Foreign universities: 14 Pakistan chairs remain unfilled

Cabinet Div trying to fill these slots with help from foreign ministry


Riazul Haq June 29, 2017
The education budget has witnessed a 13 per cent increase on last year’s Rs86 billion.

ISLAMABAD: Bureaucratic hurdles, procedural delays and lethargic file work have always taken toll on issues of national interest but this is true more for the education sector.

One of the prime issues put on hold concerns the Cabinet Division, which has yet to finalise the fate of 14 vacant Pakistan chairs in foreign institutes: the issue has literally been bouncing around between several bodies.

Before devolution in 2010, it was under the control of the ministry of education.

Subsequently, the Ministry of Inter-Provincial Coordination used to look into such appointments.

Two years ago, this responsibility was transferred to the Cabinet Division, which is struggling to manage it with the help of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), but the Higher Education Commission is also eyeing to take over its control.

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The purpose of these chairs, apart from educating foreign students, is to create awareness about Pakistani society, its history, culture and national heroes.

Qualified PhD scholars with strong academic backgrounds are usually considered for Pakistan Chairs, but successive governments have so far failed to utilise this forum’s potential.

The vacant posts were last advertised by the Cabinet Division in October 2014 and some seven recommendations were made after interviews by the selection board.

These recommendations were made in September 2015 and 2016 without any further movement in this regard.

Vacant chairs

The vacant seats include the chair of Urdu and Pakistan Studies at the Peking University in China. Similarly, an appointment for the same chair at Al-Azhar University, Egypt was under process in 2015, but it still remains vacant.

The chair of Urdu and Pakistan Studies at Ain Shams University, Egypt is also vacant.

Similarly, the chair of Allama Iqbal Fellowship at Heidelberg University, Germany is yet to be filled. Besides, the Quaid-i-Azam Distinguished Professorship at the Columbia University in the US is also among the chairs which have been vacant for the past 11 years.

After the prime minister’s notification, the usual process involves clearance from the foreign ministry and relevant intelligence agencies.

Meanwhile, the Urdu and Pakistan Studies chairs at Ankara University, Turkey as well as Tehran University, Iran have also been vacant for the past five years.

The chair of Urdu and Pakistan Studies is also vacant in Kazakhstan’s Abylai Khan University of International Relations and World Languages.

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Extensions

Dr Tahir Kamran’s deputation for the Allama Iqbal Fellowship at Cambridge University, UK, was extended for two years with effect from June 1, 2013 but it has now been vacant since 2015.

The Quaid-i-Azam Fellow at Oxford University, UK, Dr Ishtiaq Ahmed of QAU was given an extension till September 2015, but since then no one else has been nominated for the seat.

The QAU chair in Urdu and Pak Studies at Baptist University, Hong Kong is also vacant since August 31, 2015.

The HEC is vying to take control of the subject by bringing it under the Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training.

Creation of council

According to sources in the Cabinet Division, a new policy is being formulated to fill all these vacant posts. “The ministry of foreign affairs is considering formation of a separate cultural council section to handle and process such posts,” said an official.

In February this year, the official said, Advisor to PM on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz forwarded new rules and procedures for these chairs to the PM and a reply is still awaited.

The ministry, it seems, is trying to follow in the footsteps of India where a similar body, the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, looks into the chairs and has a dedicated portal for this purpose with details of 118 chairs around the globe.

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