Original Articles

In support of devolving HEC – by Humza Ikram and M Usama Kabbir

The Federal Government has transferred five ministries, including the Ministry of Education, to the provinces under the devolution plan in the 18th Amendment. The ministries of Education, Social Welfare and Special Education, Tourism, Livestock and Dairy, Rural Development and Culture have been transferred to the provinces. The Commission for Implementation of the 18th Amendment has also approved a plan for the transfer of three federal ministries, including Sports, Women Development and Environment, to the provinces in the third phase.

The Higher Eduction Commission is also being devolved to the provinces under the 18th amendment plan.

There is a hue and cry over the devolution of HEC to the provinces. It guarantees more provincial autonomy as well as efficiency and transparency at the same time. How come the Capital Students whip support to block the implementation ? Who very recently suggested ‘It’s too hot for a Revolution’.

One has to look into the performance of HEC in the past few Years and understand the need to de-centralize higher education.

1- What worse would happen to the Higher Education in Pakistan if  HEC is  devolved to provinces? Was it doing miracles when it was based in Islamabad?

2- Why is it so that whenever something is devolved to the provinces the  question of capacity is instantly raised? Is the HEC in present shape is more capable to ensure quality, develop monitoring system and help develop  research culture at Pakistani universities?

3- Isn’t it something unconstitutional to resist the devolution of HEC on  the pretext of quality and monitoring?

I am personally more confident that HEC Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh, Balushistan and Punjab might be more capable to perfom its prescribed tasks than the HEC Islamabad.

Ayesha Siddiqa: Military Education

In a rather strange move, the education ministry has made an odd proposal to the government regarding amendments to the charter of the National University of Modern Languages (NUML). The proposal pertains to command and control of the university, specifically proposing the replacement of the president of the country as the chairman of the university’s board of governors with the Chief Of Army Staff (COAS). Furthermore, against the principles of the Higher Education Commission (HEC), the new ordinance makes it compulsory for the chairman of the university’s board of governors, whom they now hope will be the COAS, to appoint only senior serving or retired army officers as Vice-Chancellor (VC) and rector of the university.Full Article

Former HEC Chairman Dr Ata ur Rehman has once  tried to prove that he a is remnant of a dictatorship and  has asked Army chief to save HEC. Interestingly Pakistan’s  most recognized scientist is also  staunch supporter of HAARP theory and beleive HARRP can cause earth quake and floods.

Excerpt from Dr Muzaffar Iqbal article

Who knows how the General decided to establish the Higher Education Commission (HEC) in September 2002 through his Ordinance (No. LIII), but we all know that Dr Rehman became the blue-eyed boy of the general. This can be judged from the fact that often the commission seemed to enjoy authority which was greater than even that of the ministry of education.

Inherent in the very establishment of the HEC were all the problems of superstructures and super-performers: such institutions assume that the slow, organic process of institutional development in the country has no meaning whatsoever and that one man (or woman) has all the wisdom it needs to work wonders. A superstructure is also established to bypass and divert resources from existing governing bodies of the state; it creates outrageous benefits for some, it treats the employees of the existing institutions as second-class citizens, and it creates frustration and despair in the hearts and minds of those who cannot board the new boat. All of these ills were born with the HEC.

Nothing speaks more than facts, hence if one were to objectively see the wonders worked by the HEC chairman in six years, all one has to do is look at the state of higher education before and after the commission’s inception. If one wants to actually see where the missing billions went, one only has to get the actual amount spent on foreign tours from the accounts of the HEC. But such objective analysis of the functioning of the commission is unlikely to happen because we live in a culture where covering up each other’s tracks is a norm, but one must hope that there is some accountability in this case because we are talking about huge sums (an amount of Rs26 billion has been quoted in this newspaper, in fact).
The issue, however, is not merely one man’s performance, or the lack of it. The real issue is the mindset that created the HEC and gave its chairman draconian powers to do what he wished. Behind these issues is the issue of criteria of judging. In his rejoinder to Dr A Q Khan’s comments on his years at the HEC, Dr Rehman has listed his achievements and supported them with reports from USAID report, the British magazine Nature, the World Bank, the British Council, and other foreign organizations. That, in itself, is indicative of a colonial mindset: the stamp of approval is coming from the white man. Full article

Under the 18th Amendment there is no such need for a centralized HEC. It is notable that students from smaller provinces will now avail foreign and domestic scholarships at their doorstep and in a grater number than ever in the history of Pakistan. If we look back into the performance of HEC, one notices a strange trend. All new Universities have been established within the corridor from Lahore to Islamabad ! HEC has been unable to deliver to the students from smaller provinces. No HEC institutes were established in Balochistan, Gilgit-Baltistan, Sindh or KPK. Devolution of HEC to provinces will enable the students of far flung areas to  not only get better higher education, but it also guarantees a better primary set-up in the provinces.

Out of 10,000 HEC Scholarships; Sindh receives 892, KPK around 1200, Baluchistan less than 100 while Punjab receives more than 8000

It should be the right of Provinces to decide whether they want to allocate funds for basic schooling or Higher Education – Why Baluchistan, Sindh and Seraiki Waseeb need higher education funding while they do not have students at schools? Govt’s priority should be basic education, not the higher education for urban elite!

Related  :

Bahria students stage demo as Naval Intelligence intervenes

Out of 10,000 scholarship sindh only received 892.

About the author

Humza Ikram


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  • First they came as the guardians of Pakistan Ideology as they thought all the provinces except Punjab will not endorse the interpretations of history they are fond of.
    When the arguments do not get much weightage, now they came with technical and pressure tactics.
    Long live the Centrists..

  • Sindh should resist any such moves restricting provinces role in education sector as time has come to portray a real picture of Sindh on its historical glory not based on a distorted history of last sixty years.

    Strange are the ways of “Bhai’s politics”. Where the proponents of political autonomy are opposing the devolution process.

    Bhai! You were Sindhi till last Sindhi culture day, what happens to you when it came to your political re-entry into Punjab.

    The decade of realisation by the migrants like us “to portray ourselves as Sindhi” is over. Now it seems Bhai’s recent photo shoot for all the sign boards and hoardings in Karachi(and possibly Lahore) will see him as a proud Punjabi having typical Punjabi cultural outfit as “Pagdi, Huqqa and Lungi” with slogans from the days of yore, “Jaag Punjabi Jaag, Teri Pagg Nu Lag Gaya Daagh”.

  • Centrist mindset blocking HEC devolution, says Raza Rabbani

    Staff Report

    ISLAMABAD: 18th Constitutional Amendment Implementation Commission Chairman Raza Rabbani on Wednesday said that “centrist mindset” was blocking the devolution of the Higher Education Commission (HEC) to provinces.

    Talking to newsmen at the Parliament House, Rabbani lambasted the elements which were criticising the devolution of HEC, which he believed was against the 18th Constitutional Amendment.

    Calling the 18th Amendment a landmark piece of legislation, Rabbani said that termed the opposition to carry out the devolution of HEC, under this constitutional amendment tantamount to provincial autonomy. He dispelled the impression that HEC devolution would affect foreign funding for the commission and held that foreign loans were continuously being released to the government.

    He categorically said that continuing scholarships programmes of the HEC would not be affected if the commission is devolved. He made it clear that those students who were presently receiving HEC scholarships would continue to get the scholarships.

  • HEC whole policy is highly flawed .they didn’t send a single student abroad to study Social Sciences , arts and other discipline .

    HEC has same mindset in producing Post Graduates (Pseudo Scientist) ,which State Bank has for running economy i.e printing currency and army defense policy to counter unknown Indian threats that is to remain busy in arms race with India .

  • Press Release (Peshawar, April 07, 2010 by Media Department BKTEF)

    Academia, Civil Society Organizations and youth from different parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and FATA passed a joined resolution on April 07 in favor of devolution of HEC under the 18th Constitutional Amendment and condemned all those anti-constitution and anti-democratic hypes for confusing the devolution of Higher Education to the provinces. The resolution was passed in a big gathering of the representatives group in Baacha Khan Educational Foundation (BKTEF). Dr. Khadim Hussain Managing Director BKTEF, Chairman IR Department Professor Ijaz Khan Khattak, Professor Shafiq ur Rehamn of Environmental Department UoP, Professor Zubair Masood of the Law College Peshawar, Professor Dr. Sahibzada Fayaz Noor of the UET, Zalan Momand of Baacha Khan Trust, leaders of the Alami Pashto Congress, BKTEF team, students and members of the Civil Society participated in the gathering.
    All the participants agreed upon a joint action plan to aware all the stakeholders about the obstacles created by the vested interested groups for delaying the transfer of Higher Education to the provinces. The participants unanimously pledged to work for the protection of the constitution and the recent 18th Amendment for a prosperous federation of Pakistan. It was debated that HEC was devolved under the constitution and it is now the responsibility of the civil society to provide support to the political leadership in its timely implementation. Members of the academia argued that fallacious arguments have been put forward through the media to confuse legal and constitutional issues. They argued that the provinces have the capacity to administer HEC and that such devolution would greatly enhance the higher education standards in the provinces. The joint work plan agreed upon included policy recommendation regarding reorganizing HEC on the provincial level and a campaign all over Pakistan in favor of the devolution of HEC.
    In this regard, university professors, students, educational professionals and civil society shall be mobilized through demonstrations, seminars and media campaign. A joint press conference was scheduled on April 9 at 1:00 pm at Peshawar Press Club followed by a dialogue on the same issue on April 10 at 2:00 pm. A demonstration is also arranged in front of the Peshawar Press Club on April 10.

  • Should the HEC live or die? By Pervez Hoodbhoy

    The Higher Education Commission (HEC) stands on death row. Appeals for reprieve have been rejected by the commission responsible for implementation of the Eighteenth Amendment. That commission’s chairman, Senator Mian Raza Rabbani, declared that “the HEC act will be revisited and reframed to shed its role as a centralised funding authority.” His logic is that this constitutional amendment requires devolution of several powers to the four provinces. Since education is among them, universities cannot be federally administered. Instead, a brand new commission is to be created under the cabinet division. Other HEC functions would be turned over to various ministries and provincial administrations.
    At first glance, disbanding the HEC appears to be a good idea. Its record is less than stellar. From 2002 to 2008, its budget rose by an astounding seven times — a world record. But a good chunk was squandered on various delusional mega-projects that failed spectacularly. Then, although it led to serious degradation of quality, the HEC encouraged the number of universities to double, and then triple. The number of PhD students registered at various universities was also made to explode. When confronted by students and teachers who were unwilling to meet international standards, the HEC backtracked on its quality guidelines.
    The maladministration of universities by the HEC makes for a long list. Hyper-inflated salaries, recommended by the HEC, have made higher education more expensive. A full tenure-track professor nowadays can make up to Rs325,000 per month, about 30 to 35 times a schoolteacher’s maximum salary. Many produce only junk research and have poor teaching ability. Even today, the HEC puts out spurious data that mislead the public into believing that there has been some sort of educational revolution.
    One might also wish to support the government’s decision from a second angle. After all, self-administration by the provinces is to be welcomed as a general principle. It could be argued, for example, that if a province is now to be in charge of its mineral wealth then it should also run its own universities. But caution should take precedence over legalism and a desire for sweeping changes. The steps to be taken, of which dispensing with the HEC is one part, will have huge consequences for Pakistan’s universities. Therefore, instead of jumping to conclusions, one must take a sober look and discuss the pros and cons.
    First, the HEC’s record is not entirely bleak. It sent students to overseas universities, attracted foreign faculty to teach in local universities, created digital library access and took some positive initiatives to encourage research. Although programme implementation was flawed, these represented some progress in a country where good news is preciously short. Moreover, a full balance sheet of the HEC’s good and bad deeds is not essential for answering the question posed in the title. Rather, one must ask: What will be the consequences of the proposed devolution? Will it improve or degrade Pakistan’s higher education system?
    Although I have been strongly critical of the shenanigans of the former HEC leadership, in my opinion, the government is headed in the wrong direction. Instant dismemberment or serious disempowerment of the HEC is a recipe for producing chaos. Creating another bureaucracy or handing over the reins to existing provincial education bureaucracies, which are even more myopic and less competent than those at the federal centre, will negatively impact the quality of university education in Pakistan. This quality is already much lower compared to India, China or Iran.
    The few checks and balances that currently exist, and which are actually enforced by the HEC, would disappear. Academic decisions would be made by those who have little understanding of how universities should function. This would push the system towards free fall. A wild policy zigzag is the last thing that Pakistan needs. Instead, a responsible and nuanced approach is needed. This means devolving surely, but slowly and carefully. Provincial administrations should be helped to build technical capacity so that they can be properly entrusted with key decisions, such as granting charters to new universities, university admission policies, etc. And while the HEC ought to be slowly downsized, some of its essential functions — such as quality control, foreign scholarships, and donor programmes — must be kept intact under federal control.

  • @ humza ikram
    “Although I have been strongly critical of the shenanigans of the former HEC leadership, in my opinion, the government is headed in the wrong direction.”
    I agree.
    waisay kis shubay mein yeah hakumat wrong direction mein nahi ja rahi? 😛

  • Not every project of HEC was 100% perfect but it was taking some good first steps in right direction.
    There should be same standards of education throughout the country. But Zardari wants every Pakistani to have a dubious degree like his. And as usual, in the name of “critical analysis” we see the defense of present government’s blunders. It is shameful.
    It is a distressing news. What else can be expected from jali degree walay parliamentarians?
    HEC kay itnay baray budget ka paisa kahan jayay ga? …. zahir hai “corruption hamara haq hai” walon ki jaib mein.

  • aaj to critical ppp nay sabit kar dia hai “LUBP” nahi “LUDP” (let us destroy pakistan)

    bhutto saray oxford ki degreean lain
    aur pakistani universition kay standards girtay rahain??

    waisay bhi PPP ko universition say kia?? bus roti, kapra, makan pay tawaja hai… taleem ka is say kia taluq.. hai naaaaa

  • Hello Admin and every other blind supporter of PPP….

    i read LUBP because you guys are the ones who without fear lambast these mullaz and rogue islamist elements.. But this piece of yours is something which i don’t agree to at all 1. because it is a very lame attempt to rescue PPP on this very huge blunder they are going to commit,, just because its in the 18th ammendment.. 2. and you have twisted facts too, HEC has established Kohat Uni, Swat and one other alone in KPK in the last 6 years where on the other hand how many did GOP did? So better give up on this at least,, learn to call spade a spade… HEC dissolution is wrong PERIOD !

  • It is fact that centrist mindset don’t wish to devolve HEC and they never tolerate to see provincial offices HEC’s in Peshwar, Hyderabad and Quetta. But i am surprised some Sindhi (so called intellectuals) including some ANP people once again trying to be centrist because they are unsure about capability of their provincial eduationists.

    The centrist being followers of antisemitism wish to continue their Choudhrahat (Master slave relation) with rest of people and province.

    “Out of 10,000 HEC Scholarships; Sindh receives 892, KPK around 1200, Baluchistan less than 100 while Punjab receives more than 8000”

    Those who oppose HEC devolution in-fact are supporters of Choudhrahat and are antisemitics.

  • Those who use to say Live Stock and Agriculture ministry & Law and Parliamentary should be made one , are now saying Higher Education and Education Ministry are two different things and should have separate ministries .

  • It is quite crazy as on one hand people hate Pervez Musharraf and his policies but on the other hand when a democratic government under constitution devolves something, it has to be criticised.
    Today Dr. Abdul Wahab (ex-director IBA and VC of Karachi University) was challenging this notion that if HEC is not there, then our degrees are not worth in the international world. He said that Punjab University has been there for more than 140 years, KU for 55 years etc but HEC was formed just 8 years ago. Does that mean that people who graduated from these universities prior to formation of HEC are tainted??
    That was in Aaj TV’s program

  • Committee formed to address VCs reservations
    Riaz Khan Daudzai

    PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government on Saturday constituted a committee to address reservations of the vice-chancellors of the universities over the Higher Education Commission (HEC) devolution while the academia asked the provincial government to immediately form a task force to help coordinate an alternative institutional arrangement.

    Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain, while briefing media after the vice-chancellors meeting with Chief Minister Ameer Haider Hoti, said that during the discussion it was said that the Implementation Commission would keep in mind all the administrative, constitutional, financial and legal matters related to the universities while implementing devolution of the HEC as enshrined in the 18th Amendment.

    Mian Iftikhar, who is also the spokesman for the provincial government, dispelled the impression that the parliamentarians were against the education and foreign funds for the sector would be stopped after the HEC devolution, saying that like the devolved departments of tourism, archaeology, social welfare, population welfare, agriculture and local government, funding for the alternative institution for the HEC at the provincial level would also continue.

    The chief minister, he said, had assured the vice-chancellors that the HEC devolution would not affect the autonomy of the universities and the varsities would rather attain more autonomy at the provincial level.

    The chief minister told the VCs that no political interference would be tolerated in affairs of the universities. However, they were told in categorical terms that merit would be upheld at all costs in these institutions, Iftikhar said. He added that the province would be given representation in the institution to be formed at the federal level to replace the HEC.

    Mian Iftikhar, who is also chairman of the overseeing committee on the devolution, said the provincial government had formed a committee to look into the matters related to the HEC devolution and the body replacing it at the provincial level.

    The committee, which would be headed by Mian Iftikhar and Minister Higher Education Qazi Muhammad Asad, secretaries for higher education, law, finance and inter-provincial coordination would be its members, while the VCs would be represented on the committee by University of Engineering and Technology Vice-Chancellor Imtiaz Gilani, Vice-Chancellor Abdul Wali Khan University Mardan Dr Ihsan Ali and director IMSciences Dr Nasir Ali Khan.

    Mian Iftikhar said the committee was directed to present its recommendations for the strategy for the administrative, constitutional, financial and legal matters of the universities.

    He said the HEC was devolving to the provinces in accordance with the provisions of the 18th Amendment and those speaking against it were not only violating the Constitution, but they were also carrying out propaganda against the autonomy of the provinces.

    He said the provincial government would support the proposal of Balochistan for a body replacing the HEC at the federal level on the lines of the Indus River System Authority (IRSA).

    Earlier, addressing a press conference at the press club, members of the academia including Dr Khadim Hussain, Dr Syed Shafiq-ur-Rehman, Dr Ijaz Khan Khattak, Dr Zubair and Dr Said Alam Mehsud termed the HEC a fake and redundant institution, which had become proverbial ‘white elephant’ in the wake of the 18th Amendment.

    They also dispelled the impression that funds for higher education would be affected and the education standard would fall, saying that the funds come into the country through state-to-state agreements, not to the HEC, while the provincial education institutional fabric was capable enough to maintain and even further improve the standards of the education and research in the province on its own.

  • HEC devolution dominates NA proceedings

    By Tanveer Ahmed

    ISLAMABAD: The raging issue of the devolution of Higher Education Commission (HEC) dominated the proceedings of the National Assembly on Tuesday as members from both sides of the divide looked with suspicion at the efforts against HEC’s devolution to provinces, which they believed was part of a wider conspiracy against the provincial autonomy.

    Almost all the members from various parliamentary parties were unanimous in their views and supported the devolution of HEC and said that vested interests had become active to sabotage the 18th Constitutional Amendment.

    Minister for Inter-Provincial Coordination, Raza Rabbani, usually a calm and quite character, who is also the chairman of Implementation Commission on 18th and 19th Amendment, sounded bitter when he spoke at length on the HEC’s devolution.

    Right in the middle of his speech on the issue, he received the news that the Supreme Court (SC) had given a verdict in favour of maintaining a status quo in the HEC case. “The constitution ensures trichotomy of powers and if parliament is stopped from legislation it will add a new chapter to the country’s history,” Rabbani remarked in his instant reaction to the SC’s verdict.

    He said that parliament was the custodian of 18th and 19th amendments and would defend its right of legislation if it was stopped from the discharge of its constitutional functions.

    Earlier on a point of order, raised by MQM’s Iqbal Qadri on HEC’s devolution,

    Rabbani said that issues on HEC’s devolution started raising heads when some elements politicised the issue despite the government’s assurance about the devolution.

    He informed the House that meetings were held with the chairman and officials of HEC besides vice chancellors of various universities and they were told that HEC would be tailored in the light of 18th and 19th amendments.

    However, he pointed out that pre-emptive steps taken by these elements had created confusion and fear about it.

    He reiterated that devolution of the HEC did not imply that its lifespan was over. “In fact, it will continue to function,” he reminded.

    “The only difference will be in the routing of funds through a provincial government instead of the present practice that the federal government releases funds to it,” he declared.

    Rabbani also assured the House that the students studying abroad on HEC’s scholarships would not be affected at all.

    PPP-Sherpao chief, Aftab Ahmed Khan Shepao, rejected the perception that the provinces were not capable of handling the devolved subjects.

    He attributed the controversy on the HEC’s devolution to the elements who had made degrees of some parliamentarians a contentious issue. He said that 18th Amendment was the product of all parliamentary parties’ consensus on the provincial autonomy as well as the devolution of subject of education to the provinces.

  • Dr Fouzia Saeed & Dr Rais on HEC .