Chairman of the Implementation Commission of the 18th Amendment Raza Rabbani on Tuesday said that the federal cabinet has given approval for devolving five more ministries, including the Higher Education Commission (HEC), to provinces. A notification to this effect will be issued within a day or two, he said at a press conference flanked by Minister for Water and Power Syed Naveed Qamer and Senators Rehmatullah Kakar and Abdul Malik.
The announcement shattered all hopes of the HEC, which has started lobbying to control the finances of higher education. Rabbani announced that its functions, except maintaining standards of higher education, would be transferred to the provinces by re-drafting its Ordinance.
He said that the federal cabinet has given approval for devolving of five more ministries in the second phase of the devolution plan. These include Education, Social Welfare and Special Education, Tourism, Livestock and Dairy, Rural Development and Culture.
“We are going to end the financial ‘chaudhrahat’ (monopoly) of the HEC once and for all as it has always acted beyond its purview,” said Rabbani. He said that all functions including curriculum, planning, centres for excellence and implementation were on the concurrent list and it was necessary to be devolved to the provinces under the new amendment.
Commenting on the objection raised by some quarters including former HEC chief Dr Attaur-Rehman over the move, Rabani commented, “Who is Attaur-Rehman? He was the part of that school of thought which had always labelled those who spoke for provincial autonomy and democracy in the country as traitors.”
Rabbani said that the government has decided to establish a separate division to handle all departments related to Islamabad Capital Territory, which would be supervised by the cabinet division. He said that the division would supervise functions of the capital city departments including education, health, social welfare, tourism, culture and so on.
He said that the HEC Ordinance had been thoroughly reviewed and clauses which did not clash with the 18th amendment would remain untouched. Rabbani added that the Ordinance would be redrafted soon.
Besides, all the international agreements and donation related matters have been given to the Economic Affairs Division (EAD), he said.
“We are not going to interpret the 18th amendment and our mandate is only to implement the law,” Rabbani maintained. In future, he said that the arising issues between provinces and federation would be settled in the Council of Common Interests (CCI).
Moreover, Rabbani said that the government would sit with the provincial government and will design educational programs in collaboration with the CCI and the Inter-Provincial Coordination Committee.
He said that all the ongoing scholarships for the Pakistani students studying in foreign universities will continue till the completion of their education.
Rabbani said that the employees of the devolving ministries would not be fired, neither sent to a divisible pool. There are total 17, 440 employees, who are working in these five ministries and of them 1,180 are civil servants, who would be adjusted in other ministries.
There are 12,000 teachers of federal government schools and colleges out of a total 14,390 working in the educational department in Islamabad. The status of these teachers will also remain the same.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 30th, 2011.