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Higher Education Commission – HEC Devolution Plan

Higher Education Commission – HEC Devolution Plan: Since the announcement of the Higher Education Commission – HEC’s devolution plan by the Chairman, Parliamentary Commission on the Implementation of 18th amendment, Senator Raza Rabbani in the last week of March, HEC Dissolution by Government the academicians have largely been opposing the decision.

HEC Dissolution by Government Besides protest demonstrations by the HEC scholars and students of local universities against the government decision, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) also joined the chorus, asking the ruling PPP to take back its earlier verdict on the future of the commission.

According to the HEC officials, the status of the commission which is an autonomous body is very much protected under the 18th amendment in its fourth schedule. Officials of the HEC say key provisions covered under the federal legislative list of the new amendment have direct link to the higher education sector of the country. Hence the HEC could not be devolved to provinces as announced by Senator Rabbani.

The academia, civil society and youth from different parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Fata on Thursday through a resolution supported the devolution of Higher Education Commission (HEC) under the 18th Constitutional Amendment.

All the participants agreed on a joint action plan to take into confidence all the stakeholders about the obstacles created by the vested interests for delaying the transfer of higher education to the provinces. The participants pledged to work for the protection of the constitution and the recently passed 18th Amendment for a prosperous federation of Pakistan. They said the HEC was devolved under the constitution and it was now the responsibility of the civil society to provide support to the political leadership in its implementation in letter and spirit.

All Members of the academia argued that fallacious arguments had been put forward through the media to complicate legal and constitutional issues. They said that the provinces had the capacity to run the HEC and that such devolution would greatly enhance the education standards in the provinces. The joint work plan included policy recommendation regarding reorganizing the HEC on the provincial level and a campaign all over Pakistan in favor of the devolution. The teaching and other staff of the Hazara University on Thursday staged a rally against the plan to devolve the Higher Education Commission (HEC) to provinces. The participants of the rally, holding banners and placards, marched on different roads on the university premises. The lecturers and professors also observed one-hour token strike against the government decision.

Speaking on the occasion, Dr Iftikhar, Dr Habib, Dr Mohsin and others said the HEC had been striving to promote higher education in the country. “The government should take decisions to boost the higher education in the country rather than putting it into the mess. If HEC is devolved, the country would suffer a great setback and go back almost 50 years,” said one of the speakers.

The protesters said currently the development projects worth Rs800 million were being executed at the university. They said besides this, the HEC was giving Rs140 million annually for the salaries of the staff. They said not only the higher education would be affected but regular education in the university would also be affected badly if the HEC was devolved to the provinces.

Terming dissolution of the Higher Education Commission an irreparable national loss, PML central leader Ch Pervaiz Elahi has said the government decision is tantamount to closing doors of higher education on thousands of deserving Pakistanis, calling for immediate withdrawal of the decision.
In a statement issued here on Wednesday, Pervaiz Elahi said the objective of the HEC was to provide equal higher education opportunities to all the four provinces, adding that they had set up 18 new universities in Punjab and inked agreements with German and Swedish governments to set up technical universities adjacent to the proposed Lahore-Sialkot Motorway project, to promote higher education. The incumbent Punjab government s nonchalant attitude towards higher education had forced both countries to withdraw their allocated funds and manpower for the university projects, shifting them to India.

He said that the HEC was considered as a catalyst of change and harbinger of a silent revolution in Pakistan. The news of its dissolution had resulted in the suspension of the US aid worth 250 million dollars while the United Nations had also threatened to withdraw its 350 million dollars aid for promotion of higher education in Pakistan, he said. Pakistan s growth and development were directly related to the promotion of higher education, he opined. There were over 8000 Pakistanis who depended on the HEC to continue higher studies and the dissolution had left them clueless about their future.

Mr Iqbal, who was also member of the 27-member parliamentary committee which recommended 18th Amendment, said the PML-N had submitted a dissent note on the issue of devolution of education ministry to the provinces. He said in all federations of the world, education remained a centralized department therefore the government should reconsider its decision of HEC’s devolution.

In the Senate on Tuesday, opposition leader, Senator Wasim Sajjad of the PML-Q while moving a bill for the amendment to bring back education ministry under the federal control, said every wrong could be rectified. “If we have made a mistake in devolving education ministry to the provinces, it can definitely be rectified,” said Senator Sajjad.

Members of the academia argued that fallacious arguments had been put forward through the media to complicate legal and constitutional issues. They said that the provinces had the capacity to run the HEC and that such devolution would greatly enhance the education standards in the provinces. The joint work plan included policy recommendation regarding reorganizing the HEC on the provincial level and a campaign all over Pakistan in favor of the devolution.

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