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HEC gets degree-verifying status back

May 16, 2013

ISLAMABAD, May 15: The blame game between the Ministry of Education and Training (MET) and Higher Education Commission (HEC) has finally come to an end.

The caretaker Minister of Education and Training Sania Nishtar told the HEC chairman on Wednesday that her ministry respected the autonomy of the commission, an initiative which was appreciated by the chairman.

She made a telephone call to the HEC Chairman and assured him that the commission would continue verifying degrees and that the ministry would not interfere in this regard.

The recent dispute between the ministry and the commission arose after the issuance of a notification by the government on May 9.

According to the notification, standards of higher education and external examination including equivalence of degree and diploma had been transferred to newly established Ministry of National Health Services, Regulation and Coordination (MNHSRC).

Besides, Ministry of National Health Services was instructed to get all the relevant record transferred from the HEC to its office.

She then sent an Email to chairman HEC which said that there was misunderstanding due to an inadvertent lack of clarity in the notification.

On the other hand, former HEC chairman, Dr Atta-ur-Rahman has decided to move Supreme Court for the commission’s autonomy, Dawn has learnt.

An officer of HEC requesting not to be identified said because of the previous experiences the HEC took that notification seriously.

He said HEC Chairman Dr Javaid R. Laghari, written a letter to Prime Minister Justice (R) Mir Hazar Khan Khoso, on May 13, stating that notification was against the rules and also contempt of court.

The official said although the government had established the HEC as an autonomous organisation, three futile attempts had been made since 2010 to bring the HEC under a ministry. Supreme Court and Sindh High Court had come to the rescue of the HEC, he added.

The minister in the email said: “To give you a background, the caretaker government decided to consolidate health functions at the federal level under a unified division and renamed the National Services Regulations Division (NRS) as the National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination Division (NHSRCD) on May 3.

“When the division was renamed, it was noted that there were three businesses under the new NHSRCD, which did not belong to health and therefore they were moved out from this ministry.

“These included film censor board, external examination and equivalence of degrees, and commission for standards of higher education.

“The censor board was given under the administrative control of the Cabinet Division and the latter two businesses were moved from NHSRCD to the education ministry,” she said.

“Since the mandate of ‘higher education’ and ‘degree equivalence’ is already with the HEC, and HEC is presently attached to the Ministry of Education, there is no change in the status. Let me reiterate that we respect HEC’s autonomous status,” she said.

While talking to Dawn, Ms Sania Nishtar said that she made a phone call to chairman HEC and said that HEC would continue verifying degrees and its autonomy would not be disturbed.

Dr Atta-ur-Rahman told Dawn that he respected the intention of the minister for education but the fact was that the Cabinet Division had approved to hand over the department of degree verification to MNHSRC so she (minister) could not do anything about it.