KARACHI: New details have emerged about the selection process initiated on court’s orders for the post of the vice chancellor of Karachi University, suggesting lack of transparency on part of the federal Higher Education Commission (HEC) and provincial authorities.

Sources said Prof Khalid Mahmood Iraqi, one of the candidates for KU vice chancellorship and the former acting VC, and incumbent chairman of Sindh-Higher Education Commission (SHEC) Dr Tariq Rafi, who is also the chairman of the six-member search committee, had co-authored two research papers in December 2019 and June 2020.

One research paper — Human Resource Management Practices: a case study of the Dr Mahmud Husain Library was published in 2020 while the other — The influence of workforce diversity on performance of employee in private banking sector of Pakistan — was printed in 2019.

Both papers, sources said, were published in KU journals; The Islamic Culture and Journal of Social Sciences and Humanities.

Key candidate had co-authored research papers with head of search committee

The sources said the HEC short-listed seven candidates including Prof Iraqi. Of the seven candidates, five were called for an interview last month by the search committee. It dropped two candidates claiming “they didn’t have administrative experience”.

The federal HEC rejected six other candidates on the grounds that they didn’t meet the eligibility criteria for the post, which required publication of 25 research papers.

When contacted, Prof Iraqi, who was patron-in-chief of all KU journals during his almost three-year tenure as acting VC, explained that he neither submitted these papers (to the HEC) nor they were “accepted” by the commission (as part of the eligibility criteria) as they were published after the cut-off date of July 15, 2019.

“It’s a ceremonial post and has no role whatsoever in editorial policies,” he argued.

He declined to comment when asked whether it’s ethically correct for a patron-in-chief to get his or her papers published in in-house journals.

Prof Iraqi had to quit as acting KU VC in February this year on Sindh High Court orders. One major concern of other candidates has been that the provincial government initiated the selection process for the post and allowed him to hold the acting charge of KU vice chancellor while he himself was a candidate for regular appointment.

The sources said that the regular appointment of KU VC had been delayed for over three years as the selection process lacked transparency and challenged in courts on multiple grounds.

HEC avoids clarity

When contacted, the HEC avoided clearing up concerns related to Prof Iraqi’s two papers.

“The publications of Dr Khalid Mehmood Iraqi include seven publications beyond the cut of date ie July 15, 2019 which HEC has clarified in its letter dated May 9, 2022,” the HEC stated in its reply when specifically asked whether Prof Iraqi’s two papers that he co-authored with Dr Tariq Rafi were accepted.

Speaking to Dawn, SHEC chairman Dr Rafi said the co-authored papers were published when he was heading the Jinnah Sindh Medical University as its vice chancellor and not the provincial higher education commission.

“I have taken over the SHEC charge this year. Second, there is no question of partiality as it is pretty normal for people and professionals earlier working in different capacities in different organisations and departments to assume a new role at some stage of their career,” he contended.

Dr Rafi emphasised that all decisions were taken unanimously by the six-member search committee and there was not a single note of dissent.

“We also verified candidates’ administrative experience. In a [rejected] case, KU informed us in writing that the university didn’t count the details being claimed by the candidate as administrative experience. While in another case, the candidate short-listed by HEC didn’t mention his administrative experience in the form.”

The May 9 letter of the federal HEC to the assistant director/PS to chairman of the search committee says that Prof Iraqi “has seven out of 35 recognised publications” which were published after due date of advertisement (for the post of KU vice chancellor) dated July 15, 2019. But, there is no mention that these papers were not accepted as part of the eligibility criteria.

Sources said Prof Iraqi had the highest number of research papers (seven) in the list of 13 candidates, which were published after July, 15, 2019.

‘Papers not verified’

Speaking to Dawn, Prof Mohammad Ahmed Qadri and Dr Ehsan Elahi Valeem, two of the rejected candidates for the post of KU vice chancellor, said a major flaw in the HEC’s verification process was that it verified the research journals and not papers.

“The commission failed to follow court’s orders and didn’t check whether a particular paper was published in the journal recognised by it. It seems that the HEC has no uniform policy to formulate statutes for appointing faculty members, administrative staff including vice chancellors,” said Dr Valeem.

The HEC didn’t reply when an email sent on this concern.

Published in Dawn, July 8th, 2022

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