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HEC crisis | Municipal Library Islamabad

ISF warns of movement over HEC issue
Islamabad, Jan 30: Insaf Student Federation (ISF) has warned of launching a countrywide 'remove government, save education' movement if the PPP-led federal government introduced a bill for controlling autonomy of Higher Education Commission (HEC) in the parliament.

Addressing a press conference at ISF's central secretariat here on Tuesday, ISF President Farrukh Habib said that the student wing of PTI would knock every door, including the Supreme Court, to protect HEC from the PPP and its coalition partners 'who wanted to teach HEC a lesson over fake degrees issue.'

Terming passing the bill by the standing committee unconstitutional, Farrukh claimed that the government did not even get approval from Council of Common Interest (CCI) in this regard. He said controlling autonomous status of HEC was meant to play with the future of thousands of students who were studying higher education on scholarships in the country and abroad.

The ISF president said the HEC was investigating into degrees of around 400 parliamentarians and many of them had fake degrees. He said the government wanted to save them from being victim of Articles 62 and 63 to clear their way to contest coming general election.

He warned that if the government did not restrain itself from introducing such bill in the parliament, the ISF would launch a countrywide protest movement.

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Senator S M Zafar supports HEC stance
Islamabad: In his legal opinion regarding Higher Education Commission (HEC) Amendment Bill 2012, Senator S M Zafar has supported the HEC stance that constitutionally any legislation regarding HEC requires to be first considered by the Council of Common Interests CCI.

Sources in HEC said that Senator S M Zafar, who was among the main architects of 18th Amendment, conveyed this legal opinion to HEC on Monday. His legal opinion has strengthened the stance of Higher Education Commission which has been explained in the position paper of HEC submitted to the National Assembly Committee.

The HEC has taken the stance that 18th Amendment fully supports the current powers and functions of the HEC so it is essential that HEC is retained as a federal organisation in the strategic interest of Pakistan.

It says that 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 and interprovincial matter and coordination.

The Council of Common Interests is formed under Article 153 of the Constitution and is comprised of the prime minister, chief ministers of the provinces, and three members from the government. The functions of the Council of Common Interest (CCI) are enumerated under Article 154 of the Constitution as, "The Council shall formulate and regulate policies in relation to matters in Part II of the Federal Legislative List and shall exercise supervision and control over related institutions."

It says that anything which comes under Part II of the Federal Legislative List has to be regulated by CCI. "Since various functions of HEC fall within part II of the Federal Legislative List, the HEC Ordinance cannot be amended without the prior approval of the CCI. If CCI approves an amendment of the HEC Ordinance, Parliament would then need to pass the amendment," says the position paper.

In his response to HEC, S M Zafar has pointed out that item No 12 of the Federal List (Part II) fully covers the HEC requiring any Bill to be first considered by Council of Common Interests CCI.

It says that this stance is supported by the following judgment of the Supreme Court PLD 2012 SC 224 at Page 240 which says that "The entry 38 is no longer there but with some changes it has found a place in Entry 12 of Part-II of the Federal Legislative List. It provides for standards in institutions for higher education and research, scientific and technical institutions. So it is a composite entry and entire issue relating to standard has also not gone to Provinces."

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Teachers concerned about move against HEC
Lahore: Punjab University Academic Staff Association (PUASA) has expressed its concern over the federal government's move to curtail autonomy of the Higher Education Commission (HEC) of Pakistan through new laws.

According to a press release issued on Monday, the PUASA has warned that if the government does not restrain itself from controlling the autonomous power of the HEC, PUASA will launch a countrywide protest strike. The office-bearers of the PUASA were of the view that due to positive role of the HEC, not only the number of PhD scholars increased in the filed of research but obvious development was also observed. Meanwnhile, a meeting of Punjab University's Advanced Studies and Research Board (AS&RB) was held on Monday which approved 11 synopses, 19 panel of examiners and nine PhD extension cases. The meeting chaired by PU Vice Chancellor Prof Dr Mujahid Kamran also approved seven miscellaneous cases and 10 evaluation reports. Prof Dr Khawja Haris Rashid, Prof Dr Muhammad Ehsan Malik, Prof Dr Shoukat Ali, Prof Dr M Zakria Zakar, Prof Dr Mazhar Moeen, Prof Dr Mansoor Sarwar, Prof Dr Hafiz Mehmood Akhtar, Prof Dr Muhammad Taqi Zahid Butt, Chairperson DPCC Prof Dr Shahida Hasnain, Controller Examinations Prof Dr Liaqat Ali, and Registrar Prof Dr Khan Raas Masood attended

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HEC chairman stresses political solution of crisis
Islamabad: Chairman HEC Dr Javaid R. Laghari confirmed writing letter to the Prime Minister for his kind attention. He stressed for political solution of the recent crisis staring at HEC.

When asked about the link of the degree verification of Parliamentarians and the prevalent crisis, he refrained to comment but said that the HEC is in contact with the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) in this regard. "We will only restart the process after it is requested from the ECP. He said that the reduction in tenure of members of the Commission of HEC from four years to three years will disrupt planning, policy development and organisational objectives of this organisation.

"The practical functioning of HEC would be severely disrupted. All development projects including scholarship projects supporting 10,000 students on scholarship whose needs and requirements change constantly would be affected severely. The funding flow from the Government is extremely erratic and without flexibility of allocation of funds by the Commission, the future of Pakistani scholars would be bleak."

Talking about the status of Federal Minister granted to the HEC chairperson, he said that it exhibits the priority the democratic leadership of the country attaches to the higher education sector.

"The chairperson HEC who is appointed by the prime minister represents the country at international forums to discuss the matter pertaining to higher education. It is imperative to have a rank of Federal Minister attached with HEC chairperson. This provision also allows the HEC to maintain an autonomous status as a Ministry under the Prime Minister at local Secretariat and ministerial level." He said that the HEC is the project implementing body for the US$ 300 million World Bank Loan for uplift of Higher Education in Pakistan.

"Without the ability to allocate and distribute funds, entire operation of HEC would essentially come to a halt and the HEC would be forced to withdraw from this programme resulting in huge loss of a concessional loan for the higher education sector of Pakistan."

In addition to that, the HEC has partnered with the USAID to set up three Centres for Advanced Studies in Energy, Food Security and Agriculture, and Water at the universities in Pakistan through a 127 million dollars grant. Without the ability to allocate and distribute funds, the entire project of HEC would essentially come to a halt and the HEC would be forced to withdraw from this project.

"If the powers of the HEC are diluted and it is made a subservient organisation, the core function of degree recognition, equivalence and attestation would be compromised since the Commission would no longer be autonomous," he pointed out.

The HEC attests more than 200,000 educational documents each year. "Every Pakistani going for work abroad must have their degrees attested by the HEC which is recognised by the entire world to be a fair and impartial body whose attestation is accepted at face value. By taking financial powers away from the Commission, removing the status of federal minister from the chairman, reducing tenure of Commission members, the authority and autonomy of the HEC would be severely compromised risking the future of the all graduates from Pakistan whose degrees the world would not be ready to accept," he added.

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A library without librarian for 20 years!
Islamabad: Same as a kitchen shows the discipline of the housemates, a library portrays how education-friendly and disciplined a city is. If put on this scale, the lone public sector library of the city, Municipal Library near Liaquat Bagh portrays a bleak future of Pindiites.

The ignorance of the city's managers can be gauged by the fact that the post of a permanent librarian (BPS-17) has been lying vacant for 20 years. If this is not enough, the post of assistant librarian (BPS-14) is looking the way of the officer for six years.

The number of staffers in the library is also reducing, as no replacement is given whosoever retires or leaves. At present, the library is being run by 8 staffers in total, including peons.

Employees of the library gave contradictory statements about the total number of books.

"The number of books this library contains is around 50,000", says Ms Raheela, a Grade 7 clerk working as the acting librarian. Another employee insisted on 80,000, but a rough counting by this correspondent was putting the figure at around 25,000-30,000.

Keeping in mind over 2 million population (rank 4) of the city with an adequate touch of modernity according to Pakistan's standards, this figure is a huge embarrassment for the city district government.

"I have been visiting this library since 1995-96 and am a diehard reader of Urdu literature. They also lack new books. You will hardly find new fiction and other books here. I am now fed up with the same old titles since late 90s," says Amjad Rasheed, a regular visitor.

Another must for today's libraries besides books and periodicals is other media like audio-books, e-books, videotapes, CDs & DVDs and internet. But don't even dare to think about these. "The library purchased about 10 personal computers in 2002, but they were not used. The PCs have now become dysfunctional with the passage of time," says Raheela.

Originally established in 1873 with around 500 books in two rooms, the library was shifted to its present venue in 1977. After enjoying the patronage of municipal corporation for a long time, the library was devolved to the city district government in 2001 under the new rules of governance for civic bodies by Pervez Musharraf.

"The 2001 flood played havoc with the library. The books put on lower three shelves of racks were destroyed. We suffered a huge loss as over 10,000 books were destroyed by floodwater," says Ms Raheela.

Raheela said the major chunk of books comes from donations by the Punjab Library Foundation and Asia Foundation. "The last consignment by the Punjab Library Foundation came in 2011 with 800-900 books," she claims, but it is near impossible to find the newest and freshest titles in the racks.

The employees and officials concerned may give 100 reasons for the state of the library, but for how long they will keep on playing with the fate of our ignorant populace remains a big question.

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AIOU launches admission process
Islamabad: The Allama Iqbal Open University (AIOU) has started its admission process for the Spring Semester 2013 from the Secondary School Certificate (SSC) to MA-MSc level programmes in different disciplines.

The admission forms and prospectuses are available at the sale-points of university's main campus in Sector H-8, Islamabad, and regional campuses and coordination offices throughout the country.

The admission forms along with prescribed fee can be submitted in the branches of Bank Alfalah, Habib Bank Limited, First Women Bank and Allied Bank and in nominated branches of the National Bank of Pakistan and Muslim Commercial Bank.

The admission forms and prospectuses of SSC, FA and BA level programmes for Pakistanis in the Middle-East can be obtained-downloaded from the website (del.aiou.edu.pk).

The computerised admission forms have been sent to all 'continuing students.' They can also download 'continuing admission forms' from the website (www.aiou.edu.pk). The news

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