No extension: Hunt for new HEC chairman to start soon

ISLAMABAD: Hope dies for an extension in tenure of Higher Education Commission (HEC) Chairperson Dr Mukhtar Ahmed as the government is likely to start the process of selecting a new chief for the federal body overseeing higher education and research.

“It has been decided in principle and a summary has been sent to Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi to form a search committee for selecting a new HEC chairperson,” said a source in the Ministry of Education on the condition of anonymity as he was not authorised to speak on the matter.

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The four-year term of the incumbent chief is going to expire on April 2018. Ahmed is the third chairperson of the HEC, formed by the former military ruler General Pervez Musharraf.

The first HEC chief, Dr Attaur Rehman, was appointed by Musharraf in 2002 while its second chief, Dr Javed Laghari, was appointed by the Pakistan Peoples Party government in 2009.

Laghari was denied extension by Nawaz Sharif in August 2013 but the post remained vacant for seven months until Dr Ahmed’s appointment through a selection board in April 2014.

The source said Minister for Education and Professional Trainings Baligur Rehman was not in favor of giving Ahmed an extension and suggested initiating the process of appointment through a search committee to avert any controversy.

He said the summary was sent to the PM earlier this week, adding that the minister for education requested PM Abbasi in a meeting on Friday that he might not be made head of the search committee.

“Rehman wishes that Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal, who had chaired the search committee that selected Dr Ahmed in 2014, be made head of the new committee also,” he added.

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Balighur Rehman confirmed to The Express Tribune that a summary had been sent to the PM who was expected to form the committee within due time to avert the delay in appointment of the HEC chief. He, however, refused to comment further.

According to sources, the ministry has also recommended a few names for the search committee. These include former education minister Sania Nishtar and former diplomat Shams Kasim Lakha among others.

When another source was asked about the status of current chairperson, he said if he applied for the seat and met the criterion, he could get reelected, but due process had to be followed.

Some 103 applications had been received when HEC chief was being picked in 2014. Of these, 21 names were shortlisted and 18 of them were called for interview by the search committee.

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