This past Wednesday, on November 28th, 2012, after over 10 years of service to the Higher Education Commission, my father was unceremoniously, and illegally, asked to vacate his position. After failing to remove Dr. Syed Sohail Hussain Naqvi from the HEC for the last few years, the Government decided to assign the additional responsibility of the Executive Director of the HEC to the Secretary, Ministry of Education and Trainings. In doing so they have, for the moment, created a stalemate in the HEC since my father was appointed, as per law, by the full Board of Governors of HEC (The Commission) and cannot be relieved of his duties in this arbitrary manner. This is illegal because my father was recently given a 4 year extension by the Commission consisting of people appointed by the Prime Minister of Pakistan. Legally, the Prime Minister can appoint members of the Commission, and that is where his powers end. Appointment of the Executive Director is the prerogative of the Commission and not any other person or body, including the Prime Minister of Pakistan. Knowing of this restriction, the Pakistan People’s Party first tried to declare the original appointment of my father in 2004 as Executive Director back, as illegal. This argument is, of course, ridiculous as confirmed by no less an authority than the best legal mind of the Pakistan People’s Party, Aitzaz Ahsan, who stated that everything about that appointment process was absolutely legal.
I might be beginning to sound a bit long winded, but as the person in question is my father, people will automatically assume that my bias will skew the facts. I am simply trying to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the government is 100% in the wrong. Of course with the PPP in power, that’s not going to be hard. Why don’t we start by looking at the performance of the Higher Education Commission over the last 10 years. The quality assurance system of Pakistan is now universally acknowledged, 6 universities in Pakistan are internationally ranked by QS Rankings and research publications have skyrocketed. Along with this, the number of university campuses have increased from 168 to 258, which has led to student enrollment to increase from 330,000 to over 1,000,000. In this expansion of students in the higher education space, there has been a particular focus on women. The percentage of women enrolled in universities has gone up from 36% to 46%. Balochistan and FATA have also been a focus, with over 3000 scholarships launched for residents of those generally neglected areas of Pakistan. In the first 55 years of Pakistan’s existence, we awarded 3,281 PhDs. Over the last 10 years, since the founding of the HEC, Pakistan has had an additional 4,850 PhDs. The research papers published by Pakistanis in international research journals have gone up from 816 in 2002 to 6300 in 2012.
I have barely begun to scratch the surface. I think it is fair to say that the HEC has had a tremendously positive impact on the country. This of course is not down to my father alone. Everyone from Dr. Atta-ur-Rehman to the gardeners and security guards at HEC have played their part. That is not to say that the HEC is perfect. There is a lot of room for improvement, and no one recognizes that more than my father. He is constantly striving to learn from his mistakes, take on the advice of others and grow and move forward. Not too long ago, he caught an employee, Ms. Shaheen Khan, of his stealing money. Now even the most die-hard PPP supporters that the HEC is nothing if not clean. Money laundering expertise is a requirement for working in a PPP government, but since the HEC is an autonomous body, to put it eloquently: that shit don’t fly here. Of course this woman was welcomed back with open arms by the PPP, and has been a catalyst in the demise of the HEC. She has also since then acquired a PhD which is reputed to be an eloquent translation in Urdu of a lowly report.
Over the last 5 years, ever since I got my license, I have had one bone to pick with my dad. He never lets me drive the HEC car. Never. Perhaps when I first got my license I could understand why, but when I last went home I was (and still am) 23, I had owned my own car for over 3 years and had driven well over 50,000km. Yet, I was still confined to that piece of junk we own; a 2001 honda city. The reason? The only people legally allowed to drive the car are the drivers, my dad and my mom. So I am allowed to be driven from A to B with a driver, in the Corolla, for my own errands, but yet I’m not allowed to drive. Ah well, that’s the law, and that’s the way my father is. I disagree with that, my view is that the car is for his use, and for his family to use. I am not about to take his Corolla on a road trip to Gilgit and back, but it would be nice to be able to go get a haircut without having to worry if the ol’ Honda can make it up the next hill. Oh and by the way, while my family is rolling around town in the Honda City, Shaheen Khan is tearing up the roads of Islamabad in a Mercedes.
Maybe the issue is that my father is not qualified enough. I mean, integrity isn’t going to solve our education problems alone. At the end of the day you need someone smart to be running things. Let’s have a look then at Daddy’s LinkedIn. In short, he graduated Hasan Abdal top of his class, graduated Purdue University with a perfect 4.0 GPA and a PhD in refractive optics at the age of 25 , was a tenured professor at the University of New Mexico before the age of 30, helped start up a company which made cutting edge machines that measured dimensions of nanometer sized structures, was the Dean of Electrical Engineering at GIK Institute of Science & Technology, VP of Operations at Enabling Technologies, and of course, Executive Director of the HEC for the past 8 years, now internationally recognized as a model of higher education reform in the world.
I could go on forever, I really could, of my father’s amazing qualities, attributes, and overall dedication to his country. I could not be prouder of what my father has achieved already, and at 50 years he is only getting started. I have seen him pour his heart and soul into a job, and the job has been rewarding. He has fought for every bit of funding for the students of Pakistan, he has travelled from Gilgit to Karachi viewing institutions everywhere and taking in advice in how to improve them. He has earned the respect of almost everyone he has come into contact with, whether they agree with him or not. He taught me that being patriotic does not simply mean bellowing the national anthem at the top of your lungs, it means putting in long hours at a job when you know you could be making more money elsewhere. After 24 years of working, he makes less today than his first salary! It means putting up with the crap the politics in our country brings. It means finding ways of being optimistic when everything around you is crumbling. It means that when your own government tries to outs you for doing the right thing, you simply go home to help your youngest son with his homework tonight.
Regardless of how the Supreme Court rules, nothing can take away what my dad has done for Pakistan. I leave you all with a praise of my father that has always resonated most with my. Arif Kiyani is definitely someone none of you have ever heard of. He has no relation to General Kiyani, far from that actually. He first started to work for the University Grants Commission in 1989 as a driver, and was there when it became the HEC in 2002. He has often told me of how much he admires the conduct of my dad, but the best thing he said was “Sahab wo insaan hai jis ne aaj tak mujhe ‘tu’ tak nahi kaha”. Loosely translated, it means my dad is someone who has never once in all his years working with Arif Bhai addressed him by ‘tu’, a casual and sometimes disrespectful way of addressing someone. Our Holy Prophet once said you can judge a person by the way the treat people in a lesser position. Please, by all means, judge away.