ISLAMABAD - Federal Ministry of Education has apparently put his weight behind federal and provincial universities to keep the administrative control of Area Study Centres (ASCs), sources said on Wednesday.

The senate standing committee on Federal Education and Professional Training (FE&PT) discussed “the Area Study Centre (Amendment) Bill, 2017” moved by Syed Muzafar Hussain Shah. The bill mover urged the committee to handover the administrative control of ASCs to ministry of foreign affairs.

The meeting was attended by chairperson committee Senator Rahila Magsi, Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed, Senator Manzoor Ahmed, Senator Nauman Wazir Khattak, Senator Prof Dr Mehr Taj Roghani and Senator Najma Hameed.

Federal education minister Shaqat Mehmood and Higher Education Commission (HEC) senior officials also attended the meeting.

Mover of the bill, Senator Muzaffar Hussain Shah, raising the objection on the administrative control of the ASCs with FE&PT said that the control must be handed over to the ministry of foreign affairs to serve the right purpose of these centers.

However the ministry presenting the performance of ASCs after the 18th constitutional amendment advocated keeping the status-qou maintained.

The ASCs were established in mid of 1970s to work as think tank to support the government of foreign affairs and national security matters.

There are around six ASCs established in federal and provincial universities and working independently but affiliated with the universities.

ASCs include, ASC for Africa, North and South America, Quaid-i-Azam University (QAU) ASC for South Asian Studies, University of Punjab (UoP), ASC for Middle East & Arab Countries, University of Balochistan  (UoB), ASC for Russia, China and Central Aisa, University of Peshawar, ASC for Far East & Southeast Asia, University of Sindh (UoS) and ASC for Europe, University of  Karachi (UoK).

The senators in the meeting though unanimously put their weight to amend the law and hand over the ASCs to ministry of foreign affairs, but the government side opposed the argument.

Senator Muzafar Hussain Shah told the meeting that ASCs were established as autonomous bodies under the Prime Minister however after the 18th constitutional amendment they were devolved to education ministry and the universities.

“Now they are working like departments of the universities which are conflicting with the aims and objectives of these ASCs,” he said.

He urged that the committee to recommending elimination of section 9-A from the act of ASCs and restore their earlier status.

He said that the purpose of ASCs was to feed foreign office conducting research and the administrative control of universities should be ended on ASC.

“These ASCs should be brought under the administrative control of ministry of foreign affairs,” he said.

Majority of the senators’ side including Mushahid Hussain Syed, Mehr Taj and Nauman Wazir Khattak immediately endorsed the argument and stressed on handing over the ASCs to ministry of foreign affairs.

However, federal education minister said that federal government had constitutional powers to transfer the centers to any university.

He said that HEC has been funding all ASCs after the 18th amendment, while publications and grant both have been increased in last 16 years.

Minister said that ASC at QAU in 27 years of pre amendment period received Rs34million funds, while after 2002 in 16 years it was given Rs263million for research.

He also said that number of M Phill also increased from 75 to 198 in pre and post amendment period at QAU ASC. Number of PhDs increased from two to five.

ASC UoP received Rs51million before amendment and 298million after it, while it produced 28 PhDs also in post amendment period, which was none before it.

Funds of UoB ASC were increased from Rs21miilion to 179million in post amendment period while it also produced 08PhDs after it.

ASC University of Peshawar was given Rs3million before amendment while the grant was increased to 365million after it. The ASC also produced 33PhDs after amendment.

ASC UoS was given Rs 47million funds before 2002 while the amount was increased to 328million after it. This ASC also produced 10 PhDs after the amendment.

The ASC UoK had received Rs19million before 2002 while the amount was increased to 284million after the amendment and it produced one PhD also.

“The indications show that transferring of ASCs has brought exponential positive change in the performance of ASCs,” said minister.

Vice-Chancellor (VC) QAU Prof. Dr. Mohammad Ali Shah said that VC has no administrative role on QAU and they completely work as autonomous body.

He added the position of the director of ASC QAU has been advertised and he is the director is the chief executive of the centre.

Chairperson committee recommended to further discuss the matter in next meeting and delayed the passing of the bill.