Heck, no HEC Pakistan!
federal cabinet approved the devolution
April 11: Not long ago, academic staff in Sindh and Balochistan staged
demonstrations against the HEC for being extremely partial against PhD
professors and students from smaller provinces.
Following the decision of the Parliamentary Commission on the
Implementation of the Eighteenth Amendment (PCIEA), the federal cabinet
approved the devolution of five ministries to the provinces, including
the ministry of education. While news anchors started steaming on their
pulpits about the 'devolution of the HEC', one was compelled to see the
issue with objectivity, setting all politics aside for a moment.
hoopla has been constructed such that one tends to confuse higher
education with the existence of the HEC. A reality check might help in
removing this muddle. The HEC was born out of the sperm of a dictatorial
regime and the womb of a fund-starved body, the University Grants
Commission (UGC), working since 1974. Like all dictators in Pakistan,
the last one too was obsessed with a centralised polity - a strong
centre with little autonomy to the provinces. This has now been
transformed into our collective psyche to undermine coalescing units as
is evident from arguments currently given against the HEC's devolution.
popular arguments against the HEC's devolution range from a concern for
higher education in Pakistan, freezing of foreign aid for higher
education in the absence of the HEC, halting ongoing scholarships, lack
of coordination among and check on universities, etc. One has to admit
the successful propaganda machine against the devolution by HEC
beneficiaries and planners.
The vice chancellors (VCs) of 133
universities, as claimed by media reports, resolved against the
devolution. Look a little closer and you will see and find that only 40
VCs (beneficiaries of the system) present in that particular meeting,
out of 133 universities, had actually "expressed concerns over the
devolution". Even these 40 did not agree with protesting on the streets
The HEC authorities used the rumour factory to
propagate confusion about the issue. Rumours about the freezing of
foreign aid for studying abroad were unleashed in the media, which was
readily refuted by the biggest HEC donor, USAID, that made clear that
their $ 250 million support still stands. The most vicious step that the
HEC arbitrarily took was halting ongoing scholarships, just to spread
panic and confusion among the students. Sadly, it worked. Without even
slight understanding of the issue or any inclination to probe the facts,
general opinion tilted in the direction the vested interest group
The Federation of All Pakistan Universities Academic
Staff Associations (FAPUASA), one of the primary and key stakeholders,
however, is still silent on the issue. In fact, many members of FAPUASA
in informal discussions have revealed how apt this decision would prove
in steering higher education in Pakistan. A professor of economics from
Government College University explained how the HEC had been promoting
bureaucratic and fascist tendencies by being highly centralised and
having a dictatorial authority. Many a time, the academic staff of
different universities was seen complaining about the unfair and unjust
practices of the HEC that undermined equal opportunities for all.
long ago, academic staff in Sindh and Balochistan staged demonstrations
against the HEC for being extremely partial against PhD professors and
students from smaller provinces. The partiality of the HEC went to the
level where PhD holders in Pashto, Sindhi and Balochi were denied the
same allowances as for other disciplines. One can see the same arrogance
and contempt towards the smaller provinces in the devolution debate
undermining the provinces' capability to deal with higher education. Had
the HEC not been that self-serving and centralised, it would have built
at least some capacity among the provinces over the last eight years.
political parties made a bewildering U-turn by quickly jumping onto the
populist position. The PCIEA does not mention any strong voice of
dissent, refuting all claims of a Punjab-based political party currently
insisting on the status quo. It is interesting to note that Punjab is
probably the only province that had anticipated the devolution earlier
than any other province, and had made its own body on higher education,
which has now been working for quite some time and leaves one wondering
why the HEC or Punjab government could not strengthen it for performing
the HEC's functions at the Punjab level.
Leaving aside politics
and coming back to academics, an objective look at the performance of
the HEC might give us some clue towards a solution or at least
direction. The white elephant, as the HEC is called by leading
academicians, has been notorious for softening the system for quantity
while compromising the quality of the scholars on the one hand, and
disrupting teaching practices in universities on the other. Instead of
carrying out their primary responsibilities, i.e. teaching, the academic
staff of the universities was funnelled into pursuing peripheral
activities like the publication of their papers in international
journals that would win them promotions and other incentives. No wonder
most supervisors would sign your PhD thesis without even reading it
because they have to work on more important things - their own
This emphasis on published papers did not distract
only the teachers from their primary responsibility, but also aspiring
PhD students. The unfair condition of GRE qualification at the time of
degree awarding (not at the time of PhD admission) aside, Pakistan is
probably the only country where the condition of at least three
publications is imposed for awarding a PhD. You better concentrate on
publications instead of your own thesis, says the HEC to PhD students.
most senior, accomplished and foreign qualified professors were not
certified as PhD supervisors, for not being among 'favourites' or for
not pleading before the HEC for it. Many renowned names like Professor
Hasan-Askari Rizvi, Professor Ijaz Shafi Gilani, Professor M Islam and
many others come into this category. The HEC's obsession with increasing
the number of PhD scholars while compromising their quality made the
HEC suffer itself, which was seen when it announced the selection
criteria for the selection of VCs against recent vacancies that asked
for a foreign PhD degree, not one from the HEC.
that foreign universities would stop recognising Pakistani degrees in
the absence of the HEC remain as far from reality as the HEC authorities
are from egalitarianism. One wonders if Pakistan did not produce any
degree holder and if the world never recognised any Pakistani degree
before the HEC or, for that matter, before the UGC. This insistence on
being and remaining the only centralised dictatorial body to impose
self-serving terms based mostly on whims and caprices of individuals in
the HEC has not taken higher education very far - yet devolution is
thought incapable of doing any better. Let us learn to respect the
provinces and empower them. Let us ask the HEC authorities to go into
their respective provinces and steer the devolution process ahead.
said, it remains a necessity to build an authentic body for not only
coordination, but also the rating of universities. More than
universities, the departments need to be rated based on their academic
records and excellence. Teachers need to be encouraged for applying the
best possible teaching practices rather than pursuing selfish objectives
of promotions and seeking 'tenure track' at the expense of academic
activity. Academics need to sit down with the PCIEA and inter-provincial
coordination ministry so as to facilitate and advise the process of
devising an effective mechanism to replace a hegemonic HEC. VCs need to
stop being politicians and the media needs to sit back, think, learn and
then reflect on the subject leaving aside politics and giving way to
the kind of objectivity that respects academics.
By Marvi Sirmed - The
writer is an independent researcher and human rights activist based in
Islamabad. She can be reached at email@example.com (Daily times)
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FAPUASA to wait for Supreme Court's verdict
Islamabad: The Federation of All Pakistan Universities Academic Staff Associations
(FAPUASA) has said that there must be a coordinating agency at federal
level to ensure uniformity of higher education in the country, whether
Higher Education Commission (HEC) is devolved or not.
decision taken at the two-day annual general body meeting of the FAPUASA
at the Allama Iqbal Open University was made public at a press
conference at the National Press Club here on Sunday. Flanked by other
office-bearers of the federation, Dr. Fida Mohammad, president of the
federation, said that the FAPUASA does not accept the HEC in its present
He said that the Supreme Court would decide the status of
the HEC. "If the court decides to retain the present status of the HEC,
the federation would stress certain reforms in the HEC, which need to
be incorporated in consultation with FAPUASA and other stakeholders," he
said. He added that if the SC supports devolution, then the new system
at provincial level should be gradually established so that there is no
chaos and the federation should be involved in deliberations.
Fida said that the autonomy of universities must be restored and
respected. He said that in local set-ups, the autonomy of universities
should be ensured, which should be free from political as well as
bureaucratic influence. He lamented that the demands presented to the
HEC in the February 22 meeting are still not implemented. He asked the
HEC to address this issue forthwith.
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Finance Ministry assures HEC of release of instalment
Islamabad: The finance ministry assured the Higher Education Commission (HEC) that
instalment for the fourth quarter of year 2010-11 would be released in
next few days, the sources told this scribe Saturday.
said HEC has yet not received any letter but a high official from the
finance ministry made a telephone call to HEC chairman and assured that
the instalment would be released at the earliest.
ministry would release Rs7.7 billion as instalment for recurring budget
that would be provided to 71 public sector universities for payment of
salaries to their teaching and non-teaching employees," an Higher
Education Commission official said.
The official said they tried
to contact officials of the finance ministry on Friday to convey their
concerns over stoppage of instalment but they failed to talk with any of
"Now they have contacted and asked us that there is no need to worry about the
payment of salaries to employees of the universities," he said.
said it is quite satisfactory that the finance ministry has agreed to
release funds, but the issue of devolution of HEC is still a bone of
contention among the government and the vice chancellors of the public
It is pertinent to mention here that
Implementation Commission Chairman Mian Raza Rabbani stated in the
Senate that a new commission would be established with the name
Commission for Standard Higher Education in the Cabinet Division. But
the educational experts have been constantly raising questions about the
logic behind establishment of new commission despite the fact that
Higher Education Commission has been emerging as an independent and
vibrant institution for promotion of higher education in the country.
official said that members of the Implementation Commission reviewed
the HEC law for hours, but they decided in favour of devolution of the
Higher Education Commission that is neither itself a federal ministry
nor it falls under any other ministry. "No Higher Education Commission's
official has ever got involved in any corruption case and instead it
has been working to promote transparent mechanism in the financial
affairs," he said. Former education minister Sardar Aseff Ahmad Ali told
this correspondent that the federal cabinet in its meeting unanimously
decided that provision of funds for students studying on foreign
scholarships and upgradation of the public sector universities would be
made available and there should be no concern about it.
"The decision of the finance ministry to provide instalment for recurring budget is part of the commitment made by the government that devolution would not affect any of the government employee," he said.
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Sports week kicks off at Gordon College
Rawalpindi: The 102nd annual sports week kicked off Saturday at the Gordon College,
Rawalpindi. Member National Assembly (MNA) Shakeel Ahmed Awan was the
chief guest on the occasion and distributed shields and trophies among
the winners. The students enthusiastically participated in relay race,
football, basketball, badminton, high jump, discus throw, javelin throw
and fancy dress show. Addressing the prize distribution ceremony, MNA
Shakeel Ahmed Awan announced special grant for the college including
supply of new furniture and construction of a basketball court. Gordon
College Principal Professor Dr. Abdul Qayyum Bhatti congratulated the
prize winners and appreciated the students who took part in different
games. He said that sports activities are very important for all
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Spring Festival ends at IIU schools
Rawalpindi: The two-day Spring Festival concluded at the International Islamic
University Schools, 6th Road, Satellite Town Campus, here on Sunday.
According to a press release, the Spring Festival was jointly organised by the Jang Cultural Wing and the IIU Schools.
large number of students and their parents attended the festival.
Different stalls and events were organised for students. Magic show,
puppet show, talent show, face-painting, handwriting and other
competitions were organised for children.
University Schools Vice President Professor Gulzar Khwaja was the chief
guest at the concluding ceremony of the festival. Speaking on the
occasion, he congratulated the Jang Cultural Wing and school management
for organising a lively event.
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AIOU students briefed on operations of Rescue 1122
Rawalpindi: A delegation of students of the Allama Iqbal Open University (AIOU)
visited the 'Rescue 1122' office to observe its emergency management
District Emergency Officer 'Rescue 1122' Dr. Abdur Rahman briefed the students on the working of the emergency service.
Spokesperson Deeba Shahnaz Akhter also briefed the students.
The rescuers also gave a demonstration on the life-saving equipment in ambulance and a mock exercise of fire-fighting.
students were told that the Rawalpindi's rescue service has responded
to 30,617 emergency calls since its establishment in the district and
rescued 33,458 helpless victims of emergencies, including 1,3810 road
accidents, 2,132 fire incidents, 32 building collapse incidents, 23 bomb
blast incidents, 359 crime incidents, 52 drowning cases, 67 special
rescue operations and 14,142 medical emergencies.
1122' rescued more than 800,000 victims of different emergencies all
over Punjab and won 'Azme Aalishan Award 2011'.
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900 teachers of Beaconhouse awarded
Islamabad: The Beaconhouse Long Service Award ceremony was held here on Friday to
honour 900 teachers for their meritorious services for the Beaconhouse
Over 500 Beaconhouse School System staff received
their awards from Chairperson Nasreen Kasuri, Chief Executive Kasim
Kasuri, Regional Director - Centre Ali Raza, Director HR Ali Nagi,
former academic coordinator -North Sadia Mufti, Curriculum Development
and Training - Head Office Fareeha Ahmed, and Principal Hyderabad
Chapter Tehmina Soomro.
Parents and family of Beaconhouse
student, Saad Sadiq Shaheed, whose life was tragically cut short at the
Parade Lane attack were present in the ceremony.
School System Chairperson Nasreen Kasuri paid rich tributes to Saad
Sadiq and announced an annual scholarship in memory of Saad for a full
two year for the A Level programme. Saad Sadiq's father, Brigadier Sadiq
shared touching collection of memories of his children at school and
Saad's life at Beaconhouse bringing tears to many eyes.
for the evening event were Sabrina Khalid and Raja Nadeem of
Beaconhouse School Syetem. They were joined by Shanzay and Fatima for
the announcements, while BSS students Salik and Feroze who performed the
numbers 'Khamaaj', 'Main tenu samjhawan ki' and a rocking performance
of the Attahullah hit, 'Aj kala jora pa', which had the audience
clapping and singing ' 'Hum dekhain ge'. The entertainment provided by
television personality and writer, Beo Zafar, for the ceremony.
Kasuri paid tribute to the staff of the Northern Region. The executive
director was joined by Ibrahim Shahid, who set the new world record of
23 A grades in his O level - who paid tributes to all teachers and staff
on behalf of the students body at Beaconhouse School System.
Kasuri gave away awards to staff for giving more than 25 years of their
lives to Beaconhouse Northern Region. They included: Silvat Ali, the
longest serving staff member of the region with almost 30 years at
Beaconhouse, Zohra Ahmad, Javed Niazi, Mehnoob Khan, David John, Fouzia
Ansari, Aurangzeb Khan, Nasreen Bibi, Saeed Rawat, Mir Afzal Khan,
Sumera Gulzar, Fatima Dhaukat, Parveen Naz, Farzana Anwar, Zahida Azhar,
Sakina Bibi, Ikhtiar Hussain, Niaz Muhammad, Qasim Khan, Rehana Nasir,
Warda Salahuddin, Bashir Masih, Aliya Nafisa Khan, Mohammad Saeed and
Saeeda Safdar Ali.
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Talent Show on April 17
Islamabad: The Jang Cultural Wing and Asif Public School System (APSS) have organised a
Talent Show at the Jinnah Convention Centre here on April 17 (Sunday).
According to a press release issued here on Sunday, PML-N MNA Hamza Shahbaz Sharif will be the chief guest on the occasion.
Public School System Chairman Asif Irshad Satti said that PML-N leader
Raja Zafar-ul-Haq would preside over the function. He said that students
of all campuses of APSS have made elaborate arrangements for the event.
He said that position-holders of the SSC Annual Examination of BISE,
Rawalpindi, would be honoured with medals in the Talent Show.
said that invitations for the show have been extended to diplomats,
parliamentarians, high officials, scholars and people from different
walks of life. He said that colourful items, including fancy dress show,
folk songs, tableux and national songs would be presented on the
occasion. The news
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