ISLAMABAD: The Senate Standing Committee on Science and Technology criticised the absence of the science and technology minister at its meeting on Wednesday and observed that the committee has met 14 times in the last year and the minister has not attended a single session.

The meeting was chaired by Senator Mushtaq Ahmed at Parliament House.

The first science and technology minister under the present government was Azam Swati. After he resigned, the office was vacant until Fawad Chaudhry was appointed minister.

Comsats University Rector Dr Raheel Qamar told the committee that the university is ranked tenth in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) region, and the nine universities above it are Indian institutions.

He said the university wants to reach the sixth position, which requires strengthening research and development expertise through more funding and projects.

The committee was told that there is some overlap between the jurisdiction of the university’s parent ministry and the Higher Education Commission (HEC).

The committee said that Comsats and the National University of Science and Technology (Nust) should be purely under the ministry, and their development projects should not have to be routed through the HEC.

While discussing the salary structure of lecturers, it was suggested to bring it at par with other universities to attract better minds to science and technology universities. The proposal to have annual donor conferences was also discussed.

The committee recommended restoring the prime minister’s scheme to financially support students from poor backgrounds, and decided to call the HEC to its next meeting.

The committee was told that a number of students go abroad on scholarships and do not return to Pakistan. the committee recommended devising a strategy to give incentives, research directions and other measures to prevent defaulting students.

A subcommittee was also constituted to look into the issue of the delay in award of dual degrees to some Comsats students despite repeated directions from the committee.

Senators were also told by the Pakistan Standards and Quality Control Authority that pending promotions cases will be completed by June 30.

Regarding pending inquiries, committee members remarked that minor penalties and transfers will not serve the purpose, and the committee recommended suspensions.

The secretary assured the committee that a report on the six inquiry cases will be shared within a week, in addition to the two other issues.

The committee also nominated Pir Syed Sabir Shah as a member of the board of governors of the Pakistan Halal Food Authority.

Published in Dawn, May 23rd, 2019

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