ISLAMABAD: A Senate committee on Thursday deferred the bill of Prime Minister’s Imran Khan’s much-trumpeted proposed university in Prime Minister House as it wanted to get a briefing from Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood at the next meeting.

The Senate Standing Committee on Federal Education and Professional Training briefly discussed the “Pak University of Engineering and Emerging Technology University Bill 2022” for setting up a university in the Prime Minister House. However, the committee decided to defer the bill till the next meeting.

Before deferring the bill, some members said several existing universities in the country were facing an acute shortage of funds and the government should also look into their issues.

After the meeting, the chairman of the committee, Senator Irfanul Haq Siqqidui, told Dawn: “We got copy of this important bill just yesterday so we can’t read it properly. So members were of the view that no decision on it should be made in an urgency rather it should be held till the next meeting. Secondly, neither the minister nor the secretary education attended the meeting. So we want to hear them about the bill in the next meeting,” he said.

Neither minister nor secretary education was present so we want to hear them in next meeting, says chairman

The bill was tabled in the Senate a couple of weeks ago and the house referred it to the standing committee for consideration. In October last year, the National Assembly standing committee had approved the bill and the National Assembly passed it along with some other bills last month.

The PTI-led government has already entered its fourth year in office, implying the prime minister may not be able to see his dream university completed in his tenure.

According to the bill, once started the project will take 72 months to complete.

The government was making efforts to get the bill passed from the Senate committee so that after its passage from the house the university could be set up in any rented building for offering admissions in the upcoming spring session.

Last year, officials from the Higher Education Commission and the Capital Development Authority on the direction of the Prime Minister Office had visited Sir Syed Memorial Society building in G-5. The HEC and CDA had later shared a report with the PM Office, terming the building suitable for starting the university. However, sources said the final decision regarding the selection of any rented building was yet to be made.

According to a working paper, which was presented before the NA committee last year, the university will have seven centres of excellence: three to be set up in the PM House and four on government land in the Kuri area of Islamabad. The NA committee was told that six years were required for completion of the project and the government had already earmarked Rs23 billion for it.

Currently, there are 141 public sector universities and 15 of them are for engineering and technology, but the government wants to set up another university as promised by the prime minister.

Meanwhile, the standing committee also deferred the Right to Free and Compulsory Education Amendment Bill 2022.

“The bills were deferred with serious concern over the absence of the minister. The prerogative of the minister is essential over the bill of utter importance and cannot be ignored,” a press release issued by the Senate Secretariat quoted the chairman of the committee.

Earlier, the committee disposed of a matter regarding the placement of schools in the federal capital under the administrative control of the Municipal Corporation Islamabad (MCI) after an assurance from the government about incorporating amendments in the law as proposed by the stakeholders.

The committee said students who could not be accommodated in medical colleges on the basis of the MDCAT last year due to the delay in the identification of seats by the HEC should be accommodated this year.

Published in Dawn, February 18th, 2022

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