ISLAMABAD, Jan 16: Bad blood between its regular and contract staff that had rocked the Higher Education Commission (HEC) last year over giving a third extension to Dr Sohail Naqvi as Executive Director of HEC looks resurfacing in implementing the Supreme Court’s order on filling the post.
Dawn has learnt that the Selection Board met on Tuesday and short-listed 20 of the 57 applicants for the post, for the HEC commission to choose and appoint on January 20 - a Sunday.
Those decisions made the staff members who had agitated against a third term for Dr Naqvi, and dragged the HEC to the Supreme Court in December suspicious that he was being smoothed into the post again.They say that not only Dr Naqvi’s name tops the short list but the Selection Board at its meeting - on a day when the whole nation was rivet on Dr Tahirul Qadri’s “million march” - changed the MP-1 pay scale provided for the post in the rules to that prescribed for vice chancellors of the federally chartered public sector universities.
They consider it significant that the very next day the decisions were taken, acting ED HEC and a member of the board, Engineer Syed Imtiaz Hussain, vice chancellor of UET Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, addressed a letter to all members of the HEC commission, saying they “must endorse to make decisions that pass the touchstones of legal correctness, pristine transparency, total impartiality and impeccable administrative propriety and only then decisions will stand unchallenged”.
However, Engr Gilani, told Dawn that Dr Naqvi’s name was selected purely on merit and that, controversial or not, the HEC Commission, of which he is a member, will consider him.
Engr Gilani was appointed acting ED HEC after the Supreme Court ruled on December 21, 2012 that the controversy over extending the stay of Dr Naqvi in the post be settled through a new competitive appointment within one month.
Dr Naqvi became controversial when, just before his retirement, the HEC commission extended his contract for a third term on September 27, 2012, igniting a protest by HEC employees.
The Establishment Division, through a notification issued on November 28, gave additional charge of the post of ED HEC to Secretary Ministry of Education and Training, Qamar Zaman. That generated a tussle between the HEC and the ministry. The matter went to the Supreme Court and in the aftermath Mr Zaman had to give up the charge to Engr Gilani, VC University of Engineering and Technology, Peshawar, who enjoyed the confidence of all sides.
An officer of the HEC alleged that the Selection Board changed the MP pay scale for HEC ED to that for vice chancellors “to avoid a possible hurdle” in the reappointment of Dr Naqvi in his former post from the Ministry of Education and Training, or any other government department which have a say in this appointment.
“Otherwise, the HEC management had no right to convert the pay scale without re-advertising the post of ED,” he claimed.
“If the new ED was appointed in MP Scale, it would have needed approval of three federal secretaries, including the Secretary Ministry of Education and Training, Qamar Zaman, beside the secretaries of Finance and Establishment divisions,” he said.In the past principals, head of institutes and officers of ministries used to be appointed on the basis of seniority.
The MP scale was introduced in 1998 to make direct appointments possible. The HEC started implementing the scale from 2002.
Documents available with Dawn show that the HEC Commission has been summoned on Sunday, otherwise a closed day, and members have been told they will find “the agenda/working papers” on the table.
When contacted, an HEC official said: “We considered re-advertising the post of ED, mentioning that the pay scale has been changed for the post from MP to that for VCs post. But we are in a hurry because the Supreme Court’s instructions are that the matter be settled in one month.”
While talking to Dawn Dr Sohail Naqvi said that he had served HEC for 10 years and during his tenure HEC progressed a lot.
“Thousands of PhDs and MPhil were produced and literacy rate of higher education improved,” he said.
“My selection for the interview is a proof that my qualification and experience is beyond any objection. But my family and friends opposed my rejoining the HEC and I will think should I go for interview or not,” he said.