ISLAMABAD: The federal cabinet on Wednesday decided to immediately release funds for the Higher Education Commission (HEC), enabling students studying abroad to get money for at least one semester, partially fulfilling the demands of protesting universities.
With Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani in the chair, the cabinet also promised to provide financial assistance to universities which are unable to cater to the 50 per cent increase in teachers’ salaries as announced by the government in this year’s budget. The committee, constituted by Prime Minister Gilani last week to handle the government-universities row, is likely to discuss details of financial assistance on Thursday (today), Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira said.
Addressing a press conference after the cabinet meeting, Kaira said that the government had also decided to release funds for development projects undertaken by the universities in which 90 per cent work had already been completed.
The universities would, however, have to abandon new development projects and control their current expenditures, he said.
Education Minister Sardar Assef Ahmed Ali said that it was ‘unfortunate’ that university teachers and vice-chancellors were “using students for their politics”.
“The HEC is a government institution … and like everyone else, the commission should adopt austerity measures,” the minister, who was recently involved in a dispute with the HEC over jurisdiction matters, said.
More than 72 public sector universities resorted to boycotting academic activities and staged rallies on Wednesday to protest against drastic reduction of funding.
In most cases, students also joined the protesting teachers, alarming the government that it could escalate into a “popular anti-government movement”.
Information Minister Kaira said that the cabinet had also reiterated its resolve to protect democracy.
“The parliament, the Constitution are supreme … we respect all institutions and they must also keep themselves within their constitutional domains,” Kaira spoke of the cabinet’s resolve but did not say who was conspiring against the government.The federal cabinet, he said, also reviewed the performance of some ministries and departments and approved half a dozen agreements with various countries.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 23rd, 2010.
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