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HEC faces cut in uplift funds

HEC will not be able to undertake new projects
Islamabad, Apr 20: The Higher Education Commission (HEC) will be facing a cut of over Rs4 billion in its development funds notwithstanding repeated government assurances that there would not be any reduction in budgetary allocations for the education sector.

Under the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) 2009-2010, the HEC was allocated Rs22.5 billion for its 358 development schemes which included both the ongoing and new ones. However, according to reliable sources, the government faced with economic crunch recently revised HEC's funds from Rs22.5 billion to less than Rs18.5 billion.

As a result, the HEC will not be able to undertake new projects in public sector universities for which the government committed funds in the PSDP 2009-10 when budget for current financial year was announced. Besides regular delays in release of funds, the new cut would seriously affect HEC's overall development plan.

What the government calls rationalising of the PSDP 2009-2010, a 45 per cent cut has been imposed across the board on development schemes which were planned to be undertaken during the current financial year.

When approached, officials in the HEC said the cut in its budgetary allocations meant there would be few new projects for development of public sector universities both this as well as next year.

The HEC had planned 358 development schemes in the PSDP 2009-2010. Of them, 230 were ongoing projects, 16 new approved, whereas 112 were new un-approved.

Due to the paucity of funds, the HEC could only initiate around 10 un-approved projects this year. "Hardly a day passes when vice-chancellor of some university does not call us up and inquires about status of development project concerning his/her university, but unfortunately we don't have any answer to that," said an HEC official.

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Supreme Court ruling: HEC can't stop scholars from finding jobs abroad
Islamabad: The Supreme Court on Monday pushed the Higher Education Commission (HEC) on the back foot by ruling that it has no right to prevent its scholarship holders from leaving the country in search of better job.

The HEC's counsel prayed before the apex court that after signing a bond, students who availed government scholarships for higher studies in foreign universities were supposed to stay and serve the country for a certain time.

As per the agreement, a scholarship winner must serve the country for five years after completing PhD and two years in case of master's abroad.

The three-member bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry in its order said since the HEC could not provide job guarantee to the returning scholars, it had no right to stop them from leaving the country in search of better future.

Questioning the validity of the HEC's direction in which it has asked the FIA to put names of its 'defaulter scholars' on Exit Control List (ECL), Chief Justice said, "if there is rule of law in the country you did a wrong thing and if there is rule of jungle you did a right thing". The court also ruled to take appropriate action against official of the HEC who had written to the FIA for putting name of the students on the ECL.

Earlier, the Lahore High Court, Rawalpindi Bench, in its decision allowed two HEC scholars, Sajid Ahmad and Shireen Khan to leave the country. They had taken the stand that since they were jobless in Pakistan, therefore, they should be allowed to proceed abroad for better jobs.

Officials at the HEC said that they were desperately trying to hold back students in whom they had heavily invested in the form of scholarships. Roughly a PhD student cost HEC over Rs10 million, a top official of the HEC observed.

Most of the developed countries are short of quality manpower in their research and development organisations, and they offer better jobs to Pakistanis besides scholarships for further studies.

Presently, the HEC has initiated cases against over 100 scholars who have breached their contract. Some of them have left their studies half way through, some after completing their studies didn't come back and there are also cases in which they did come back, but left the country quietly without serving mandatory time period.

"Yes, there is huge demand of Pakistani researchers abroad, but we can't educate them at government's expense to serve in other countries," the official said.

In response to a question, the official said under a special programme the commission assured placement of returning scholars in research and development organisations at a monthly salary of Rs80,000.

Moreover, the HEC provides them Rs500,000 research grant for improving their skills. However, the HEC could not provide a written guarantee of job to the scholars while awarding them scholarships. The HEC is undertaking an ambitious human resource development programme and in this regard massive Rs10 billion would be spent on various types of scholarships. Dawn

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Supreme Court directs action against HEC director
Islamabad: A three-member Supreme Court (SC) bench on Monday issued directions to the authorities concerned to initiate legal action against the Higher Education Commission (HEC) director for placing the names of students on the Exit Control List (ECL) with the help of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA).

The bench comprising Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, Justice Ch Ijaz Ahmed and Justice Ghulam Rabbani issued the directions after taking up HEC's appeals against a verdict of the Lahore High Court (LHC) Rawalpindi bench in favour of Sajid Anwar and Shaireen Khan.

The court directed the HEC counsel to present any rules and regulations that enabled HEC authorities to make requests for placing the names of students on the ECL. When the counsel could not cite any such rules, the CJP remarked that, "If there is rule of law in the country, then you have done wrong and if there is the rule of jungle in Pakistan, then you have done right."

Freedom of movement: The court observed that HEC's action was against articles 14 and 15 of the constitution, which pertained to the freedom of movement. Justice Ijaz observed that, "If you do not give employment opportunities to the highest degree holders, they will leave the country. It is because of the treatment you accorded to them that the cream of the country prefers to go abroad for work".

The HEC had filed appeals against the LHC Rawalpindi bench's verdict, in which the court had ordered the removal of students' names from the ECL. The court had observed that when the HEC refused to provide employment opportunities to students, it had no right to impose restrictions upon their movement.

Sajid Anwar, a student of MS in Engineering, had gone to South Korea to pursue an M Phil degree after entering into an agreement with the HEC to return within a specific time period, his counsel said. After two years, the HEC asked him to return without completing practical training there and refused to give him employment here, he said.

Surprise: The counsel told the court that Anwar was surprised when he was told that his name was placed on the ECL and he could not travel abroad for pursuing education or employment. The court will also take up identical cases of five other students today. Daily times

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Anti-polio teams disallowed in private schools, Red Zone
Islamabad: Fearing the re-emergence of polio disease in the federal, the city fathers and health experts Monday expressed their serious concerns over the impediments being faced by anti-polio vaccination teams while entering into the private educational institutes, high security zones as well as slums of the federal capital.

They expressed their views in the maiden meeting of Polio Eradication Committee of Islamabad, constituted by Capital Development Authority (CDA) Chairman Imtiaz Inayat Elahi, on the pattern of all federating units, to bring onboard all stakeholders to ensure concerted efforts for city's deliverance from polio.

The meeting was duly participated by the Unicef Country Director Martin Mogwanja, Country Director Plan Haider Yaqoob, ICCI president, Islamabad Traffic Police SSP, representatives of WHO, health ministry, Rotary International and privates educational institutes. The meeting was held to review the arrangements of the upcoming three-day anti-polio drive scheduled to be held from April 26 to 28.

Director Health Services of CDA Dr Hassan Arooj in his briefing to the committee highlighted the prevailing situation vis-a-vis polio and the problems confronting the vaccination teams while administering the anti-polio drops to the infants.

The meeting was told that due to security measures, Red Zone and some other high risk areas are inaccessible during the anti-polio drive and the teams need security especially in urban slums.

Over the issue of refusal in schools, the representatives of the private schools said every private school pursues its own policy and suggested that every school has its own focal person to entertain the vaccinators.

He informed the committee that even a chain of private schools has put a ban on any vaccination within the school premises while on the other hand some parents also ask the school administration not to let any one vaccinate their child.

Representative of WHO told the meeting that Islamabad is at high risk of polio due to importation of IDPs, people from Fata and other areas, stressing to ensure that no child is missed from vaccine.

He also suggested the dissemination of the message regarding anti-polio vaccine to the students of public and private sector in the assembly time, otherwise it is feared that polio re-emerges in the federal capital.

CDA chairman, in his address, said the committee would meet on regular basis; however he complained about the poor management and lack of political commitment in the efforts to eradicate polio.

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Young art graduates make their mark
Islamabad: Offering a fresh approach to art, a creative exhibition of paintings and book art by four recent graduates of Rawalpindi's National College of Arts (NCA) opened at Nomad here Tuesday.

The collection by Amen Sardar, Rabia Ghazal, Mahjabeen Mirza and Manail Muneeb has aroused interest, as it is after a fairly long time that Nomad has taken the initiative of exhibiting the works of young artists.

Except for Rohtas, which has persistently been encouraging and patronising fresh art graduates, most of the galleries in the capital are seen to be promoting a particular brand of well-established and renowned artists in order to maximise profits and minimise risk.

Director Nomad Nageen Hyat chose to give these young artists a chance, as she found their art as being contemporary and rich in language, scale and visual imagery. Moreover, she believes that the artists have very powerfully expressed their respective concepts.

"I found in their respective expressions the urge to explore from within and the passion to create art in spite of and within the moods of the challenging and changing tempo of our society as it exists today - an often volatile living culture where we adjust to the cultural ethos and respond through creative expression," Nageen explained at the exhibition's preview.

Amen Sardar's paintings are dominated by 'fragile and pure' petals alongside zoomed images of hands and feet. The artist sees a connection between the rose petals and the human soul. "It is the vulnerability of the petals that appeals to me," she mentions in a written statement and then refers to a poet, who once said, "I would rather have roses on my table than diamonds on my neck."

"One has to look deep inside to search for it. I do not need face expressions to convey my message. The movements of the hands and feet are strong enough to tell their personal story. My petals are whispering in my ears and have something to say. Hence, they whisper through my paintings," Amen says.

Rabia Ghazal's work is very personal in the sense that is reflects whatever comes to her mind at a given time. "All the emotions, all that I feel, all that I cannot talk about to anyone, I like to portray all of it through my work," she says. The artist tends to draw her own portraits over and over again. "That is probably because I am searching for my identity and also because I feel I can give the best expression, which I want to paint," she explains. Rabia says she does try to put on the canvas what lies in front of her but tries to "create something which is, in itself, a living thing."

Mahjabeen's work is about celebrating fashion, which has always inspired her. "I am interested in how fashion conquers people's hearts and minds, eventually changing their lifestyles and perceptions of their surroundings. I am experiencing it myself and trying to explore this within," she says. The artist finds it charming to experiment with backgrounds. She has also related fashion with gender through the use of accessories which men and women use.

Manail Muneeb has contributed book art to the exhibition. "You cannot judge a book by its cover. This artwork is a pictorial story, unfolding into layers and depths in visual rather than verbal form. Bringing back outdated academic textbooks to the shelf, this is an attempt to add a twist to the discovery of a book. Let books now be re-discovered, viewed and appreciated," she says. The exhibition, which has a refreshing quality to it, will remain open till May 10. The news

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