Saturday, 2 April 2011

Don’t Shred HEC  

(The News, April 2- 2011)


In an article published in The News (March 29), Dr A Q Khan very rightly criticised the present government for taking the suicidal step of fragmenting the Higher Education Commission into parts and distributing the pieces among the provinces. As a federal regulatory authority, it was protected under the 18th Amendment, since it was not part of the ministry of education. It was an autonomous body reporting directly to the prime minister who was its controlling authority. However, ignoring this legal aspect, politicians were alas bent upon cutting HEC to size mainly because of its merit-oriented policies and refusal to bend under pressure to declare forged degrees of corrupt politicians legal.


The world’s top science journal Nature in its editorial ‘After Musharraf’ (August 28, 2008) described the remarkable progress achieved in Pakistan through the programmes of HEC in the following words, and I quote, “his regime greatly strengthened the foundations for a Pakistani knowledge economy, instituting reforms that included bigger research budgets, an ambitious university-building programme, a nationwide digital library, a scheme to attract international faculty, and performance-related pay for professors. Many of the changes have been praised in external evaluations within the past year, including those of the World Bank, the US Agency for International Development and the British Council” unquote. It went on to say a return to the pre-Musharraf era would send Pakistan ‘back to the scientific Stone Age’.


Alas, this is exactly what the government has done. The parliamentary committee responsible for devolution under the leadership of Mr Raza Rabbani sadly decided to divide the Higher Education Commission into pieces, handing them over to the provinces. It is notable that the rapid progress in Pakistan in science and technology and higher education after 2002 sent alarm bells ringing in India at the highest levels. An article, ‘Pak Threat to Indian Science’ was published in Hindustan Times (July 23, 2006) which reported that a presentation was made to the Indian prime minister by the advisor to the Indian government, Prof C N R Rao. It began with the sentence, “Pakistan may soon join China in giving India serious competition in science.”


A nation strong in science, technology and higher education cannot be easily defeated. Fragmentation of HEC will lead to multiplicity of standards, massive corruption with greedy politicians having their eyes on university lands worth hundreds of billions and put Pakistan back at least 40 years. The Indians need not worry. As usual we Pakistanis are our own worst enemies. If ever there was a case for the president, the prime minister and the army chief to intervene, this is it, since our very future is at stake.


Prof. Dr. Atta-ur Rahman

Ex Chairperson HEC




The Higher Education Commission is being split to hand it over to the provinces. This is a sure recipe for disaster. The HEC’s role of a regulatory authority is vital to ensure standards and build a high level of manpower needed to develop a knowledgeable human resource. The fragmentation of HEC will have devastating consequences. If we aspire to join the ranks of the industrially developed countries we need to develop technology. Skill development, information and communication technology and transfer of technology to industry are three most important and essential ingredients if we wish to become a high-tech country. The HEC is working on the development of high-tech incubators which are in the pipeline at various universities.


Higher education is vital to the future development of Pakistan and every effort must be made to support this sector. This will lead to economic prosperity. The government must not destroy the only sector which seems to be working reasonably well.


Viqar ul Haq


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