ISLAMABAD: Despite passage of three years, the post of a permanent executive director (ED) of the Higher Education Commission (HEC) has still not been filled.

The post of regular ED, who acts as the principal accounting officer, fell vacant in October 2018 after Dr Arshad Ali resigned.

After his resignation, the HEC advertised the post thrice but, as per officials in the commission’s regulatory body, it could not find a suitable candidate. Finally, in October last year, the HEC hired services of senior bureaucrat Dr Shaista Sohail on deputation basis against the post of ED.

However, she retired in August this year after reaching the age of superannuation, but she was given an extension to run the affairs of HEC. Meanwhile, the commission in September this year, announced the post for the fourth time in the last three years but the process was not completed.

According to a source, 49 candidates applied but the appointment committee is yet to hold interviews of shortlisted candidates. “The appointment process is in progress,” an HEC official said.

It is relevant to note here that the post of HEC chairman has been vacant since March this year when the government removed Dr Tariq Banuri by reducing his four-year term to two years through amendment to HEC ordinance. The ousted chairman filed a court case against his premature removal.

The court had barred the government from appointing a new chairman and the matter is still in court. Whereas, besides absence of a chairman and regular ED, three other important positions of members operations, academic and IT have been lying vacant for the last one year.

The HEC is the regulatory body of the higher education sector with a budget of over Rs100 billion and it is being run on ad-hoc basis.

“The government should immediately look into affairs of the HEC. There is need to probe into why the commission, which has spent billions of rupees for promotion of the higher education sector, failed to get a suitable candidate for the post of ED in response to earlier advertisements. While, in September this year, we announced the vacancy again, but still the matter is in progress,” the HEC official said.

Another officer said besides the appointment of a regular ED, the government should request the court for an early decision in Dr Banuri’s case.

“In case, the court restores him (Dr Banuri) to his position, he should immediately be allowed to hold office of chairman and in case, the court decides in the favour of the government, the government should appoint HEC chairman within a few weeks,” he said.

Published in Dawn, December 20th, 2021

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