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Senator Ishaq Dar of PML-N in a press briefing with his party chief Nawaz Sharif. – File Photo

ISLAMABAD: In what appears to be a face-saving move, Senator Ishaq Dar of the opposition Pakistan Muslim League-N resigned on Wednesday as deputy chairman of the Parliamentary Commission on Implementation of 18th Amendment. In a five-page letter to Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani, Senator Dar cited differences over the devolution of the Higher Education Commission (HEC) and transfer of assets and services of federal employees to the provinces as the main reasons for his decision.

Last week, the PML-N senator found himself in a difficult situation when reporters took him on during a news conference with the chairman of the commission, Senator Raza Rabbani, for defending the planned HEC devolution which was against the stance of his party. “I am not responsible for everybody in the party,” he said at the time.

“I was out of the country since Feb 25 for personal reasons, but I am here to categorically make clear that whatever Senator Raza Rabbani has said on the devolution of the HEC, I fully support that.”

ANP Senator Zahid Khan and Petroleum Minister Naveed Qamar were also present on the occasion.

Senator Dar, who is said to be in good rapport with government circles, particularly with Senator Rabbani, also criticised the media in general and some political commentators -- without naming them -- in particular for politicising the HEC issue.

In his resignation, he has explained his personal position on the issue.

He said he could not attend the March 10 meeting of the commission because of his wife’s ailment. It was decided at the meeting that the HEC Ordinance of 2002 would be repealed and a new Commission for Standards of Higher Education set up through a new law.

He said he had ‘conveyed’ PML-N’s position to the commission and said that “the core functions of the HEC, including scholarships to students, foreign assistance, accreditation etc. could neither be devolved nor it would be desirable to place such functions under different federal divisions as it would severely hamper the objectives for which the HEC was originally formed”.

He said he had ‘abstained’ from a cabinet meeting on the issue when his view was overruled by the commission.

The senator also referred to his telephonic conversation with the prime minister.

He claimed that in a meeting with the chairman of the commission and federal secretaries, “it was mutually agreed that core functions of the HEC shall be retained in one entity i.e. the HEC through an amendment to the HEC Ordinance, 2002, and there was no need to enact a new law for that purpose. This decision was endorsed by the commission in its meeting on April 12.”

“As opposed to the facts narrated above and much to my disappointment, the reports in media on the subject were based on total disinformation and against the PML-N’s stated position in the commission,” the letter said.

Senator Dar also alleged that the government had put in jeopardy the fate of thousands of federal government employees transferable pursuant to the devolution of various ministries, divisions and departments to the provinces by not convening a promised joint sitting of parliament to adopt a unanimously-agreed resolution aimed at protecting their rights.

He aid said the government had failed to adhere to the understanding reached at the commission under which it was bound to convene the joint session by April 19.

“There appears to be no justification for the PML-N to continue its association with the commission. I, therefore, tender my resignation with immediate effect as deputy chairman of the implementation commission.”

Senator Dar, who is a relative of PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif, had faced a similar situation earlier this year during negotiations with a government team headed by Finance Minister Abdul Hafeez Shaikh on the implementation of a 10-point agenda presented by his party to the government for economic reforms.

The collapse of the talks resulted in the decision of the PML-N to oust the PPP from the Punjab coalition government.