KARACHI: The Sindh government has once again appointed former petroleum minister and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader Dr Asim Hussain as the chairperson of the Sindh Higher Education Commission (HEC).
A notification issued on January 26 by the chief secretary office reads, " … in exercise of the powers conferred under Section 5 (1) of Sindh Higher Education Commission Act 2013, the Sindh chief minister, being the controlling authority, has been pleased to reappoint Dr Asim as chairperson of the commission for one more similar term".
Dr Asim, a close friend of PPP Co-Chairperson Asif Ali Zardari, was picked up by the Rangers from his office in Clifton for his alleged involvement in facilitating the treatment of terrorists at his private hospitals and misappropriation of funds. The Rangers took him into custody for 90 days and he was later handed over to the police after cases were registered against him for treating and harbouring militants and gangsters at his hospital.
After 19 months in custody, Dr Asim was released on bail in March 2017.
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The former petroleum minister has been accused of corruption. In 2016, he was indicted by an accountability court in a Rs460 million corruption reference. Among other cases, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) also filed a reference of Rs60 billion against him for misusing authority to allot plots and encroach upon state land for the expansion of Ziauddin Hospital, which is owned by him. During his previous tenure as head of the Sindh HEC, allegations were leveled against him regarding misuse of the commission's funds.
During his stay in jail, the PPP also made him president of its Karachi division. However, a few months after his release, he was told to relinquish the post and was replaced by Saeed Ghani in November last year.
Many circles are reportedly unhappy with the decision to reappoint Dr Asim. The parliamentary leader of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf in the Sindh Assembly, Khurrum Sher Zaman, has announced to raise the issue of his reappointment in the assembly.
Education in Sindh is already in shambles and Dr Asim's appointment will exacerbate it further, Zaman said. He also announced to approach the courts to stop the move of the provincial government.
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Dr Asim could not be contacted for his comments despite repeated attempts by The Express Tribune. However, an education department spokesperson claimed that the government's decision to reappoint Dr Asim as Sindh HEC chaiperson was purely on merit.
"No allegation has been proven against Dr Asim. He has immense experience in higher education and that is why the government has reappointed him as the chairperson of the commission," the spokesperson said.