Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has decided to appoint Dr Shams Kassim-Lakha as the new head of the Higher Education Commission (HEC), The Express Tribune has learnt.
Sources in the Prime Minister House confirmed that it has been decided in principle to appoint Lakha – a top technocrat and former vice chancellor of Aga Khan University Hospital (AKUH) – as the new HEC chief. “The notification will be issued soon in this regard,” said the source.
In spite of his non-alignment with any party, Dr Lakha is well-known for his connections amongst various political and academic circles. The HEC’s former chief Javaid Laghari’s five-year contract expired on August 27 last month.
“He is a man with a dynamic personality, and I think he is the best choice,” said Dr Mukhtar Ahmad, the HEC’s executive director.
“Under his leadership, the HEC will thrive again and its financial, quality and sustainability issues will be resolved, due to his experience and connections across the globe,” Ahmad added.
Lakha has also been a member of the HEC’s Ranking Board that reviewed and approved the ranking methodology developed by the commission’s quality assurance committee (QAC).
In 2000, the education ministry constituted a task force for the uplift of education across the country and Lakha was appointed the chairperson of that body. Besides, he was also the member of the HEC first board of governors from 2002 to 2006.
He has co-chaired the commission for the establishment of the University of Central Asia and was appointed as the co-chairman of the taskforce for the Improvement of higher education in Pakistan in 2002.
Educated at the South Bank and Westminster Universities in the UK, and the University of Minnesota, USA, Dr Lakha’s career has spanned industrial development and higher education.
It is due to his versatile personality, sound understanding of national and international issues and performance as a seasoned technocrat that Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) nominated Lakha for the prime minister’s slot in the caretaker setup. He has also served as caretaker federal minister for science and technology in 2007.
As founding president and trustee of the AKU, he led the overall planning, construction and operation of the university in Pakistan, East Africa, Afghanistan, Egypt, Syria and the UK for over three decades. Under his leadership, the university attained international recognition for the quality of its academic and service programmes in medicine, nursing and education.
In recognition of his services to higher education, health care and public service, he has received national and international awards from the governments of Pakistan and France; as well as the degree of Doctor of Laws ‘Honoris Causa’ from McMaster University of Canada (1984), the Sitara-i-Imtiaz from the president of Pakistan (1999) and several other awards.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 2nd, 2013.