KARACHI, June 20 Ignoring the previously observed recruitment requirements, the prime minister has appointed well-known poet Fahmida Riaz chief editor of the Urdu Dictionary Board in Karachi.

Ms Riaz took up the new assignment on Friday, confirmed an official of the federal education ministry that now governs the UDB which functioned as an autonomous body under the cabinet division till 2007.

According to a notification, the prime minister has appointed Fahmida Riaz chief editor in BPS-21 on a two-year contract.

Born into a literary family of Meerut (India) in July 1946, Ms Riaz, in addition to her literary pursuits, always played an active role in social and political activities.

She lived in self-exile for over six years in India when former military dictator Gen Zia-ul-Haq ruled over Pakistan.

Ms Riaz was appointed managing director of what was then the National Book Council of Pakistan during the first PPP government (1988-90). In Benazir Bhutto's second tenure as prime minister, she became associated with the ministry of culture.

Established in 1958 and having been overseen by various linguists, researchers, writers, critics and scholars like Dr Moulvi Abdul Haq, Dr Abul Lais Siddiqui, Dr Farman Fatehpuri, Dr Hanif Fauq, Prof Sahar Ansari, Mirza Nasim Baig, Dr Younus Hasni and Dr Rauf Parekh as its chief editors, the UDB has had the honour of producing 21 volumes.

The post of regular chief editor at the UDB fell vacant in 2007.

It was in August 2007 that the training wing of the education ministry advertised the post of chief editor (grade-20) seeking applicants preferably less than 55 years of age with a PhD in Urdu linguistics or literature, and having relevant experience in lexicogra-phical research and dictionary compilation.

However, according to a source in the board, the exercise remained incomplete, and the editor of the UDB (Farhat Fatima) was asked to fill in as chief editor.

The source added that while Ms Riaz was a world-renowned Urdu poet, she did not meet the recruitment criteria laid down by the ministry in 2007.

Speaking to Dawn from Islamabad, an assistant education adviser of the federal education ministry said that service rules of the UDB were being finalised with the involvement of the finance and establishment divisions.

He added that appointments in lower-grade staff of the UBD would be made soon, as a relevant no-objection certificate had been acquired.

The education ministry notification issued on June 18, 2009, says that Ms Riaz has been appointed on a contract basis and the chief editor's post has also been upgraded to BPS-21 from BPS-20 for only as long as she holds it.

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