ISLAMABAD: With the contract of incumbent Higher Education Commission (HEC) Chairperson Javaid Laghari expiring on August 27, the names of four contenders including Laghari are making the rounds for the coveted position.
The HEC - the primary regulator of higher education in the country - is responsible for higher education policy, quality assurance, degree recognition, development of new institutions and uplift of existing institutions. Research output and the standard of education at higher level have also improved with the allocation of sufficient funds by successive governments to the HEC for investing in universities.
According to the HEC ordinance, the prime minister is the controlling and appointing authority of the body and its chief.
Sources at the Ministry of Education, Training and Standards and the HEC told The Express Tribune that though the new name has yet to be finalised, certain people are considered frontrunners.
“The slot is likely to be given to a person who has a say in the corridors of power, has links with national and international higher institutions, and the vision and capability to handle the ever-growing higher education sector of Pakistan,” said a senior official at the HEC.
Currently, the names of three vice chancellors of different universities are being considered, along with Lagari himself.
Laghari, a former Pakistan People’s Party senator, was appointed HEC chairperson on August 27, 2009. He has had some trouble during his stint, including grievances of HEC employees, a few controversial appointments last year, and wrangling with the previous government over funding and scholarships.
Laghari is expecting an extension and reportedly making efforts to be in good books of the prime minister after establishing an HEC regional office in Bahawalpur, the home town of Education, Training and Standards Minister Balighur Rehman.
Similarly, University of Punjab Vice Chancellor Mujahid Kamran, who previously served as chairman of the physics department at the university, is also said to be among potential candidates for the slot. Kamran, who is reported to be on good terms with the Punjab government, has vast academic experience and was also the recipient of three prestigious awards including the Albert Einstein Award, Pride of Performance Award and Abdus Salam Award in Physics.
The sources claimed that the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) was keenly interested in offering the slot to Kamran, but a final nod from Senate Standing Committee on Education and Training Chairperson Sheikh Rohail Asghar and Federal Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal, will be crucial as these two men had been taking keen interest in education-related issues in the past.
Information Technology University (ITU) Lahore Vice Chancellor Umer Saif is the third strongest candidate for the slot due to his congeniality with the Punjab government.
Saif, who holds a BSc degree from the Lahore University of Management Sciences and a PhD in computer sciences from Cambridge, was made vice chancellor of the ITU without any objection after his name was forwarded to the Punjab governor by Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif.
University of Agriculture Faisalabad VC Prof Dr Iqrar Ahmed Khan, a PhD from the USA, is also said to be a strong contender for the position.
He has supervised 84 students from six countries for their MSc and PhD theses besides successfully establishing the Centre of Agricultural Biochemistry and Biotechnology at the university. However, Khan denied interest in the post and said the report was speculative.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 22nd, 2013.