ISLAMABAD, Sept 1: The delay in the appointment of the Higher Education Commission (HEC) chairman has brought all the activities in the HEC to a halt.
Even during the two-day weekend, officers spent most of the time contacting each other and asking about the appointment of the new chairman.
On the other hand, officers close to former chairperson Dr Javaid Laghari still hoped that he would get an extension.
It may be mentioned that though the executive director is the administrative head of the HEC, almost every decision in the commission is taken with the consent of the chairman.
Those working on important posts in the commission are not sure if they will continue working after the arrival of the new chairman.
The HEC was established in 2002 with Dr Attaur Rahman as its fist chairman. After his resignation in October 2008, the charge was given to Shahnaz Wazir Ali and then to Dr Laghari on August 27, 2009.
Dr Laghari’s four-year term ended on August 26, 2013. All the three were directly nominated by the successive prime ministers.
An HEC officer requesting not to be identified told Dawn that because of the delay in the appointment of the chairman, rumours had been doing the round in the organisation.
“Even vice chancellors seem to be more interested in the appointment of the new chairman rather than the affairs of their universities. Those who are in favour of Dr Laghari have been lobbying for the extension of his contract.”
On Sunday, the name of Shams Kassim-Lakha, a former president of the Aga Khan University (AKU) Karachi, surfaced as the new chairman of the HEC.
“Mr Lakha, who was one of the nominees for the caretaker prime minister by President Asif Ali Zardari, is currently out of the country. He has not accepted any long-term assignment for the last many years,” the official added.
Moreover, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is not in the federal capital for the last two days and even his principal secretary is out of station due to his mother’s death, he added.
However, the point which goes in favour of Mr Lakha is that he had worked as the chairman of the task force on the establishment of the HEC. He is a renowned educationist and has also served as a minister, said the official.
Another officer in the HEC, who also requested anonymity, added that Prof Dr Mujahid Kamran, the vice chancellor of the Punjab University, was another powerful candidate for the seat.
“Even Dr Laghari is not out of the race because the HEC chief can be appointed for two terms of four years each.”
The official added that a summery had been sent to the prime minister office stating that either the contract of Dr Laghari be extended or a board constituted for the selection of the new chairman. So far the selection board is not constituted and Dr Laghari is residing in the HEC rest house and waiting for the final decision.
Dr Mukhtar Ahmed, the executive director HEC, said he had sent a letter to the ministry stating that the seat had fallen vacant on August 26. “So far no one has officially informed the HEC about the appointment of any person as the HEC chairman or the extension of the contract of Mr Laghari,” he said.
When contacted, Minister of State for Education Mohammad Balighur Rehman said the prime minister office had not informed his ministry about the appointment of the HEC chief.
“According to my information, there are a number of people who are being considered for the post and a decision will be taken soon,” he said.
Meanwhile, a press release issued by the prime minister office said after two months of transparent technical and financial evaluation through a competitive process the federal government had hired ‘Ferguson Audit and Human Resource Consulting Firm’.
This company will shortlist candidates for the positions of chief executives of state-owned enterprises.
An officer of the HEC said although the commission did not meet the definition of a state-owned enterprise, the government will hopefully consider the appointment of the HEC chairman through a competitive process.
“HEC’s budget is Rs56 billion which is more than that of Steel Mills, PIA and other state-owned enterprises’ allocations. So a competent, honest and well-reputed person should be appointed by using the services of the human resource consulting firm,” he added.