Federal government is considering dissolving Higher Education Commission and transfer its powers to provinces after the 18th amendment. While the government is seeking a cover and just to escape from fake degree issues, Academicians of the country see it as a step back ward rather forward for the Higher education in the country.
According to the Express Tribune report, Vice chancellors of 36 universities along with Chairman HEC met Raza Rabbani and stressed him to not to take this decision of dissolving the HEC as provinces do not have required capacity and funding for whole process.
Dr. Javed Laghari in his briefing to Parliamentary commission for implementation of 18th amendment said Provinces and universities have a strong and forceful voice in HEC. He said “There are plentiful participation and decision makers in the development and implementation of all plans for the promotion of higher education in the country. Therefore [there is no need to devolve the HEC].”
According to The News report on April 2nd ”Government’s this step to dissolve the HEC will cost it $550 million dollars. USAID has given an indication to halt its grants to HEC after this step by our government”, the News report claimed.
World Bank has also told the higher officials of HEC to wait for the 300 million dollar loan as HEC future is not clear. World Bank had recently promised 300 million dollar loan on easy pay back conditions for HEC for its next five years operations.
Dr. Atta ur Rehman, HEC chairman from 2003 to 2008 who laid the foundation for reforming higher education sector in the country is also against this move of Federal government. In his statement he has said “Handling responsibility to the provinces would undo the achievements of recent years, which saw a huge expansion in the university sector, provided for with federal funds”.
HEC for the very first time in Pakistan history enabled poor and bright young people to go abroad for higher studies on scholarships thus making them focus all their attentions on studies rather than making them first earn for their fee and daily expenses.
HEC is also credited for an achievement for the first time Pakistan that three universities were ranked in world top 500 universities of the world.
HEC is bearing the brunt of Parliamentarians as it has termed 50 legislators degrees fake and about 200 of them as suspicious. The legislators are also not cooperating with HEC even after the clear orders of Supreme Court.
Government has applied various tactics to stop HEC declaring legislator’s degrees fake or dubious. One such move of the government was to arrest the HEC chairman Javed Laghari brother ‘Frooq Laghari’ in July 2010 to pressurize the chairman. Farooq Laghari was released after 10 days in custody following Javed Laghari meeting with the Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gillani.
We can argue about the performance of HEC in past 9 years but there is not doubt about HEC’s great work done for promoting higher education in Pakistan and instead of giving more powers and grants to improve its capacity it is being dissolved.
While world is praising the performance of HEC our own legislators are bound on its destruction by giving it to provinces which lack the infrastructure, funds and man power.
Having said all this, final decision has not yet been taken and past record of this government reflects that it is not impossible to make government change its mind as we have seen several times amid mounting media and political pressure government retreat. So it is once again the time to build pressure on government through media to change its mind bound to dissolve the HEC.