controversial devolution of Higher Education Commission (HEC).

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), PML-Q and Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) have openly announced their stance of retaining the HEC with the centre and even the PML-Q Senator and leader of opposition in the upper house Wasim Sajjad has said, on floor of the house, that it was decided to keep the HEC with the centre while passing the 18th Amendment.

PML-Q's fourteen parliamentarians have also signed a resolution initiated by Marvi Mammon against the HEC controversial devolution to the provinces, and have submitted it in the National Assembly.

Moreover, PML-N's Information Secretary Ahsan Iqbal, during a press conference, said that the 18th Amendment never meant to dissolve the HEC. "The dissolution of the HEC will cause irreparable loss to higher education and research programmes in the country," Ahsan Iqbal held. While MQM chief Altaf Hussain has also strongly urged upon Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani to take back the decision to abolish the HEC as it will adversely affect the system of higher education in the country. Altaf said the HEC is a very important institution and the hasty manner in which it is being dissolved is a cause of serious concern. He said in other parts of the world there are separate ministries for the promotion of higher education and here in Pakistan instead of giving proper attention to the education sector we are abolishing a highly functional institution in a ruthless manner.

The two senior most members of the Parliamentary Committee on Constitutional Reforms, having legal background; Senator SM Zafar and Senator Wasim Sajjad, both hailing from PML-Q have held that devolution of the HEC would be unconstitutional because it was covered in Federal Legislative Lists and not in the Concurrent List and the Implementation Commission cannot add anything to the Concurrent List.

Wasim Sajjad has said that it was decided to keep the HEC with the centre while passing the 18th Amendment. He emphasized that there must be an institution in the centre which could work for better higher education and the HEC was a regulator therefore it should be kept with the Centre.

Senator SM Zafar who is in London these days had to issue a press release saying that the HEC was covered in Federal Legislative List-II so its devolution will be unconstitutional. Zafar is also the Chairman of Senate Standing Committee on Education.

Well-placed sources said that Senator SM Zafar had conveyed to the chairman HEC when 18th Amendment was being passed that the HEC was covered in the Federal Legislative List therefore it would not be devolved. With the recent press release of SM Zafar, the apprehensions that the government wants to teach the HEC a lesson for taking tough stand during verification of degrees of parliamentarians has been further endorsed.

On the other hand PPP's Mian Raza Rabbani holds that the HEC should be devolved because it was covered in the Concurrent List. He even lost his temper in Senate the other day when he was questioned by opposition members regarding the HEC's devolution. Awami National Party and Aftab Sherpao also supported the HEC's devolution.

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Big protest against HEC devolution
Islamabad: Marching under a banner reading 'I Don't Have Fake Degree! Do You?' scores of students and teachers from public and private sector universities here on Tuesday raised a strong voice against devolution of the Higher Education Commission (HEC), which according to them, would adversely affect the country's future.

The protesting students and teachers started their march from the National Press Club (NPC) and staged a sit-in in front of the Parliament House. They raised slogans against the decision of the Implementation Commission to devolve the HEC despite the fact that all of its functions and authority are fully protected in the 18th Amendment.

The protesters accused the government of victimising the HEC for its strict stance over the degree verification process and urged all political parties to come up with strong resistance to save the HEC for the sake of higher education sector.

They said that Pakistan needs at least 5,000 PhDs every year, whereas it is having only 200, which is quite disproportionate to the demand. If functions of the HEC were transferred to provinces, this figure would further decline due to incapacity, financial difficulties and lack of organisation.

Speaking on the occasion, senior teachers and student leaders said that it was Zulfikar Ali Bhutto who constituted the University Grants Commission (UGC), which was later transformed into HEC in 2002, so the PPP leaders should show some regard to the vision of their founding chairman.

They said intellectuals and intelligentsia have been asking since long to enforce an education emergency in the country to uplift the future generations but instead of taking steps in the right direction, the political leadership had started running backwards.

They urged the government not to disturb the prestigious institution and take measures to further improve its performance with an aim to embark the country on the path of progress and prosperity.

"The HEC was formed as an autonomous federal regulatory institution with the prime minister of Pakistan as its controlling authority. The composition of the HEC reflects a balanced federal structure with representation from every province, as well as the secretary education and secretary science and technology, together with eminent academic and research experts," they said.

They underlined the need that the HEC should remain as an important directional body which should continue to play a major role in a sector where Pakistan is severely deficient.

They hoped that the government, political parties and intelligentsia would realise the intensity of the situation and work together for the promotion of higher education sector in the country.

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Petition against HEC's devolution put off
Lahore: Justice Sh Azmat Saeed of the Lahore High Court on Tuesday adjourned for an indefinite period the hearing of a writ petition challenging the devolution of the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan, ruling that the issue was already pending in the Supreme Court. The petition was filed by advocate Fahad Ahmed Siddiqi, who submitted that the HEC was established to facilitate the institutions imparting higher education.

He said the government had decided to devolve and dissolve the HEC to the provinces and had started consultation with provincial governments in this respect. He said the federal government was trying to save its money by handing over the HEC to provinces. He said in this way, they would save money in the upcoming budget and would ask the provinces to run the HEC from the money they would get from the NFC Award.

He prayed to the court to issue directions to the respondents to abstain from dissolving the HEC. He also prayed to the court to summon the chairman of the Implementation Commission and ask him the extraneous considerations on the basis of which he formed an opinion that the HEC did not fall within ambit and scope of the federal legislative list. The news

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