ISLAMABAD, Aug 25: Dr Javaid Laghari’s contract as chairman of the Higher Education Commission (HEC) expires today (Monday) and jockeying for the post intensifies.
Dawn understands that Dr Laghari also is in the race, lobbying for another four-year extension in the prestigious position. But powerful political figures have been active for replacing him, if not with their nominee then by some bureaucrat.
An officer of the HEC requesting not to be identified said on July 30 a summery was moved by the Ministry of Education, Training and Standards in Higher Education (MET) to Prime Minister Secretariat, seeking extension of contract of Dr Laghari, but it could not be approved.
So another proposal was moved (in second week of August) to give acting charge of chairperson to Dr Laghari till the appointment of fulltime chairperson.
He said that according to normal procedure post of chairperson has to be advertised and new chairperson should be appointed through selection board.
“Unfortunately, since 2002, not a single chairperson has been appointed through competitive process. Dr. Atta-ur-Rahman, Shahnaz Wazir Ali and Dr Laghari were directly nominated by the prime ministers,” he said.
“Government of PML-N does not believe in direct appointments and they will follow the due process. However, Dr Laghari can also apply for the post because a person can be appointed for second term also,” he said.
Media manager of the HEC Murtaza Noor while talking to Dawn said that only one summery has been moved to PM Secretariat, in which it was stated that either extend the contract of Dr Laghari or constitute a selection board for the appointment of new chairman.
“So far we have not received any instructions from the PM Secretariat, so according to rules acting chairperson can work for three months. We are expecting that decision will be made within a few days,” he said.
An officer of the HEC said: “Lobbies in favour of Dr Laghari are trying to get extension. They say although Dr Laghari was appointed by the PPP government as chairperson on August 27, 2009 but just after a year he became controversial in the eyes of his own party because of his stand on verification of degrees.
“In 2010, on the Supreme Court orders, the HEC started degree verification. Politicians tried to verify fake degrees but failed. They started threatening Dr Laghari and his family. Dr Laghari’s brother was arrested in 2010 and precious machinery was stolen from his farmhouse in Hyderabad (Sindh),” he said.
“A prominent personality of PPP forced Dr Lghari to resign but he refused. On March 30, 2011 the HEC was devolved through a notification and some of its functions were transferred to different ministries. Petition was filed by Dr Attaur Rehman in the Supreme Court, on April 12, 2011 court declared the notification null and void,” he said.
“Dr Laghari played his role for the development of HEC and today 10 Pakistani Universities are in the list of top 250 Asian universities and three universities are in the list of top 250 world universities,” he said.
Another officer who is not in favour of Dr Laghari said he (Dr Laghari) had violated rules and gave extensions to MP Scale officers which was unjust on part of the Prime Minister.
“Over 500 degrees are attested daily by the Attestation Division at HEC and verification and attestation of parliamentarians was also a routine matter, but it was dealt differently and highlighted to project Dr Laghari,” he said.
An officer requesting anonymity said: “For the past 11 years HEC has been providing thousands of scholarships abroad as well as within the country and despite the budget cuts, has been able to carry out all its projects. But in the same financial climate, Dr. Laghari never visited his residence in Karachi at personal expense, he was always on official tour and accepted travel allowance.”
“On the other hand there were severe financial problems in HEC due to which scholarships of students were delayed and even increase in salaries (announced by government) could not be paid to staff till now,” he said
Member PML-N Manifesto Committee Razina Alam Khan (who is also member of the HEC Commission) said that Dr Laghari faced very difficult time in HEC especially regarding verification of degrees but he did not compromise on it. “I expect that contract of Dr Laghari will be extended because of his services,” she said.