ISLAMABAD, Feb 25: Within minutes of discussion on Monday, the Senate unanimously passed bills establishing three new federal universities. The bills were originally tabled in the Senate on February 18.
Last week, Senator Saeed Ghani of the PPP, brought to the Senate bills establishing three universities - My University, Darul Madina University, and the South Asian Strategic Institute University.
Criticism from PML-N senator Raja Zafar ul Haq sent the bills to the Senate's Standing Committee on Education and Professional Training on that same day.
In less than 24 hours, the committee was summoned to discuss a draft of the legislation. Dr Mukhtar, Executive Director of the Higher Education Commission, was invited to the meeting on February 20, and took the opportunity to outline some of his concerns regarding the legislation.
He was assured, however, that "all procedural requirements" would be met, and the drafts became part of the agenda for the Senate's Monday session. On Monday, they were passed within minutes of the session's opening.
Requesting anonymity, another HEC official told Dawn that the Commission had to be cautious regarding such matters, since it is their responsibilities to ensure that persons attempting to establish a university meet the requirements to do so.
"Before someone can just set up a new university," the official said, "we have to make sure they have the proper land; we have to see if they have funds; we have to see what kind of faculty they are trying to hire. If they meet all these criteria, then we can suggest that they be given a charter."
According to the Ordinance 2002, which established the HEC, it is legally the Commission's responsibility to define and prescribe the conditions under which new institutions - including those that are not part of the government education system can be opened and operated.
Elsewhere, the Ordinance states that advising the federal and provincial governments on giving charters to degree-granting institutions, both public and private, is the function of the HEC.
Speaking to Dawn, the HEC official mentioned the case of another university in the capital. "Muhammad Ali Jinnah University had been operating in Islamabad," he said.
"Once the 18th Amendment was passed, they had to close, since education became a provincial subject. Its owners wanted to open a new university, the Capital University of Science and Technology," he added.
The matter of that university spent a year in a standing committee of Capital Administration and Development, he said. "After an evaluation of their land and other resources, a draft of that bill was sent to the National Assembly on February 1, 2013, for further debate and legislation," he said.