ISLAMABAD: A Senate panel on Thursday directed the Higher Education Commission (HEC) to furnish complete details of students from Balochistan, who are pursuing education in universities and those that have been allegedly missing.

The Senate Standing Committee on Federal Education, which met here under the chairmanship of Senator Irfan Siddiqui, besides other agenda items discussed the matter of disappearances of Baloch students referred to the committee by the Senate chairman on March 15.

Human rights activist and lawyer Imaan Zainab Hazir Mazari briefed the committee members about alleged enforced disappearance of Baloch students from universities. She said there were 31 cases of missing students.

“In today’s meeting, we directed HEC to furnish details of all Baloch students who are getting education in universities and the number of missing students. Whereas, in the next meeting, Imaan will also furnish more details,” the committee chairman said.

Appointment process of HEC chair facing delay

The committee discussed the alleged profiling of Baloch students in Quaid-i-Azam University (QAU) and the case of Hafeez Baloch (another QAU student), who was allegedly picked up by unknown people from Quetta in February.

The committee was told by the QAU administration in a written reply that it had already issued a displeasure letter to a faculty member who provided a law enforcement agency official access to students for interaction.

QAU Vice Chancellor (VC) Dr Mohammad Ali told the committee members that a mechanism had been developed and it has been notified that in the future no one would be allowed to reach students for interaction without prior approval of the university management.

Members decided that a briefing from the HEC, Ministry of Interior and other stakeholders will be organised in the next meeting.

A couple of months ago, Baloch students of QAU had alleged that their fellow Hafeez Baloch had been abducted from Quetta and the students were being profiled.

Later, the QAU administration issued a displeasure letter to a faculty member who had provided access to an agency official for meeting some students for interaction.

Appointment of new HEC chairman

Meanwhile, the committee was told by Ministry of Education that the HEC Chairman Dr Tariq Banuri was going to complete his term by the end of this month and the ministry had started the process of issuing advertisements for new appointment to the post.

When asked by the committee chairman about status of the process, ministry officials said a summary had been referred to the Prime Minister’s Office for getting approval for advertising chairman HEC’s position.

The HEC is a regulatory body that regulates public and private sector universities and it could face an administrative crisis in the coming months, as the existing chairman is going to retire on May 29. However, the Ministry of Education and federal government has still not advertised the position.

Sources said that the search committee for appointment of HEC chairman is also yet to be notified. On April 8, formation of a committee was proposed by the education ministry, however, a few days later, in a surprising move, a new proposed committee was finalised by the ministry and then a revised summary was sent to the PM office.

The new proposed search committee includes the education minister, who will chair the committee, and secretary federal education, Deputy Chairman Planning Commission Mohammad Jehanzeb Khan, Justice Retired Sheikh Ahmed Farooq, Dr Umar Saif (ex chairman of Punjab Information Board), vice chancellor of Allama Iqbal Open University Dr Ziaul Qayyum, former federal secretary Shoaib Ahmed Siddiqui, vice chancellor of Balochistan University Ahmed Farooq Bazai and Fatima Jinnah Women University Vice Chancellor Dr Saima Hamid.

According to rules, the search committee after interviews, finalised a panel of three suitable candidates and subsequently Prime Minister gives approval of one of them.

Published in Dawn, May 20th, 2022

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