ISLAMABAD: The tussle between Higher Education Commission (HEC) and Federal Education Ministry took a new turn on Wednesday when the commission chairman decided to hold selection board meeting on Thursday despite strong opposition from the ministry.

The HEC Chairman Dr Tariq Banuri, who has recently been restored by Islamabad High Court, decided to call the selection board meeting to appoint the commission’s executive director.

However, the education ministry has been raising objections on the selection board, reconstituted by the HEC chairman after his restoration. The ministry termed the reconstitution unjustified.

“Selection board consists of seven members and for a legally valid quorum at least four members attendance is a must. HEC chairperson has nominated two members himself which he cannot do in the presence of already approved nominations of ‘ the commission’. The HEC chairperson has no inherent powers under the HEC law, his all powers are delegated to him by the commission. Therefore, his nominations are not lawful,” says a statement issued by the education ministry.

It further said that the HEC chairperson reliance upon past practices is a flimsy argument.

“The Ministry has already challenged the Islamabad High Court decision in the Supreme Court. It is very unfortunate that chairperson after restoration has started misusing his authority by initiating revengeful actions against HEC employees instead of addressing critical policy and governance issues of HEC. The ministry is taking all legal measures to stop HEC plunging into chaos and whimsical decision making by the chairperson,” read the statement of ministry.

On the other hand the HEC statement said: “The HEC Pakistan will hold the Selection Board for the appointment of Executive Director HEC on Thursday.

“The selection board consists of Chairman HEC, Executive Director, Secretary Ministry of Education, Secretary Ministry of Science & Technology, Member O&T, a Vice Chancellors of a public sector university, and an expert of the field,” read the HEC’s statement.

HEC in statement also termed the ministry’s objections as unjustified, patently mala fide, and tantamount to interference in the internal matters of an autonomous institution.

The HEC’s statement said that ministry had objected to the replacement of two members, who had been appointed by the previous dispensation.

“HEC clarified that these two expert members are always appointed by the Chairman for each selection cycle, and that there is no precedent wherein the selection board was ever constituted in any different way. The ministry also made some rather opaque and intrusive observations to coerce HEC into adopting the government's MP Scale Policy 2020 whole sale,” the HEC said and added that under its law, HEC is not obligated to adopt any policy wholesale. Rather, government policies are often adopted, with any amendments deemed necessary, simply in the interest of convenience and compatibility.

“HEC, as an autonomous body, has its own recruitment rules, and at this point the provisions of the government's MP Scale Policy 2020 are not applicable to it,” the HEC’s statement read.

Following ministry of education’s letter to HEC a few days ago, raising objections to said selection board, the Ministry of Science and Technology also raised objections on meeting of selection board of HEC.

Secretary of the ministry of Science and Technology is member of the HEC commission.

Dr Banuri was appointed as the HEC chairman in 2018 on a four-year term. According to a notification issued by the federal government, he was supposed to retire in May this year.

However, he was removed from the post in March 2021 on the basis of amendments to the HEC Ordinance 2002 through a presidential ordinance that reduced the chairman’s tenure from four years to two years.

Later on, the federal government also got the said amendments to HEC ordinance approved through parliament in the shape of bill.

Published in Dawn, February 3rd, 2022

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