ISLAMABAD: The consultative meeting of vice chancellors (VCs) called on Thursday turned out to be an embarrassment for the Higher Education Commission (HEC) as no one from Punjab and Sindh showed up.
The moot, called to discuss issues being faced after the 18th Amendment and the role of HEC, was only attended by VCs of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Islamabad and Balochistan.
The on-going tussle between the federal body and Punjab and Sindh higher education departments became a hurdle for the HEC on Thursday as both the provinces barred their VCs from participating in the meeting.
The issue, smouldering since the devolution of powers, has come out into the open in the last one year, as Sindh and Punjab’s higher education bodies have opposed the role of federal HEC in their affairs.
On Wednesday, the Punjab Higher Education Department issued a notification warning the province’s VCs against participating or commenting on any issue of devolution without its prior approval. The orders also asked them not to attend the HEC event.
It was the first time that Punjab has officially barred its VCs from participating in such events. Apart from the notification the VCs were also informed about the decision through phone calls.
Interestingly, Sindh also issued a non-verbal order telling its VCs to stay away from the Lahore event. However, heads of two medical varsities did show up in Lahore.
Punjab HED chairperson Dr Nizamuddin, while talking to The Express Tribune, said it was the provincial government and not me who released that order.
“HEC called the meeting (in our backyard) without consulting us,” he deplored. He also added that it has been agreed that the matter would be sorted out in the Council of Common Interests meeting held on December 28.
He asked, “[If HEC is concerned about devolution] then why are they not raising the issue in their governing body meeting where representatives of all provinces have a say.”
HEC Chairperson Dr Mukhtar Ahmed commented that by barring its VCs from attending the meeting, the provinces had proved his apprehension that in future with such varied bodies even one unit of federation would not accept degree of the other.
“Also the meeting was called by the VCs committee chairperson and not us as he was concerned about the devolution of HEC,” he maintained.
The CCI had formed a sub-committee for the devolution of HEC in 2015 but since then only six meetings have been held and the next meeting is expected on January 17.
In the last meeting on December 28, Punjab submitted a dossier of suggestions about the functions of the provinces. Earlier, Sindh had opposed the interference of HEC in the provinces’ matters.
Punjab Higher Education Department was set up in January 2015, while Sindh opted for an equivalent body in 2013, but both are scrambling to stay put due to bureaucratic, financial and administrative challenges.
The HEC also recently challenged Lahore High Court’s verdict in the Supreme Court. The April 27 judgment allows the provinces to develop standards as well as appointments in higher education departments that are situated in their respective locations.
Federal government has been of the view that if provincial HECs started their work in isolation then the funding from federal divisible pool will not be released.
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