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Lawmakers throw their weight behind HEC

February 05, 2013

A view of the National Assembly. — File photo

ISLAMABAD, Feb 5: The Higher Education Commission (HEC) on Tuesday succeeded in getting assurances from politicians that a draft bill proposing withdrawal of federal minister status from its chairman would not be submitted to the National Assembly.

The draft of the HEC Amendment Bill 2012 was approved by the National Assembly standing committee on education and training on January 23.

However, it has been learnt that the chairman of the committee has not yet signed it.

The HEC on Tuesday held a meeting of the vice chancellors’ committee at its headquarters. Chairman and members of the NA standing committee, belonging to the PPP, PML-N, PML-Q and MQM, attended the meeting on the request of the HEC management. The committee members who attended the meeting also included Surraiya Jatoi of the PPP.

The parliamentarians decided to request MNA Yasmeen Rehman of the PPP, the mover, to withdraw the bill. They said they would not take any step undermining the autonomy and future of higher education in Pakistan.

The draft suggested that the federal minister status should be withdrawn from the HEC chairman and the commission should be placed under the ministry of education and training.

According to an insider, the VCs noted that the universities had shown tremendous progress in the last decade mainly because of the autonomy of the HEC.

They said the proposed bill would roll back all the achievements which the HEC had gained during the decade,” he said. The VCs also felt that any changes to the HEC act should have the recommendations of the task force established by the prime minister’s high-powered committee.

The task force is, however, awaiting issuance of a notification for the last about two years.

HEC spokesman Murtaza Noor said committee chairman Sheikh Rohail Asghar and members during the meeting appreciated the role of the HEC for socio-economic development and promotion of quality education in the country.

They said any legislation aimed to take away the autonomy of the HEC would be damaging to the higher education sector.

The committee chairman said the legislation should be based upon careful review of past progress and consultation with all stakeholders.

He assured the meeting that the bill would not be tabled in the lower house, said the spokesman.

Talking to Dawn, Chairman HEC Dr Javaid Leghari confirmed that the committee had assured the VCs that the bill would not be submitted to the National Assembly.

“During the meeting of the standing committee on January 23, we could not get an opportunity to give our point of view because the ministry of education and training was running the show and was already in favour of the bill,” he said.

“On Tuesday, we conveyed our message and informed the members about our problems. I am sure that the issue has been resolved,” he said.Sheikh Salahuddin, a member of the standing committee belonging to the MQM, told Dawn: “The draft was approved in haste because most of the participants belonged to PPP. I requested the chairman of the committee that we should also listen to the VCs because they are a stakeholder.”

He said the HEC was one of the departments performing well, so we should not put it under the ministry of education and training.