By Aijaz Ahmed
Islamabad: The country witnessed a high drama in the past few weeks as certain people with vested interests, some pro-establishment media hawks, bureaucrats and few so-called intellectuals created uncalled for hype and misgivings against the government decision to devolve the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan & hand over some of its powers to the provinces according to the 18th Constitutional Amendment. The opposition has cowed down the present government, weak as it is, and it may delay the devolution of a federal agency, which doesn’t have any justification to exist anymore. The education is a provincial subject and all the relevant subjects need to be transferred to the provinces, sooner the better.
Higher Education Commission like all other federal departments and agencies has been widely accused of following policies detrimental to smaller provinces. It is also accused of gross injustices in awarding scholarships and carrying out other projects completely ignoring the smaller provinces.
HEC officials at times have denied any bias against smaller provinces but its decisions tell a different story. A major injustice to smaller provinces has been revealed in the award of the scholarships just last year.
The commission in its sixteenth meeting last year decided to award scholarships for higher education at foreign universities under International Research Support Initiative Program (IRSIP). Out of the total of 61 scholarships, no scholarship was awarded to any university in Balochistan while only one scholarship was awarded to a student from the University of Karachi, Sindh. 36 scholarships went to Punjab, 19 to Islamabad and 5 to Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa.
The confirmed scholarships were awarded in the fields of Agriculture & Veterinary Sciences (8), Biological & Medical Sciences (5), Physical Sciences (11), Engineering (1), while conditional scholarships were awarded in the fields of Agriculture & Veterinary Sciences (11), Biological & Medical Sciences (13), Physical Sciences (3), Engineering (5), and Social Sciences (4)
The confirmed scholarships in Agriculture & Veterinary Sciences were warded to Omar Hafeez Malik (University of agriculture Faisalabad), Hafiz Mahkum Hammad (University of Agriculture Faisalabad), Shahbaz Ahmed (University of Agriculture Faisalabad), Syed Shahid Hussain Shah (University of Agriculture Faisalabad), Amir Raza (NIBGE, Agriculture University Faisalabad), Hamid Mustafa (University of Veterinary & Animal Sciences Lahore, Musarat Shaheen (NIBGE, Agriculture University Faisalabad) and Ghulam Shabir (NIBGE, Agriculture University Faisalabad). Five Scholarships for Biological and Medical Sciences were awarded to Akhtar Rasool (NIBGE, Agriculture University Faisalabad), Arif Mehmood Khan (NIBGE, Agriculture University Faisalabad), Mohammad Asif Ali (University of Veterinary & Animal Sciences Lahore), Muhammad Sajjad (University of Punjab) and Noor-us-Saba Aijaz Butt (University of Punjab, Lahore). Confirmed Scholarships in the field of Physical Sciences were awarded to Fazal Akbar (University of Peshawar), Javed Ali Khan (University of Peshawar), Amir Badshah (Quid e Azam (University Islamabad), Maria Saadia (University of Peshawar), Adnan Ali (The Islamia University of Bahawalpur), Aysha Kausar Malik (Quid e Azam University Islamabad), Azra Yaqub (Quid e Azam University Islamabad), Shehla Parveen (The Islamia University Bahawalpur), Sara Aftab (QUA, Islamabad), Abid Ali (QUA, Islamabad), Andaleeb Azam (University of Peshawar) and for Engineering only one confirmed scholarship was awarded and that too was to University of Punjab.
According to the HEC record, Conditional Scholarships were awarded to Muhammad Asif Idrees (Lahore), Ghulam Rasool (Faisalabad), Shaista Javaid (Faisalabad), Muhammad Arshad (Faisalabad), Muhammad Yusuf Ali (Faisalabad), Sardar Bacha (faisalabad), shahid Masood Shah (NIBGE, Faisalabad), Muhammad Tahir and Rahim Ullah, Pakistan Institute of Engineering and Applied (PIEPS) and Saeed Ahmed and Muther Mansoor Qaisrani of Quid e Azam University Islamabad. Conditional scholarships for the students of Biological and Medical Sciences were distributed among Saira Ali, Hina Jabeen, Muhammad Shahid, Romana Iftekhar, Muhammad Atif iqbal, and Rakhshinda Sadiq from NIBGE Agriculture University Faisalabad, Naila Safdar, Saad Ullah Khan, Gulab Sher, Umm e Kalsoom, and Bushra Khan from Quid e Azam University Islamabad.
All three conditional scholarships were awarded to Saima Kalsoom, Hanif ur Rehman, and Misbah Mumtaz of Quid e Azam University Islamabad. Five conditional scholarships in the field of engineering were awarded to Asim Shahzad (University of Engineering & Technology, Taxila) Atif Aslam (NIBGE, University of Agriculture Faisalabad) and Ata ur Rehman, Khizar Hayat and Ata ur Rehman Makhdoom of PIEAS.
Four Conditional Scholarships for higher education in social sciences were awarded to Muhammad Nauman Abbasi (Bahauddin Zakria University Multan), Muhammad Islam Shah of Karachi University, Muhammad Anwer, Karachi University, and Khadija Aziz of University of Peshawar.
The HEC record clearly indicates that only five scholarships were given to Peshawar University and no student from Gomal University was awarded such scholarship from KPK. No single scholarship had been awarded to politically alienated and troubled province of Balochistan, while Sindh had been awarded only one scholarship and that was conditional and was awarded to Karachi University. Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan were completely ignored while Seraiki belt of Punjab had also been met with similar treatment as only three scholarships were awarded to politically ignored and socially backward Seraiki belt. Rest was given either to Lahore, Faisalabad or Islamabad while Pothohar region, the nursery for army recruitment was also given two scholarships.
It is to remind that the Parliament through 18th Constitutional Amendment had devolved certain functions of HEC and only a Commission will remain at center under federal list to check standard of education. The decision was challenged at Supreme Court, which till the new legislation asked HEC to continue working. Meanwhile the HEC bosses while taking advantage of situation indulged in the propaganda and the Chairman Javaid Laghari himself claimed that the government’s decision has resulted in stoppage of heavy US Aid funding to HEC for its projects in different fields, but the claim was refuted and rejected immediately by US Embassy in Islamabad.