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Civil Society supports “Devolution of HEC” : A joint resolution from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

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 “18th amendment and Institutional arrangements at Provincial level after Devolution of Education and HEC” on Sunday 10th April 2011 at 2.00 pm at Peshawar Press Club by Pakhtunkhwa Civil Society Network PCSN. A demonstration is also arranged in front of the Peshawar Press Club on April 10.

Coutesy: Amn Tehreek and PPF

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Ali Arqam

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  • Legal and policy experts divided over HEC devolution
    By Saba Imtiaz
    Published: April 8, 2011

    HEC’s management maintains it was not informed about the devolution.
    KARACHI:
    For years, the Higher Education Commission (HEC) has been the subject of censure by critics and a headache for parliamentarians facing scrutiny of their degrees. But their anger doesn’t match the furore over the planned transfer of the HEC’s functions to provinces.
    Even though the 18th Amendment to the constitution ensured the devolution of several key areas to provinces, including education, the HEC’s management says it was not informed about its devolution. Executive Director Dr Sohail Naqvi said, “We were never told directly. It was decided on in a meeting of the implementation commission in late March, which we were not invited to or informed about.”
    An aggressive campaign to ‘save the HEC’ has now dominated the media and public discourse. HEC chairperson Dr Javaid Laghari and his predecessor Dr Attaur Rahman have publicly advocated the cause. Vice-chancellors of universities have pledged their support, and students have protested in Islamabad and Peshawar over the future of their scholarships.
    Raza Rabbani, the federal minister for inter-provincial coordination and the man in-charge of the implementation process of the 18th Amendment, says scholarships will not be affected by the devolution. The government’s stance is that the devolution is part of the implementation of the 18th Amendment.
    The HEC’s argument hinges on the fact that the current federal legislative list includes: ‘Federal agencies and institutes for the following purposes, that is to say, for research, for professional or technical training, or for the promotion of special studies’, ‘Education as respects (to) Pakistani students in foreign countries and foreign students in Pakistan’ and ‘Standards in institutions for higher education and research, scientific and technical institutions’.
    The HEC’s role, as defined by the ordinance mandating its creation, is the “evaluation, improvement and promotion of higher education, research and development.”
    Dr Rahman believes the HEC’s devolution will be a “monumental disaster”.
    “It is a legal mistake. The HEC’s functions are protected under the 18th Amendment. If this goes ahead, it will be challenged in the Supreme Court.”
    This issue did not arise when constitutional reforms were being deliberated by a parliamentary committee. The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), which oppose the HEC’s devolution, were represented on the committee.
    Lawyer and activist Rafay Alam says, “The provinces have been asking for so long to return to a decentralised system. They should be given the HEC’s responsibilities. In the US, every state has its own universities, accreditation system etc. There hasn’t been any chaos there – why should we expect it to happen here?”
    HEC gained public prominence with its role in verifying parliamentarians’ degrees. One theory doing the rounds is that HEC’s devolution will ease the way for legislators with questionable degrees. The Express Tribune recently reported that the functions of degree recognition, equivalence and attestation may be shifted to a new commission under the Cabinet Division.
    Provincial governments would face political pressure to recognise legislators’ degrees, but according to Alam, “You could give anyone the job – even the GHQ – and they would still be under political pressure! Did the HEC not face pressure…how did it recognise Babar Awan’s doctorate degree?”
    HEC’s critics have long asked for an investigation into the HEC. Writing in Dawn in 2008, noted nuclear physicist Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy debunked many of HEC’s claims of success. According to Dr Hoodbhoy, only ‘cosmetic changes’ were made to higher education, most published papers were worthless academically and scientifically, the HEC had wasted funds and projects such as the ‘Pak European Universities’ never fully materialised.
    Alam says there are serious problems with the HEC, including the charters given to universities and plagiarism by PhDs. The HEC has also been embroiled in other issues, including a case of placing graduates on the Exit Control List. The graduates alleged that the HEC had not placed them in jobs in Pakistan.
    What happens next? The issue could end up in the Supreme Court. President Asif Ali Zardari has said he will personally look into the matter. While the government could bow to public pressure and appease political parties opposing the devolution, it will set the precedent that any ministry or government body that does not want to be devolved can have the decision reversed.
    “This is a very difficult decision by a cash-strapped government facing a political and economic crisis,” said Alam. “How can the government justify paying so much money to PhDs – don’t get me wrong, PhDs are important – when the country has just gone through the floods?”
    History of the HEC
    The HEC was formed in 2002 during former President Pervez Musharraf’s administration, under the Higher Education Commission Ordinance 2002. It reports to the prime minister. Prior to the HEC, the University Grants Commission existed. Funding for higher education – via the HEC – was increased during the Musharraf era. Dr Attaur Rahman served as its first chairperson.
    Published in The Express Tribune, April 8th, 2011.

    http://tribune.com.pk/story/145534/legal-and-policy-experts-divided-over-hec-devolution/

  • Op-Ed: Devolution of Pakistan’s HEC – a positive development

    Islamabad – The Pakistani government has announced the devolution of the Higher Education Commission, arousing resentment of particular groups of people. There are obvious reasons why the government’s landmark decision is being resented.
    Quite some level of effort has been put in projecting a debatable impression of Pakistan’s achievements in higher education, i.e. studies at the post-graduate level and above. Now when the federal government has announced the devolution of the Higher Education Commission (HEC), a number of media sources are being used to give the impression that a large number of people related to education are ill at ease with the commission’s impending devolution, and that the government should withdraw its decision.
    Critics of the government’s decision to devolve the HEC to the provincial governments, in accord with the clauses of the 18th Amendment to the constitution of Pakistan, argue that devolution of a central body as the HEC will negatively impact the status of higher education in Pakistan. But none of them has any solid reason to prove that the status of higher education in Pakistan stands anywhere close to satisfactory. In fact, higher education in our country has become a mockery of education. So who else but the HEC can we blame for this poor condition of learning in institutions of “higher” education?
    Over the 8 years that the HEC led the affairs relating higher education, billions and billions of the poor country’s funds have been spent on research projects. Has anyone, except Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy of the Quaid-e-Azam University and a select few, bothered to question the practical significance of these theoretical ventures? We have never asked how much has our economy benefitted from 8 years of spending money lavishly on producing PhDs and MPhils and how much has the country benefitted from these degree-holders, few of whom have international publications in journals of repute and above that, very few whose publications have benefitted the country’s economic, social, or even academic situation. The HEC appears a complete failure in providing pragmatic validity for its higher education projects.
    Lately, a small number of students are out in protest in Islamabad against the devolution of the HEC. Whether they are protesting on their own or are being pushed by some hidden hands is a question worth investigating. However, the commission’s devolution is certainly a blow to these HEC-fed scholarship-drive students who fail to make it to the industry after grabbing their Master degrees and are thus welcomed into MPhil and PhD programs funded by the HEC, where the student gets a monthly stipend for doing “research” and the academician supervising him/her (an Assistant Professor or Professor) also gets monetary benefits each month beside getting additional benefits for every publication that his/her student makes. And what does it take to make a publication? Just some rehashing of older research papers and good relations with the people in charge of publications. Thus all stakeholders fill their pockets with easy money that comes from the hard-boiled fate of the nation’s poor population.
    Over the years, there have been numerous reports of plagiarism and substandard, even bogus research produced by academicians using government’s money funded through the HEC. Almost always, there has been inaction on behalf of the commission. Thanks to lack of accountability, the irregularities have been growing wider and wider in the higher education section so that today, there are institutions where MPhil and PhD students have spent over 6 years, pursuing their degrees, violating the rules of 2 and 3 years of duration for obtaining the MPhil and PhD degrees respectively. Neither are the enrollments of these students cancelled nor are they awarded degrees. The HEC has paid no heed to these cases. Worse even is the fact that many post-graduate courses are taught by faculty members that are not even qualified for teaching those courses. Thus, they perpetuate the rote system of learning in higher education institutions. No accountability again, and hence no hope for improvement. Since the devolution of the commission would potentially mean an end to this laissez-faire enjoyment of government funds, both the faculty and students receiving the funds are disturbed over an impending end to the easy-coming currency that goes straight into their pockets.
    By devolving the HEC, the government has taken a remarkable step in the right direction of improving things by ending the monopoly of a central body and saving billions for the sake of a nation that does not need PhDs but food and medicine for the dregs of its society. This certainly is a blow to those who have been thriving at the expense of the nation’s welfare. But it is the nation, the populace of over 17 hundred million people, that matters, not a group of a few hundred or a thousand who have been using education as a private business for churning money systematically without returning anything good to the nation. With congratulations to the government for this landmark achievement (better late than never), it can be hoped that now the government will also tend to critically analyze the status of those private institutions where education has been reduced to mockery and hopefully the government will take strict measures to free education out of the clutches of profiteers disguised as academicians.
    This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com

    Read more: http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/305399#ixzz1Iug79gKA

  • Op-Ed: Time to save Pakistan’s democracy, not the HEC

    Islamabad – Criticism of government’s decisions is becoming more of a habit than reformative concern among our so-called experts. As Pakistani media campaigns to save the HEC from devolution, some would even suggest democracy be slaughtered at the altar of activism.
    Since the federal government’s announcement of devolving the Higher Education Commission (HEC), there has been a plethora of articles, blogs, letters, and tons of comments—most of them supportive of the commission’s authority in matter relating higher education. Few, if any’ have bothered to objectively and critically weigh the HEC’s success against its failure as a central body in promoting higher education in the country. Hardly anyone has taken the pains to propose discussing big questions like: What are the objectively verifiable indicators of progress in education? Do higher rankings of universities and greater number of research papers ensure public good coming from the highly educated? How much have the HEC’s ventures cost the country’s troubled economy as against the economic boost, if any, resulting from the commission’s projects? And above all, how transparent the HEC been in its responsibilities? (There have been numerous scandals of corruption and irregularities in this body over the past few years.)
    But what shocked me above all is Mr. Attaur Rahman’s article Time to Save the Higher Education Commission published in The Express Tribune, April 5, 2011. After bragging about the HEC’s achievements, which are obviously debatable, and quoting personal opinions of a few in support of the HEC, Mr. Rahman rushes on to voice his hope that the country’s political as well as military leadership will intervene to save the HEC from devolution. He also immediately drops a line to the attention of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court to take a suo motu notice of the commission’s devolution case. In two lines, the ex-chairman of the HEC suggests another conflict between the government and the two most powerful institutions of the country. Are we really going through these times?
    The Higher Education Commission at its time of creation was the result of an act of the ruling government, a lawful act meant to take the country’s education a level higher. It is entirely debatable whether the commission has been a success story or a disaster to the country’s education and economy. But it is pretty clear that a publicly elected democracy is entitled to making decisions in the interest of the nation. If a government body can be formed for a good purpose, the same entity can also be devolved, or plainly dissolved, for the same purpose. And inviting a political conflict over a non-political issue speaks more about the anxiety of the stakeholders rather than the need of the hour. At this time in our existence as a nation, the prime necessity is protecting the mandate of 17 hundred million people of this country. To Mr. Rahman’s kind attention, therefore, I suggest that it’s time to save our democracy not an entity that comes far below a democratic state.
    This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com

    Read more: http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/305450#ixzz1IugISVi0

  • One of the major causes of corruption is centralization. Access to large sums of money at the centre makes it attractive for power elites to position “their”men in authority to offer patronage to “their” favorites.

    Decentralization reduces the size of the pots making them less attractive and less prone to corrupt practice. Decentralization allows more visibility of how money is spent at lower levels.
    Provincial HECs would be forced to compete and practice good governance to retain their moral authority. With only one HEC there is no yardstick for comparison. For continuous on-going improvement in any system an in built competition mechanism is necessary.
    Money for education should be spread more evenly throughout Pakistan.

    The disproportionate amounts being spent on subsidizing higher education would be better spent on universal school education. Currently there is a grave imbalance give the size of each student population.

    Higher education should be demand driven from a vibrant universal school system. HEC style supply driven higher education benefits individuals more than it benefits the nation. Those individuals are also attracted abroad for better financial and academic growth.

    Education impacts all sections of society at all levels. Everyone must remain involved. That includes parents, communities, politicians, and professionals from all sections of society.

    Even in India there are demands to change the management structure of higher education and dissolve the UGC.
    I personally would like to see the HEC mandate devolved and restructured, but only after the alternative has been agreed through open public and Parliamentary debate.
    Perceptions of political vengeance against HEC must be removed. That will only happen if the issue is debated and the outcome satisfies all stakeholders.

    Fasih Bokhari