First Letter to the Prime Minister regarding Appointment of Chairperson HEC

Mr. S. Khaqan Abbasi 10 May 2018
Prime Minister of Pakistan
PM Secretariat, Islamabad


Subject: Appointment of Chairperson HEC


Most respectfully I would like to bring to your kind attention the following considerations with regard to the subject mentioned above:

  1. The Higher Education Commission (HEC) was set up under an Ordinance in 2002 which stated at the very outset that the HEC was being set up “in the interest of improvement and promotion of higher education.”  Higher education in the preceding phrase can only be interpreted as higher education in Pakistan
  2. The Chairman HEC is a public sector position carrying the status of a Minister of State.
  3. The Prime Minister of Pakistan is the “Controlling Authority” of HEC under the HEC Ordinance 2002.
  4. The Chairman HEC is to be appointed by the Controlling Authority.
  5. According to the said Ordinance “Higher Education” is defined as “education at bachelor’s and higher level degree courses, including post graduate certificates, diplomas and research and development activities.”  Higher Education here can only mean Higher Education in Pakistan and the degrees, diplomas, certificates, etc. refer to degrees, diplomas, certificates, etc. awarded by Pakistani higher education institutions.
  6. According to the HEC Ordinance 2002, Chairman HEC shall be a person of “international eminence and proven ability who has made a significant contribution to higher education as a teacher, researcher or administrator.”

    It is quite clear that the Ordinance is Pakistan specific and therefore Higher Education means Higher Education in Pakistan. Further “proven ability” should mean ability proved in a Pakistani institution or institutions.  Consequently, the bulk of the teaching and administrative as well as research contribution of anyone being appointed as Chairperson HEC is Pakistan specific in the sense of having predominantly been carried out in Pakistan. It will not make any sense to appoint an individual as Chairperson HEC who has spent all or most of his or her professional life abroad as such an experience will not impart any deep understanding of the problems of Pakistani higher educational institutions.

  7. The undersigned has spent a total of 44 plus years (Oct 1972-Dec 2016) as a teacher, administrator and researcher in the University of the Punjab. The undersigned is a teacher and researcher by choice. The academic and co-curricular career of the undersigned was such that the undersigned could have most easily secured admission in UET after F.Sc., could have joined the Armed Forces (two of my class-fellows having risen to the rank of corps commander), and could have done very well in the Civil Services examinations (as those of my contemporaries who ended up in the DMG would vouch). This is being stated for the simple reason that the views of the undersigned are based on experience as well as a deep world view that led the undersigned into the academic profession at a time when very few people in this country comprehended the significance of Knowledge of Nature as the prime generator of human power and wealth. The views of the undersigned may therefore, graciously, be given serious consideration. 
  8. In view of the above, the undersigned asserts that without a long and distinguished experience of working as a teacher, researcher and administrator in Pakistani higher education institutions, an individual can neither deeply comprehend the problems of our higher education nor grasp and feel the qualities required to provide leadership in higher education. How can a person who has never worked in Pakistani courts understand what are the problems of the legal community and what are the qualities required to be a good judge in this country? How can he or she evaluate who is suitable to be appointed to the judiciary? How can a person who has never been an HoD, a Professor, Dean, a Vice Chancellor or Rector, pick up a Vice Chancellor or a Chairperson HEC?
  9. The remarks in the foregoing paragraph have been made with the intent of raising the following question: Does any person in the Search Committee for the recommendation of a panel of Chairperson HEC satisfy the criterion laid out above? The answer is clearly no. And I will establish it by taking up the qualifications, in this regard, of each of the 5 members of the Search Committee which has carried out this exercise.

    Mr. S. Babar Ali Convenor: Mr. S. Babar Ai is a businessman who has, on the side, set up highly profitable Grammar Schools for children of the rich, and the much touted LUMS, which was set up with considerable funds from foreign donor agencies. These agencies include the well-known CIA front known as USAID. What is the highest degree held by Mr. S. Babar Ali? Has he ever been a Professor, an HoD, a Dean, or VC or Chairman HEC? What entitles him to be the Convenor of such a Committee? Is being close to the Sharif family and the CIA front USAID (which has been given offices in LUMS to carry out its “activities”) enough to qualify a person to be a Convenor of a Search Committee for Chairperson HEC (or VCs of public sector universities)? If setting up successful educational business is the criterion, why a man over 90? Why not other entrepreneurs?

    Ms. Shahnaz Wazir Ali: Ms. Shahnaz Wazir Ali is social activist with a Masters in Education from Arkansas, is a PPP politician, a former MNA, a former Federal Minister, and a former Special Assistant to PM Raja Pervaiz Ashraf. She was briefly appointed as Chairperson HEC once even though she had no working experience as an HoD, Professor, Dean or VC in any university.

    Dr. Faisal Bari, Associate Professor LUMS: Mr. Faisal Bari is said to be a favourite of Mr. Shahbaz Sharif. What sense does it make to put an Associate Professor on a Search Committee for Chairperson HEC? It is not only senseless, it is outright insulting. Many serving and ex-VCs have appeared before a Committee in which an Associate Professor sits to evaluate them. Further Dr. Bari is employed by S. Babar Ali in LUMS and cannot dare to differ with the autocratic S. Babar Ali.

    Dr. Sania Nishtar: Dr. Sania Nishtar, a medical doctor and a Ph.D., has a brilliant academic career with many research publications in journals of great repute. However, she gave up a medical career to set up an NGO. She has been running her NGO for the past almost two decades. She has little or no experience of the culture and problems of our public sector universities, not because of lack of ability, but because she chose to pursue a different mission through her own NGO

    The Secretary Federal Ministry of Education and Professional Training is there as Secretary and member of the Committee. He is most likely, originally a DMG officer.

  10.  The most astonishing and disturbing thing is that not only do the five members not have the right credentials, four out of the five members are from the private sector!   Is it the private sector that will dictate to the Prime Minister, a panel of three names from which to choose one as Chairperson HEC with the rank of a Minister of State? Do we have a panel of private individuals that selects members of the higher judiciary or even civil judges?  If these things become widely known there will be an uproar. I have refrained from mentioning certain other things at this stage. I refused to appear before such an irrelevant committee and, through a letter to its Secretary, I placed my reasons on record.
  11. It is therefore no wonder that the entire proceedings of this Search Committee are highly non-transparent. There was no notified criterion of marks for qualifications, experience and interview. What was the age limit for eligibility and who decided it? By what magic wand has the Committee come up with names is known only to the committee. Probably Mr. Babar Ali held sway in this Committee and in fact some meetings of the Committee were held at his private residence in Lahore, and not in the relevant Ministry in Islamabad. Why?
  12. In view of the above I request that

    a) the above highly irrelevant committee and its recommendations be immediately scrapped

    b) a Search Committee comprising of highly eminent scholars, scientists and academician-administrators like Prof. Ataur Rehman, Dr. A.Q. Khan, etc. be constituted and the process of appointment be carried out afresh so that the higher education sector, which was doing reasonably well, is not slaughtered by inexperienced people recommended by an irrelevant committee.

With my respectful regards

Prof. Dr. Mujahid Kamran
Longest Serving VC of PU, SI, Pride of Performance, Abdus Salam Prize, National Book Council Award for Research, National Book Foundation Award on a book, former Senior Associate  Abdus Salam ICTP, Trieste (Senior Associates are “physicists from developing countries whose international standing is a factor of pride”), author of over a dozen books (some of which have won international acclaim), etc.