ISLAMABAD - Prof Dr Atta-ur-Rahman, renowned educationist, founding chairman of Higher Education Commission (HEC) and president Pakistan Academy of Sciences (PAS), on Monday filed a petition in Islamabad High Court (IHC) for the appointment of a permanent and regular chairperson of HEC through a transparent and merit based mechanism without any further delay.

A single bench of IHC comprising Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui will take up the petition here on Tuesday (today).

Dr Atta-ur-Rehman moved the petition through his counsel Mian Umer Hanif Khichi Advocate and cited principal secretary to prime minister and secretary education and standards in higher education as respondents.

In his petition, the President PAS stated that since former chairperson’s first four year term ended on August 26th, 2013, therefore the office of the Chairperson HEC has been vacant since then, which is a statutory office and most significant in role.

Mian Umer Hanif maintained that it has been explicitly laid down in section 8(3) of the HEC Ordinance 2002 that the position of HEC chairman to lie vacant for a maximum of three months and it is mandatory that after 90 days, regular chairperson must be appointed.

He added that the HEC is the Pakistan’s sole higher education regulatory authority responsible for accreditation of new and existing universities, degree awarding institutions, institutes of higher education, and academic programmes, and is also responsible for funding (both development and recurring), planning and development, establishing new universities, recognition and equivalency of degrees (both local and foreign), setting policy guidelines, such as in the appointment and promotion of faculty and professors, research, quality assurance, faculty development programmes, and in improving the standard of university education in the country.

He informed the court that the academic circles, vice chancellors of the various universities, academic staff associations, students and the public at large, who are the key stakeholders, had already expressed reservations on non-initiation of process for appointment of permanent/regular chairman HEC.

“The education experts and stakeholders believe that delay in the appointment is badly damaging the higher education sector as HEC chairman along with the 17 member HEC board, called the commission, takes the key decisions regarding all policy matters as described in above-stated paragraphs and in the functioning of national universities and higher education institutions,” maintained the petitioner.

He continued that the said issue has also been highlighted from time to time in print and electronic media but till date government has failed to take any decision and due to lack of interest of government, HEC is working without any regular Chairman.

Dr Atta said that the regular Chairperson, HEC has not been appointed by the government and due to non-appointment of regular/permanent Chairman, HEC is hampering important decisions, policy matters and its implementation and the higher education sector, comprising of over 150 universities, 258 campuses, 1.2 million students, 32,000 faculty members, including over 7600 PhD faculty, and administrative/support staff of over 100,000.

“The meetings of the “Commission” has also not convened due to vacant position of Chairperson, HEC as well as vacant positions of seven board members of HEC is also delayed owing to non-availability of permanent chairman. HEC Ordinance 2002 requires the “Commission” to meet at least twice in a financial yea. The “Commission” has not met even once in the last six months due to non-availability of a regular/permanent Chairman,” informed the counsel.

He argued that as per HEC Ordinance 2002, all the key decisions related to higher education has to be taken by the Commission’s board which is headed by its Chairman and the Secretariat acts as the executing wing of the Commission w

hich is responsible for implementation of all the orders, decisions, directives of the board as per Section: 1 and 2 of the HEC Ordinance, 2002.

“It is also important to point out that Pakistan is the only South Asian country where, its Higher Education regulatory body, is currently working under acting Chairperson instead of permanent Chairman, HEC as compared to Nepal, Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka, whose Chairmen hold the following qualifications: PhD, person of international eminence and significant contribution to higher education,” he maintained.

Through the petition, Dr Atta-ur-Rehman prayed that the respondents may be directed to appoint a qualified person of international eminence and proven ability who has made significant contribution to higher education as teacher, researcher or administrator, as regular Chairperson, HEC for a period of four years, on such terms and conditions as it may determine in a transparent manner, immediately as prescribed under the law.