A controversial former vice-chancellor of the University of Agriculture Faisalabad (UAF), Rana Iqrar Ahmad Khan who is said to be the first cousin of Interior Minister Rana Sana Ullah, has been shortlisted by the search committee among the top candidates for the position of head of the nation’s largest higher education regulatory body, Higher Education Commission (HEC), Academia Magazine learned on Friday.
Five candidates, including Khan who was reportedly involved in financial corruption, illegal appointments, embezzlement, favoritism, and human rights violations have been recommended by the search committee to the Prime Minister’s Office for consideration as the next HEC Chairman. In addition, Khan has also been accused of making unauthorized appointments by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and Punjab’s Anti-Corruption Establishment.
The search committee upon the completion of the former HEC chairman’s tenure led by Federal Minister for Education and Professional Training Rana Tanveer Ahmad was tasked with finding a new Chairman of HEC, a position that has been vacant since May.
The members of the committee included Vice-Chancellor Allama Iqbal Open University (AIOU) Prof Dr Zia ul-Qayyum, Former Vice-Chancellor Information Technology University (ITU) Dr Umar Saif, Secretary Ministry of Education and Professional Training Naheed Shah Durrani, Chairman Punjab Red Crescent Justice (retd) Sheikh Ahmed Farooq, and Vice-Chancellor, Balochistan University of Engineering and Information Technology (BUITEMS) Ahmed Farooq Bazai.
Rana Iqrar Ahmad khan’s academic career is full of controversies including his appointment as assistant professor at UAF, demotion case, appointment as Vice-Chancellor, illegal hiring and other rule violations.
As per documents available with Academia Mag, an FIR was registered against Rana Iqrar in Police Station Faisalabad and he is still on temporary bail. He has to revise his bail date every month just to avoid arrest which could be made by police.
Sources at Agriculture University Faisalabad told this scribe, “During his 10 years of tenure at UAF, Rana Iqrar remained involved in corruption, misuse of powers, misappropriation and embezzlement of funds and nepotism even though he was appointed VC while using his political influence which helped him to enjoy a tenure of 10 years at UAF.”
There were also charges of drawing a remuneration amounting to Rs 9.12 million by using powers beyond authority without approval of the chancellor. He was also drawing dual salaries despite holding public office, he was getting Rs 4.26 million salary from USAID.
More than 300 writ petitions
There are more than 300 writ petitions against Rana Iqrar filed in the Lahore High Court’s Lahore, Multan and Rawalpindi Benches, sources said, added there was substantial evidence of misuse of authority, corruption through non-transparent awards of contracts through non-professional individuals, nepotism, undue interference in the independent functionality of the statutory bodies of the university, wastage of university resources on unproductive and irrelevant activities and entertainments, personal gains and vendetta through the appointment of handpicked committees of blue-eyed persons, politicizing the university affairs like appointments, postings etc.
FIR against Rana Iqrar
Similarly, An FIR was also registered against Rana Iqrar Ahmad for misuse of power, nepotism and embezzlement of millions of rupees by the Anti-Corruption Establishment Punjab. There were corruption charges of millions of rupees, nepotism, and abuse of power.
As per charges, Rana Iqrar hired 608 individuals illegally and 138 among them were gazetted officers while 470 were non-gazetted officers.
He also violated all the laws during the recruitment process including the constitution of Pakistan, the Government of Punjab’s Regulations and the University Act. His act also caused a loss of Rs 420 million to the national treasury.
Anti-Corruption Punjab’s report
According to the Anti-Corruption Establishment (ACE) Punjab’s report, available with Academia Magazine, an enquiry was initiated against Rana Iqrar Ahmad on July 25, 2019. The enquiry team summoned Rana lqrar Ahmad on August 20, 2020, for a statement.
Illegal Appointments: The report further said, “Received Record reveals that a total of 600 illegal appointments (137 BPS-17 & above and 470 BPS-10 & below) were made during the tenure of (27/2/2008 to 08/08/2017) without advertisement and following legal formalities by using powers beyond authority. It is pertinent to mention here that during these appointments the University Act as well as service statutes and other rules/regulation/law and Government instructions were violated for wrongful gains”.
According to the report, “Illegal appointments were appointed over and above the sanctioned strength in the same cadre and charged against other equal / higher posts. Furthermore, the current administration of UAF accepted in its official statement that these appointments are illegal the official stance of UAF is reproduced as: “University administration undoubtedly believes In “Rule of Law” and abide by the Rules, Regulations, Statutes as well as Act of the University and don’t stand with any illegal activity in violation of Its Act, Rules, Statutes and Regulations, Therefore, strict legal action (along with recovery of unauthorized drawn amount) be taken against all the defaulting employees”
Illegal Honorarium: The report further claimed that Rana Iqrar received an illegal honorarium. It added, “Received record revealed that honorarium/remuneration worth of PKR 9.12 million was illegally drawn during the period (27/02/2008 to 09/08/2017) by Dr lqrar Ahmad Khan, Ex-Vice Chancellor without the approval of the Chancellor which is required under the terms and conditions of the Vice-Chancellor which are duly notified by the Punjab Weekly Gazette May 21, 2014. Furthermore, Punjab Govt. Notification No SO(R&E) 24-1/2011-VCs —Vol-I dated 29/9/2012 has also been violated in which terms and conditions for VC Agriculture University Faisalabad”
The ACE report further revealed, “It is pertinent to mention here that the accused drawn illegally honorarium/remuneration from Endowment Fund which is against the provision of the agreement between USDA and UAF on Faculty Development, Technology Transfer and product commercialization (FDTTPC) program. Hence the above-mentioned fact shows clearly that Mr lqrar Ahmad Khan Ex-VC misused his authority and illegally drawn honorarium/remuneration of PKR 9.12 million.”
Double Salary: According to the enquiry report, “As per received record It is evident from the record that two offices held by Mr. lqrar Ahmad Khan at a time as a Vice-Chancellor of Agriculture University Faisalabad and Project Director/Chief Party during period 12/12/2016 to 09/08/2017. During this period, he has drawn PIM. 4262773/ as a project director/chief party after deduction of taxes and in the meanwhile he has drawn PKR – 4753098/- gross salary as VC of UAF which is illegal and not as per law using authority beyond powers. Thereby it caused embezzlement of Rs. 4262773/-“.
Criticism on shortlisting of top candidates for HEC Chairman
The education circles are not only criticizing the addition of Rana Iqrar Ahmad among the top five candidates for the top slot of HEC, but they are also planning to record their protest. They have claimed that the government is promoting political affiliations rather than merit and qualification. The higher education sector is already suffering badly; if such people are recommended for such positions, then this will further damage the reputation of higher education in the country.