ISLAMABAD  -   The appointment process on fourteen ‘Pakistan Chairs Abroad’ (PCA) in world’s leading universities is still uncertain as the government has not completed the selection procedure despite the passage of a year, Friday. 

The PCA were created in 1970s for the projection of a positive image of the country in different international universities and to support the national narrative on an international level.

However, sources said that mostly chairs are vacant since a decade, while the selection process for filling the chairs that started in December 2017 remains incomplete. “There is complete silence from the government on finalization of the process,” said a candidate shortlisted in the procedure on condition of anonymity.  The government in 2017 advertised the posts on PCA in 14 universities with the candidates having sound academic background in Urdu, Pakistan Studies, International relations, Political Science, History, Sociology, Iqbaliyaat or relevant subject in social sciences.   The positions advertised included eight chairs in Urdu and Pakistan Studies in the university of Beijing, Alazhar University, Egypt, Ain Shams University, Egypt, Ankara University Turkey, Tehran University Iran, Jordan University, Tribbhuvan University Khatmandu and Kazakhstan Abylai Khan University of International Relations and world language, Almaty, Kazakhstan. 

Two Quaid-i-Azam Studies chairs are in University of California Berkeley USA and Baptist University Hong Kong. The chairs also include Quaid-i-Azam Distinguished Professorship at Columbia University, USA and Quaid-i-Azam Fellowship Oxford University UK.  The government also has a chair as Allama Iqbal Fellowship at Heidlberg, Germany and one chair of Allama Iqbal Fellowship at Cambridge University UK. Sources informed The Nation that since the new government came in power the selection process which was almost on the verge of completion has been halted and the candidates are confused about the future.

One of the shortlisted candidates said that the government till the month of July in the previous year had held the final briefings of the candidates but since then there is pin drop silence and speculations are being made that the government might re-advertise the posts. Officials said that around 186 candidates had applied for the posts out of which 38 were shortlisted in the initial scrutiny and finally 28 were finalized after the interview.  “28 principal and alternate candidates were also shortlisted for 14 chairs, but later government didn’t pursue the procedure,” said a candidate.

He also said that the delay and uncertainty in the procedure has disturbed the academic and personal schedule of the candidates as they are not able to avail any other scholarship or professional opportunity.  An official said that the government conducted two interviews of the shortlisted candidates which included top officials of foreign office, cabinet division, ministry of federal education and Higher Education Commission (HEC).  Official also added that the summary of the candidates were also sent to former Prime Minister (PM) Shahid Khaqan Abbasi for the approval however the process was delayed because of end of Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) tenure.

The official added that the candidates who appeared in the selection procedure were also given travelling and dearness allowance by the government. He said that the government had also initiated the security clearance of the candidates which gave them s hope of finalization of the process.  “But now the officials are unconfirmed about the future of the appointments,” said two shortlisted candidates on the chairs. Documents with The Nation said that the candidates were called for interview in the months of January and March during the previous year, and in June they were asked to submit their documents and in July the candidates under consideration were asked to give an interview before the HEC chairman.  The official added that the process initiated by cabinet division included the ministry of federal education and foreign affairs also to serve the real purpose for which the chairs were created.

 “India has almost 250 chairs in world’s leading universities and they are never vacated,” he said. Eminent Scholar and former rector International Islamic University Prof. Dr. Fateh Muhammed Malik regarding worth of the PAC said that the chairs were established by former PM Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto after the separation of East Pakistan. He said that it was difficult to convince the foreign governments regarding establishing the chairs in their country, however Pakistan government then made it possible.  He said that the Quaid-i-Azam and Allama Iqbal chairs were established in the universities where they have studied, while Urdu chairs were set where the language Urdu was being taught.

He said unfortunately, later the governments in Pakistan instead of valuing the diplomatic significance of these chairs gave priority to ‘financial expenditures’ on them and set aside the files.

“This negligence finally created cultural space from Pakistan and it was filled by India,” he said. Prof. Dr. Fateh Muhammed Malik also said that now the universities having Urdu students hire teachers from India to fill the academic gap. The Nation contacted secretary federal education Arshad Mirza and ministry’s spokesperson Rafique Tahir for their version. Text messages were sent to both of them to tell the current status of appointments on PCA, however they didn’t respond till the filing of this story.