ISLAMABAD - The first meeting of the committee set up by the Prime Minister to resolve the budgetary issues of the universities was held on Tuesday wherein the members of the committee deliberated the issues of universities to rationalise their demands for final decision by the PM. Dr Nadeem ul Haq, Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission chaired the meeting. Other members who attended the meeting include Chairperson HEC Dr Javaid R Laghari, HEC Member Operation and Planning Dr Mukhtar Ahmed, Additional Secretary Education, advisor to PM on Social Sector Shehnaz Wazir Ali, Dr Samar Mubarakmand, Member Science & Technology, Planning Commission and ex-Chairman National Engineering & Scientific Commission (NESCOM) and three vice chancellors namely Dr Saeeda Asadullah, VC Fatima Jinnah Women University, Dr Pirzada Qasim Raza Siddiqui, VC University of Karachi and Imtiaz Hussain Gillani, VC UET Peshawar. During the meeting the vice chancellors and representatives of HEC presented three major issues which need to be resolved urgently before the committee including non-payment of 50 per cent raise and 15 per cent medical allowance to the employees of universities, continuation of support to scholars studying abroad and in local universities, payments for the default of the last financial year which amounts to about Rs.5 billion and completion of development projects which are near completion. Sources privy to the meeting informed that the officials of the commission were asked to rationalise their projects and needs and it also came under discussion that whether the university employees should be given salary raise or not as the universities are autonomous bodies. The vice chancellors and officials of the HEC told the meeting that merely for the payment of raise in the salaries to the employees they need about 7 billion rupees which the government has not allocated in the budget of the current financial year and allocated only Rs. 23 billion for the fiscal year 2010-11 in terms of non-development budget. The committee was also informed that if the government releases the amount 15.7 billion as pledged in the budget, the scholars studying abroad and in the country under the human resource development programme of HEC would not leave their studies incomplete, the projects which have been completed 90 per cent would be completed and the contractors who are all set to move the courts against the non-payment of their dues would be paid. The representative of the Planning Commission would forward the demands of the universities which need to be met urgently to the PM through Finance Minister who would finally take the decision regarding the issue. The next meeting of the committee would be held on Thursday. Meanwhile, on the call of Federation of All Pakistan Universities Academic Staff Associations (FAPUASA) the universities employees including faculty members and non-teaching employees would boycott classes and hold rallies on Wednesday (today) to protest against the refusal of Dr Hafeez Shaikh to release pledged allocations for the universities. The vice chancellors have been fearing that if the government does not allocate Rs. 7.5 billion to give raise in salaries of the employees like it has allocated for all the government employees as announced in the budget, the employees of the universities would refuse to work and offices of the universities would be closed down.