ISLAMABAD: Two weeks after the prime minister formed a search committee for selection of the new chief for the Higher Education Commission, the first meeting of that body will be held on Friday.
“The first meeting of the six-member committee will be held on Friday,” said a source in Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Trainings on Thursday.
“The meeting is likely to discuss basic modalities for functioning of the search committee. It includes placement of advertisement for the post of chairperson,” the official, who wished not to be named, said.
He said on the first day the committee is also expected to set criteria in terms of age, qualification, experience etc for the candidates it is seeking to interview for the post. “It is the line ministry of the HEC that routes every decision of the latter to the PM house and the same will be done in this case,” he added.
He said the committee will also advertise the position based on the set criteria; scrutinise the applications on the advertised criteria and shortlist candidates who meet the requirement.
“The committee will then interview the shortlisted and eligible candidates and forward summary of top three candidates to the PM, who will have the final say to choose any one but mostly it is the one at the top who is appointed,” he added.
Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi formed the committee on January 24 to find the new HEC chairperson as the current chief’s tenure is going to end on April 15.
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According to the HEC Ordinance 2002, the PM is the controlling authority of the body and all major decisions route through his office including permission of foreign travelling of its chairperson.
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The search committee has been notified but since coming into power in 2013, the government of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and its two prime ministers – Nawaz Sharif and Abbasi – have not paid attention to the appointment of the members of the commission.
The non-appointment of commission’s members has virtually hamstrung HEC. According to the HEC Ordinance 2002, its board consists of 18 members — two federal secretaries, four representatives of the provinces, an executive director, a vice chancellor and 10 nominees of the PM.
Currently, the commission has only six members and 12 have yet to be appointed by the PM. Objections have been raised to the names forwarded in this regard and the PM Abbasi has twice assured the HEC about appointing the members but nothing has been done so far.
Now the situation has come to the point where the commission’s meetings cannot be called because the required number of members is not available. The quorum for a meeting is eight members.
Meetings of the commission are held to take policy decisions about the higher education in the country and approve the budget and appointments made and decisions taken by the chairperson.
The frequency of the commission’s meetings can be known from the fact in one meeting in September 2014, the HEC approved the revised budget estimates for three financial years – 2012-13 and 2013-14 and 2014-15.
According to the ordinance, there should be at least two meetings a year but only four have been held since the incumbent government took charge. The last meeting of the commission was held in February last year.
The HEC’s current Chairman Dr Mukhtar Ahmed faced several challenges related to governance in the universities and handling of matters in the wake of formation of two higher education bodies in Sindh and Punjab. The current chairperson has been blamed for running the commission on ad-hoc basis and several key positions are either vacant or filled by deputationists.
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