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Last ditch effort to save HEC from devolution
Islamabad, March 29: Making a last ditch effort for survival, the Higher Education Commission (HEC) has sent a request for a meeting with Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani, who is the controlling authority of the HEC, in which they would ask him to intervene and stop the process of devolution in the larger interest of the country.

According to well-placed sources, the PM appears to be the last ray of hope for the sinking HEC, which appears quite disappointed by the decision of the Implementation Commission. “Although the HEC has been literally wrapped up yet we intend to make one last effort to save it,” said sources.

Sources believed that the HEC at first could not be devolved as it was a federal body that comes directly under the PM. “Now when the Implementation Commission has decided to roll back the HEC, the PM is the one whom we all are looking towards,” they said.

According to sources, the HEC would make all possible efforts to save the higher education sector in the country. “We are also planning to meet the parliamentarians who have knowledge about the issue and would ask them to raise their voice against this injustice,” sources said.

It is pertinent to mention here that the HEC former chairman, Dr Atta-ur-Rahman, had written letters to President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani, however, he did not receive any response as yet. “I believe that the prime minister must intervene to save the future of Pakistan by saving HEC from devolution,” said Dr. Atta-ur-Rahman.

The HEC officials during the meeting would focus on the cover that the HEC gets under the 18th Amendment and also the role of universities in building economies. “The 18th Amendment, through the 4th Schedule (Article 70(4) of the Federal Legislative Lists Part-I and Part-II, fully supports the current powers and functions of the HEC, and includes higher education and research as federal subjects,” said sources.

According to sources, the officials would try to convince that Pakistan needs to develop critical technology for industrialisation, economic growth, energy growth, to explore map and mine natural resources, including coal at Thar, gold at Riko Deq, copper at Saindaik, gas at Qadirpur, and others yet to be explored. Pakistan needs technology for information and communication technologies; to drive its own high tech manufacturing industry; for transportation and avionics; for weather predictions so disasters like floods and tsunami are forecast and for health, agriculture, natural and applied sciences among others.

The delegation would emphasise the need for the technology to continue to protect its national assets and defend its borders. “Flanked by a hostile neighbour ten times its size, Pakistan has no choice but to be at least ten times smarter and efficient in the utilisation of its resources. Even if it had the financial resources, it is a known fact that money cannot buy everything, especially where strategic interests are concerned,” the source believed.

The source highlighted that the total science and technology workforce in Pakistan is around 130,000. Out of this, the total number of researchers & scientists is 53,000, but only 10% (about 5,300) hold PhD degrees. Eighty per cent of these PhDs (about 4,000) are in higher education institutions governed by the HEC. Of the total 53,000 researchers & scientists in Pakistan, 24% are in SS and Humanities; 24% in Natural Sciences; only 18% in Engineering; 16% in Medicine and 14% in Agriculture.

HEC Chairman Dr. Javed Laghari confirmed that a formal request for the meeting has been sent to the PM. “We have sent him the request and are very hopeful that he will give us date for a meeting on priority basis,” he added. Laghari said that the 18th Amendment provides full cover to the HEC so there was nothing against law, which they were demanding.

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