ISLAMABAD - Chairman Higher Education Commission (HEC), Dr Javaid Laghari, who is one of the potential candidates for the slot of the chairman for the second time, is hopeful that he would get a chance to serve the Commission again.

He said due to his successful policies in the past four years, the HEC has achieved a lot and has successfully delivered. Extension in tenures, allowed by law, are at the discretion of the controlling authority of HEC who is prime minister and if he feels that the incumbent chairman has performed successfully he should be given extension, opined Laghari hesitantly saying though it does not seem appropriate to praise himself. The same policy is adopted in universities and in case of unsatisfactory performance the vice chancellors are denied extensions, he added.

Dr Laghari was appointed as chairperson in 2009 for four years. The current tenure of Dr Laghari ends on Aug 27, 2013. HEC Ordinance, Article 6 (5) allows extension in the tenure of the Chairperson for one similar term. Similar extensions were given for the previous chairperson Dr Atta-ur-Rahman (one similar term), and all other members of the Commission.

He is a PhD in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the US and has attended two NATO Advanced Study Institutes in Italy and UK, which are only attended by the top 100 scientists from NATO countries. Prior to that he was former full tenured Professor and Director at SUNY Buffalo, NY (1980-1995), one of the leading research universities of the world.

Dr Laghari has an outstanding research record with over 200 publications and three books. Dr Laghari has won many laurels, including the distinguished Leadership Award 1987, the IEEE Award for Leadership and Dedicated Services, 1994, and the national civil award 'Tamgha-e-Imtiaz' conferred by the President of Pakistan in 1998 under the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

He believes despite financial hardships, degree verification issue and controversy over management position scales (MP-Scales) appointments and extensions and its autonomy, HEC is today recognised as a success story among various global higher education communities, and all institutions in Pakistan, including the media, Supreme Court, diplomatic community, donor agencies, civil society, and the educated youth.

"Under my tenure since 2009 and as a result of a number of revolutionary reforms, a number of successes for HEC and the universities in Pakistan have been achieved. While no university was ranked globally in 2010, 4 were ranked in the top 300 in 2011, 6 in 2011, and 7 in the top 250 in 2012. This was the result of the leadership's focus on quality teaching and research, and in helping the universities build up its capacity," he said.

He said HEC has for the first time initiated a number of new programmes including the Outreach Offices of Research, Innovation and Commercialisation (26 have been established just in the last three years - while none existed before that - whose main focus is to establish the bridge between the university and the industry and the corporate world.  8 Business and Technology Incubators have been established in the last 2 years.

At the World Economic Forum at Davos in Jan 2013, Pakistan was recognised as making a significant growth in higher education and research. This was the fourth consecutive year that Pakistan achieved a positive growth in these two indicators, while all other sectors were down.

But during his tenure, the HEC also endured many controversies and the Commission was criticised for misrepresenting the governing commission over extension of Dr Sohail Naqvi, ex-executive director (ED) HEC for the third tenure which caused unrest among the academia and more than 700 employees of HEC during the month of November and December 2012. And the chairman also failed to implement Federal Audit serious observation on MP-Scales appointments and recoveries as the Establishment Division has declared all the appointment/extension in MP scales illegal since 2004.

But the HEC Chairman argues that according to the Supreme Court judgement, HEC governing commission has the powers of appointments and extensions and the apex court also endorsed it by sending packing the Ministry of Education and Training Secretary Qamar Zaman that was appointed by the Establishment Division as HEC ED.

He says the Commission exercised its powers as mentioned in HEC Ordinance that shall remain intact unless the same are changed by promulgation of some legislation.

Regarding the grievances of the employees who say that in his tenure for the first time an FIR was lodged against them during the protests against Sohail Naqvi's extension, Dr Laghari maintained that he just took disciplinary action as employees had broken his office door and entered the room where Commission members were sitting with him and an FIR was lodged on the directions of the Supreme Court when he narrated the story before the court.

On the recent ranking of universities that has created unrest among the universities he said, out of 145 universities only three have some reservations regarding ranking and it methodology. Before the initiation of the ranking the criteria and methodology were discussed with the universities in a dialogue but these universities did not took part in the process and now they should not object over it.