ISLAMABAD – Finally, the Prime Minister, controlling authority of Higher Education Commission (HEC), came into action over illegal appointments and extensions of management position scales (MP-Scale) in Commission and removed the Executive Director Sohail Naqvi, giving additional charge to the secretary ministry of education and training.

The Establishment Division on the directives of the Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf issued a notification that said: “Secretary Ministry of Education and Training Qamar Zaman is allowed to hold additional charge of the post of Executive Director HEC with immediate effect and until further orders.”

The 17-member commission of HEC, governing body, in its 27th meeting had renewed the four-year contract of HEC Executive Director Sohail Naqvi and gave three-month extension to Advisor Human Resource Development Dr Riaz Hussain Qureshi against the rules.

Dr Sohail Naqvi, whose four-year term as ED expired on September 15, was appointed on the same position for the third time after securing successive extensions in his service. According to reports, the second tenure granted by the commission to him was also in violation of the ordinance rules.

The Prime Minister taking notice of the issue directed the HEC to hold the extension and submit a report about the whole process of extension in these appointments through Ministry of Law and Establishment Division within seven days. But the HEC, in spite of Prime Minister’s clear instruction to hold the extension, notified the extension in the services of Dr Sohail Naqvi and Dr Riaz Hussain Qureshi on September 7, 2012 in violation of PM’s order.

The matter of the extension was also referred to the Establishment Division by the Prime Minister’s Secretariat for opinion/comments and the Establishment Division, after consultations with the law division declared all the appointments/extensions in MP scales as illegal from 2004 to onwards.

The commission of HEC in its meeting on November 8 instead of implementing the Establishment Division’s decision decided to place the matter before the Prime Minister and left it to him being the controlling authority of HEC to take a final decision regarding the fate of the officials working on various positions. But the Prime Minister did not give time to HEC officials for the meeting.

The Establishment Division is of the view that the recruitments in MP Scales is the prerogative of the Prime Minister, but HEC made all such appointments without getting approval from him and even extended their services in violation of set rules and procedures.

The higher management of HEC interpreted the provisions of the HEC Ordinance 2002 wrongly and manipulated the facts for their personal benefits. In doing so they misled the members of the Commission and kept them ignorant from the factual position on the approval of the appointments and extensions in the MP scales. The illegal extension of the Executive Director HEC has already been challenged in the Supreme Court of Pakistan through a constitutional petition.

The Human Right Cell of the Supreme Court has also taken notice of these extensions and issued notice to HEC for submitting comments. The HEC employees have also challenged the MP Scales appointments/extensions in the Islamabad High Court. Besides, the Higher Education Commission Employees (Recruitment) Rules 2009 have also not been vetted by the federal government and no approval of the Controlling Authority been sought. These rules are void and are not applicable on HEC employees.

The Senate Standing Committee on Education and Training has also expressed its severe reservations over illegal extensions in HEC. The committee in its meetings has said when the Establishment Division has declared all the appointment/extension in MP scales illegal since 2004, all the MP scales officers should have been removed from service immediately.

Dr Riaz Qureshi had also resigned from the post on October 23. Now six officials in different MP scales whose appointments have been declared as illegal working in HEC include Khwaja Azam Ali, Noor Amna, Jalil Ahmed, Zia Batool, Anees Sadozai and Anwar Amjad.

According to information the Secretary Qamar Zaman has assumed the charge and he also met with the Chairman HEC.

HEC Chairman Dr Javaid Laghari, who also heads the Commission, could not be reached out despite repeated attempts. However, the HEC handout maintained that ‘the Commission is fully empowered under the HEC Act to appoint officers, servants and advisors in the HEC’. The Commission is also empowered “to make rules for recruitment of its employees”.

The Commission noted with concern that the Establishment Division has deemed it fit to declare the actions of the Commission as “illegal.” The Commission does not find this declaration to be acceptable as the Commission has, at all times, acted within the ambit of the HEC Act. The Commission is of the view that all appointments to the HEC are within the domain of the HEC as an autonomous body.

‘It is clear that the Commission has final jurisdiction on the matter of appointment of officers of the HEC on MP Scales. The Secretariat of the Commission is bound to implement this decision of the Commission. The Commission is, therefore, not in a position to implement the order communicated via the notification’.

The statement added that an urgent request has been made for a meeting of the Commission with the Prime Minister. It is hoped that a meeting will be held at the earliest to resolve the matter.