ISLAMABAD: Claims of political interference in varsities from the top higher education official of the country has sent shockwaves through the government, forcing even Prime Minister Imran Khan to sit up and take notice.
The federal education ministry too has refuted the impression of political interference in higher education institutions.
According to a statement issued by the Higher Education Commission (HEC) on Thursday evening, Prime Minister Imran has expressed serious concerns over reports of political interference in the higher education sector of the country.
The statement noted that HEC Chairman Dr Tariq Banuri and PM Imran held a discussion on Thursday in which the latter has stated that interference in universities will not be tolerated.
Imran further directed the commission to identify all such interfering practices while assuring Dr Banuri of his all-out support to curb this menace and make systems which are completely transparent at all levels of higher education.
The HEC chief assured the premier that HEC will continue to play an affirmative role for increasing access to higher education, improve its quality and ensure its relevance to socio-economic needs of the country.
Education ministry refutes interference
Meanwhile, responding to claims of increased political interference from the higher education chief, the federal education ministry dispelled the impression of any political interference in the affairs of universities from within the ministry or outside.
In a statement from a ministry spokesperson on Thursday, he stated that they were working in line with the government’s vision of non-interference and supremacy of merit in educational institutions.
“As far as the federal government is concerned, there is minimal to zero political interference especially from the minister for education and the ministry,” the spokesperson’s statement said.
The minister has issued strict instructions in the ministry not to interfere in the affairs of attached departments, the statement added.
The official further added that Federal Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood has directed all relevant ministers to refrain from interfering in the administrative matters of higher education institutions while he had also directed heads of departments to follow merit and not to extend any favours to anyone in the ministry
He further said that that the minister himself was never involved in any such activity and always kept merit at the top.
The premier’s call and the statement from the education ministry came a day after HEC Chairman Dr Banuri spoke with editors and senior journalists in the federal capital where he suggested that political interference in universities had increased to an unprecedented level.
He had further claimed that the syndicates of some institutions in the provinces were now allegedly being chaired by ministers. This practice, he asserted, was causing an increase in political interference in the affairs of varsities.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 15th, 2019.