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February 26, 2013

Sindh quietly makes law to de-fang HEC

February 26, 2013

ISLAMABAD: With parliament and the ECP at loggerheads over the issue of fake degrees, the Sindh Assembly has passed a new law to make the federal Higher Education Commission totally irrelevant in relation to the Sindh province by setting up its own provincial HEC that has been given all the powers, including the authority to verify degrees awarded by any institution in the world.
The new legislation was passed last week and according to sources approved by the acting governor, has seriously dented the authority of the HEC, which has been at the receiving end from the federal and provincial governments and parliament following its courageous stance over the issue of verification of degrees of MPs since 2010. Now only the provincial HEC would verify the degrees of MPs from Sindh.
With this move, the sources said that even the issue concerning the dubious degrees issued by the University of Sindh would also culminate in favour of the influential MPs from the province, including the relative of one of the most powerful men in the government.
This is also a classic case where a provincial law would override the federal law. Additionally, the provincial assembly has made an effort to take away the powers and functions of a federal body protected by the Constitution.
The move is being seen not only as a violation of the Constitution and the Supreme Court’s order but is also seen as a case of contempt of court because already the issue of setting up the provincial HEC was pending before the Sindh High Court with the next hearing due on March 5.
According to sources, the 18th Amendment contains specific provisions regarding the function of HEC as a federal body. In the Fourth Schedule [Article 70(4)]: Federal Legislative List Part I, Items 16 and 17 address issues such as research and foreign students, while the Fourth Schedule [Article 70(4)]: Federal Legislative List Part II, Items 6, 7, 11, 12 and 13 deal with other core functions of the HEC including

regulation of higher education, national planning, coordination of scientific and technical research, legal, medical and other professions, standards in institutions of higher education and research as well as scientific and technical institutions, verification of degrees and inter-provincial matters and coordination.
The Supreme Court, in its recent order, had said that the status of the federal HEC, as it has been assigned to it under HEC Ordinance 2001 with its function covered by the Constitutional provisions namely entries at Sr. Nos 16, and 17 of the Part-I and Sr 7, 11 and 12 of Part-II of the Federal Legislative list, shall remain intact unless the same is changed by promulgation of some legislation in this behalf.
The Sindh Assembly has passed a law on February 21, 2013 forming the provincial Higher Education Commission to control the provincial universities. At present, the federal HEC that was set up in 2002 under a federal ordinance is responsible for all the universities, including the provincial universities.
The Sindh law minister is reported to have stated that after the 18th Amendment, higher education had already been devolved to the provinces. He deliberately chose to ignore the decision of the Supreme Court dated April 12, 2011, which had clearly declared the attempted devolution of HEC to the provinces by the federal government illegal, and had ruled that the Higher Education Commission was fully protected under the Constitution.
The HEC functions that include research, professional or technical training, planning and coordination of scientific and technological research, legal, medical and other professions, and standards in institutions for higher education and research, scientific and technical institutions as well as inter-provincial matters and co-ordination etc, have now been given to the provincial HEC.
Degree attestation has been taken away from the federal HEC. Moreover, the tenure of chairperson HEC Sindh has been set for four years besides giving him the status of a minister. However, at the federal level, the PPP government is supporting a draft bill wherein the tenure of chairman HEC (federal) is recommended to be reduced from four to three years besides taking away from the chairman the status of a federal minister.

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