ISLAMABAD: After opposition from the Higher Education Commission (HEC), a parliamentary body on Wednesday rejected a bill seeking a quota for religious minorities in university admissions.

Presided over by MNA retired Col Dr Amirullah Marwat, the National Assembly Standing Committee on Federal Education rejected the bill titled ‘The Minorities Access to Higher Education Bill’ which was moved by Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl MNA Asiya Nasir.

The mover of the bill had sought a 5pc admission quota for religious minorities in all public and private higher education institutions.

HEC officials argue the bill is contrary to the spirit of merit

In her bill, MNA Nasir had said the proposed law was in line with national and international commitments, including articles 36 and 37 of the Constitution to safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of religious minorities and promotion of social justice, and that it is intended to bring religious minorities into the mainstream.

However, during the course of the meeting, HEC representatives said the regulatory body does not support the bill, which they said was contrary to the spirit of merit and HEC’s Model University Ordinance no. CXX of 2002, which reads: “University shall be open to all persons of either gender and of whatever religion, race, creed, class, colour or domicile and no person shall be denied the privileges of the university on the grounds of religion, race, caste, creed, class, colour or domicile.”

They said members of minority communities have already been getting admission on merit in all the educational institutions of the country.

The committee also discussed other educational issues and bills and appreciated the performance of HEC Chairman Dr Mukhtar Ahmed, who is going to complete his tenure next month.

Discussing the Sir Syed Centre for Advanced Studies in Engineering (CASE) Institute of Technology Islamabad Bill, 2016, the lawmakers said the bill is currently under evaluation by the HEC and discussion will be taken up after ensuring the standard academic, financial and infrastructural facilities are provided at the site in B-17.

The committee recommended ‘The Institute for Art and Culture Bill, 2018’, giving due consideration to the no-objection certificate granted by the HEC in favour of the institute.

The committee was informed that the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa governor had on HEC recommendations, directed the incumbent vice chancellor of the Women University Swabi, Dr Khanzadi Fatima Khattak to reverse the recruitment process initiated in the pursuance of their advertisement published on Dec 11 last year in national press.

Committee members expressed displeasure over the HEC and the education ministry for not taking action against former vice Chancellor of the Federal Urdu University, Dr. Salman D. Mohammad, whose doctorate degree has been declared plagiarized by the HEC.

They were told by education ministry officials that the said officer had a stay order in his favour. The committee members showed their concerns over long stay orders and called for their vacation.

Published in Dawn, March 22nd, 2018