Let me start by highlighting a few things HEC has done since it’s inauguration in 2002. Perhaps the most prominent stat is the incredible number of Ph.D. students that the HEC has helped produce. Between1947 to 2002, Pakistan produced roughly 3000 Ph.D. students. After the HEC was founded in 2002, Pakistan produced 3280 Ph.D. students in 8 years. That, of course, has helped research output grow six-fold since 2002. Second, while there have been accusations that HEC has over-invested in Punjab, the biggest investment by share has been in Khyberpakhtunkhwa. New universities have been set up in Bannu, Kohat, Malakand, Swat and Mardan. Balochistan has also seen an uptick in higher education, with 4 universities added to the 2 that already existed in 2002. Finally, there are currently over 7,500 HEC-funded scholars pursuing their Ph.Ds locally and abroad. All of these scholars are now in jeopardy of losing their scholarships as the governments tries to deal with the mess they have created. This is just scratching the surface of what HEC has accomplished, for a more comprehensive list of achievements please refer to this document, which has provided the basis for most of the facts in this article.
Moving on, let us get to the part where the government dissolves the HEC, despite opposition from almost all other major political parties including the PML-N, MQM, JI and PTI. This is being done under the direction of Raza Rabbani, the chairman of the implementation committee of the 18th Amendment. To clarify, HEC is not against devolution per se; it had, for example, already started to devolve many important tasks like faculty training to the provincial level. That, however, is only a small part of what HEC does: most tasks simply cannot be devolved efficiently. The 18th Amendment recognized this and put in place many provisions to protect the functions of HEC. An example is the following exerpt from the 18th Amendment, which highlight integral functions of the HEC:
- Fourth Schedule [Article 70(4)]: Federal Legislative List Part I
- Item # 16: Federal agencies and institutes for the following purposes, that is to say, for research, for professional or technical training, or for the promotion of special studies.
- Item # 17: Education as respects Pakistani students in foreign countries and foreign students in Pakistan.
- Item # 32: International treaties, conventions and agreements and International arbitration.
- Item # 59: Matters incidental or ancillary to any matter enumerated in this Part.
As alluded to earlier, one of the many drawbacks of this dissolution plan is that the funding and studies of Pakistani scholars studying abroad through HEC programs would be in jeopardy. This is another function of HEC that is not being devolved, but simply being moved to the Ministry of Inter-Provincial Coordination, where Raza Rabanni himself is the minister. These programs are under jeopardy because they are being funded through loans coming from the IMF and World Bank, as the government allocated zero funding towards the HEC in the past fiscal year. The World Bank and USAID came to the rescue, giving HEC loans of US $300 million and US $250 million respectively. These loans are contingent on the assumption that HEC stays as it is, so Raza Rabanni’s recent assurance in the press that these scholars would be unaffected by this move is simply untrue.
This is only the beginning of our defense of HEC here at the rickshaw. Hopefully we will have more literature up for you in the coming days about all aspects of the dissolution of HEC. For now, please join the movement to stop this madness on Facebook at: http://www.causes.com/causes/597948.