ISLAMABAD: Parliament’s revenge against the Higher Education Commission (HEC) for its laudable role in identifying the fake degree holding MPs will not only destroy the higher education structure, built in decades, but also threatens huge and committed $550m (Rs47 billion) in foreign assistance.
Informed government sources told The News that the USAID had hinted on Friday of keeping on hold the committed $250 million assistance under the Kerry-Lugar Act to establish three centres of excellence besides pursuing certain other potential goals for higher education development in the country.
Already, the World Bank, which has only recently approved $300 million soft loan for the HEC to support its various programmes for the next five years, has verbally told the commission’s bosses to wait as the Bank is unsure about the future of the HEC.
The sources said that the USAID, in its communication with the HEC officials, has indicated of not doing the cost reimbursement PIL for the next six months because of a meeting the USAID had with the Economic Affairs Division, which has told the American agency that the HEC is going to be devolved.
Out of the $250 million, so far only $45 million has been transferred to the HEC by the USAID, which had agreed to hand over to the HEC all the education related programmes handled by the US Financial Assistance Development (FAD) programme. Now for the HEC officials, all the committed US aid for the HEC is frozen.
The sources said that under the USAID assistance programme, the HEC had designed to set up three centres of excellence (CoE), including the CoE in water resource at the Mehran University of Engineering and Technology, the CoE in food security at the University of Agriculture, Faisalabad, and the CoE in energy at the University of Engineering and Technology, Peshawar.
Already, as reported, the Higher Education Commission (HEC) would lose 300 million dollars of loan approved by the World Bank (WB) to support its various programmes for the next five years.
According to the report, the $300 million equivalent credit was supposed to finance the government’s tertiary education development programme. It is said that the loan deal would automatically come to an end after the devolution of the HEC due to some legal implications. “There is a clause in the agreement between the WB and HEC that any change in the legal status of the HEC would end the agreement at once,” the reporter quoted HEC Executive Director Dr Sohail Naqvi as saying. This is a soft loan.
The HEC is facing the wrath of the parliamentarians after it had refused to accept any pressure for the verification of the MPs’ degrees, more than 50 of which have already been declared invalid whereas above 200 degrees were termed suspected.
The federal and provincial governments and members of parliament and provincial assemblies exerted all sorts of pressure on the HEC to stop it from the verification work but to no avail. Later, more than 200 MPs refused to cooperate despite the apex court’s decision, refusing to provide to the HEC or the universities concerned the details of their qualification certificates and degrees to stop their verification by the HEC.
Apparently, the HEC is being considered for devolution under the garb of the 18th Amendment; however, many believe that the subject of higher education was never a part of the Concurrent List but of the Federal Legislative List of the Constitution.
The Raza Rabbani-led Implementation Commission is reported to have made up its mind to devolve the Higher Education Commission (HEC) to the provinces amid reported threats of some federal ministers and IC members to the HEC bosses that the commission’s powers would be clipped no matter what the 18th Amendment says.
Many are surprised over the conduct of Raza Rabbani, one of the most decent and rational voices in today’s PPP, who is said to be supporting the devolution of the HEC when the cabinet even decided to retain certain functions of the Education Ministry at the federal level. Experts insist that the HEC and the education ministry are two different entities and could not be clubbed as one for the purpose of making choice devolution.
In its meeting on March 28, 2011, the federal cabinet, instead of devolving all functions of the Education Ministry, decided to retain several of them at the federal level by assigning these functions to different ministries and divisions like the cabinet and foreign ministry.