The Sindh government has appointed controversy-marred PPP leader Dr Asim Hussain as chairperson of Sindh Higher Education Commission (HEC), drawing immense flak from academic circles
A notification issued on Sunday read that in “continuation of this department’s notification of even number dated 28.1.2014 & in exercise of the powers conferred under Section 5 (1) of the Sindh Higher Education Commission Act-2013, the Chief Minister Sindh/ Controlling Authority has been pleased to re-appoint Dr Asim as Chairperson, Sindh Higher Education Commission for one more similar term”.
Following the announcement, Federation of All Pakistan Academic Association announced a protest against the decision, claiming Dr Asim had failed to perform in his previous tenure as the commission chairman and was facing grave corruption charges.
The recently formed working group on Higher Education Reforms also slammed the Sindh government’s decision, calling for the appointment of a new SHEC chief through transparent process. The body said higher education had become a provincial subject after the 18th Constitutional Amendment it was provincial governments’ job to cater to the needs of universities effectively. But the service would only be possible if transparency and merit were given due importance in appointments to key posts
Dr Asim is accused of misusing his authority for acquiring plots and encroaching upon state land for expansion of Dr Ziauddin Hospital/Trust, money laundering, illegal gains, kickbacks, commission from fertilizer cartel for the artificial shortage of gas, for unfair price hike of urea and defrauding people in the name of his charity hospital.
He was the Sindh HEC chairman when Pakistan Rangers arrested him in 2015 and placed him under three-month preventive detention for inquiry upon receiving “credible information” about his involvement in using embezzled funds to finance terrorism. He was later handed over to police and then NAB.
National Accountability Bureau (NAB) accused the PPP leader of causing an artificial shortage of gas, consequently increasing the price of urea fertilizer from Rs 850 to Rs 1,830. As a result, the government had to provide subsidy on urea import that caused a loss of Rs 450 billion to the national exchequer from 2012 to 2013.
A Sindh High Court (SHC) bench granted bail to Dr Asim Hussain on medical grounds in March 2017 against a Rs 2.5 million-surety along with the submission of his original Pakistani and Canadian passports to the court.