Islamabad: 28 oct:Higher Education Commission (HEC) could not enjoy its autonomous status any longer, as its functions have been divided between the two of the four newly-announced federal ministries, which apparently is a sheer violation of the Supreme Court (SC) order according to which HEC should continue working under its present status until the new legislation.
According to the information, the standards of higher education is a division announced under the federal ministry for national heritage and integration headed by Samina Khalid Ghurki, and commission for standard of higher education that comes under federal ministry of national regulations and services.
The transfer of various functions of the HEC means that the current status of the commission, which is autonomous, would be changed. According to the verdict of SC, the current status of HEC could not be changed under any circumstances until the changes are made in its legislation.
However, no changes have been made to the legislation of HEC, but it has been handed over to the newly constituted federal ministries without following any legal process. “How the functions of HEC could be transferred to any other ministry or division without changing its ordinance and without taking HEC into confidence,” said an official of the Cabinet Division.
The source believes that the move to divide various functions of HEC was a contempt of court. “Even the name of HEC could not be changed without making changes in its legislation,” said the source.
According to the 2002 Ordinance of HEC, it is an autonomous body whose controlling authority shall be prime minister or, as the case may be, the chief executive of Pakistan who may supervise the affairs of the commission.
The HEC Ordinance 2002 clearly indicates that no ministry or division could supervise the affairs of the commission; therefore, transfer of its functions to ministries means the violation of law.
Moreover, it was decided in the meeting of Council of Common Interest (CCI) that the federal government would continue to fund the Higher Education Commission (HEC) until the period of the current National Finance Commission (NFC) Award. The CCI approved financing of universities’ expenditures by the federal government till the period of the current NFC Award. But the distribution of functions among federal ministries means that HEC would not be functioning under its current status and federal government would be funding to new ministries instead of HEC directly.
Ruling out the impression that the status of HEC would be changed, a senior official of the Cabinet Division said that distribution of functions among various ministries does not mean that the status of HEC would be changed but it is just like attaching their functions to the federal ministries.
“HEC can’t represent itself in the Parliament. There has to be some attached ministry who could represent HEC in the NA as previously Education Ministry did,” the source said.
However, some other officials in the cabinet believe that Education Ministry was just a way of correspondence between the HEC and the parliament. After the devolution of Education Ministry, the correspondence between HEC and the parliament was done through Cabinet Division.
The officials believe that handing over the functions of HEC to the federal ministry would mean the end to its autonomous status, which obviously could not be done without making amendments in its constitution.
This scribe tried to contact Secretary Cabinet Division Nargis Sethi for her official version over the issue, but could not as her mobile was switched off.
Meanwhile, HEC Chairman Dr Javaid Laghari refused to make any comment over the issue and said that he was totally unaware of the development. “I could not comment anything until I get some notification from the Cabinet Division,” he said.The news.