“Chairman HEC” is a public-sector position and its status is deemed equivalent to that of Minister of State. It is one of the most important positions in country that is crucial to take country ahead. It does not fall in the ambit of security or political realm. Therefore, this position is not in the main stream discourse that is t to be critically discussed with regards to its significance, role and other attributives. Needless to say, veracious and calculated investment in higher education eventually pays back and potentially can turn the trajectory of our intellectual treasures skywards.

It is generally believed that higher education in Pakistan is fronting a multitude of silent, yet crucial crisis that can irretrievably be proved noxious for our higher education. Limited funds available to higher education and decline of quality education in Pakistani universities denote crisis. On the face of these circumstances, “Chairman HEC” appears to be a key position to confront issues of higher education in Pakistan on multiple fronts. In such a critical situation, the charge of higher education has been given to Dr. Tariq Banuri, a new chairman of HEC.

Purportedly the selection and procedure for the appointment of HEC Chairman is embedded with lamenting shortcomings. It is the procedure that demonstrates competitiveness of candidates in selection. Unfortunately, in this selection, nepotistic maneuvering reportedly outperformed procedural merits.

The search committee for the proposal and shortlisting -after interview- of candidate for the post of Chairman HEC was constituted. The committee consisting five members out of which four of the members were from private universities which are running corporate educational sector in the country

Mr. S. Babar Ali was the convener of the committee. He is considered to be a successful entrepreneur and is running highly profitable schools. There were other four members of committee namely Ms. Shahnaz Wazir Ali, Dr. Faisal Bari, Dr. Sania Nishtar and Mr. Akbar Hussain Durrani.

Ms. Shahnaz Wazir Ali is social activist with a Masters in Education from Arkansas. She is a politician associated with Pakistan People’s Party, a former MNA, a former Federal Minister, and a former Special Assistant to PM Raja Pervaiz Ashraf. She was also briefly appointed as Chairperson HEC. Dr. Faisal Bari is an Associate Professor and is teaching in LUMS, one of the most expensive private universities of Pakistan. Dr. Sania Nishtar is a medical doctor and a Ph.D having a brilliant academic career with numerous research publications in highly reputed journals. However, she chose a different career and reportedly focusing on her globally recognized NGO “Heartfile”. Mr. Akbar Hussain Durrani is a civil servant of Pakistan.

All of these members have high credentials in respective fields. Astoundingly, constitutor of committee could not bring other names of all academic stripes of public sector universities to the fore that may rightly evaluate the best deserving candidate. There are various academicians with remarkable profiles and credible credentials who could be brought on board in selection. Reportedly, the post of HEC Chairman was not advertised neither were TORs, Selection Criteria and Age stipulated. These particulars imply the inadequacies and non-transparency in selection procedure. Such designed appointments may not only cause a considerable mutilation to higher education in Pakistan but also over-shadow the public sectors universities thereby causing a multiple jolts to public sectors universities, hitherto the largest provider of higher education in the country.

Pakistan’s educational system, unfortunately, is shaped by deeply nepotistic values, discourages questioning and stresses obedience to higher authorities. It may sound stereotypical but it is the value system and merit that shapes modern education and a modern mindset built upon critical thinking. This selection must be reviewed and de novo procedure should be initiated to support inquiry and excellence, with high procedural integrity in given selection.

 

The writer is a freelance columnist and Islamabad based lawyer.

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