Punjab Higher Education Department (HED) has constituted a committee for the appointment of Punjab Higher Education Commission (PHEC) chairperson and a notification has been issued in this regard.
According to the notification, a five-member Search Committee has been constituted after an approval by the Punjab chief minister. Renowned educationist Dr Attaur Rahman has been appointed as the convener of the committee. Other members include Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) Professor Dr Arif Nazir Butt, former Government College University (GCU) vice chancellor Dr Khalid Aftab, Shahid Najam and HED Secretary Sajid Zafar who is a member as well as the secretary of the committee.
The Search Committee has been given four terms of reference (TORs) for the purpose of hiring the next PHEC chairperson. As per the TORs, the committee has been tasked to shortlist candidates in accordance with the approved shortlisting/eligibility criteria, to devise parameters for the qualitative assessment of eligible candidates for interviews, to conduct interviews of shortlisted candidates and finally, to recommend a panel of three most suitable candidates to the chief minister/controlling authority, PHEC, for approval.
Advertisement to attract prospective candidates will be floated nationally and internationally within seven days, while the candidates will be given 30 days to submit their applications for the post. As per sources, a criteria similar to that of appointment of vice chancellors will be adopted for the appointment of PHEC chairperson.
The Punjab government intends to appoint a permanent PHEC chairperson within three months and in the meanwhile, HED secretary has been given the additional charge of PHEC to look after its affairs.
The tenure of the former PHEC chairperson expired on December 16 and the HED sent a summary to the Punjab chief minister to appoint an acting chairperson. However, the appointment of acting chairperson was delayed, and when it finally happened, it created quite a controversy. The Federation of All Pakistan Universities Academic Staff Association (FAPUASA) expressed its dismay over appointing a bureaucrat to look after the post until a hiring was made.
A FAPUASA statement said the appointment of a non-PhD as chairperson of Punjab’s apex higher education body showed the level of seriousness of the government regarding higher education sector. They said the government should appoint any member of PHEC who could meet basic eligibility criteria for the post of PHEC chairman according to PHEC Act.
In response, the HED issued a statement that denied the charges of bureaucratic meddling. It said the HED secretary was an ex-officio member of the commission and was also the secretary of the Search Committee, therefore, the temporary charge was assigned to him under Section 8(3) of the PHEC Act. The statement said, “His assignment is primarily to install the regular PHEC chairperson by assisting the Search Committee and meanwhile looking into day-to-day affairs of the commission till such time.”
The PHEC was established in 2014, however, it began operations in 2015 following a formal inauguration by then chief minister Shahbaz Sharif. Prof Dr Muhammad Nizamuddin was appointed its first chairperson on December 16, 2014 for a term of four years.
Earlier, it was being speculated that Dr Nizam would be re-appointed without any delay, but, Punjab Higher Education Minister Raja Yassir Humayun Sarfraz later clarified that the government intended to re-advertise the post. However, the former chairperson is also in the race for being appointed the PHEC chairperson for a second term, as the law allows two terms to a single candidate. He is still considered a strong candidate owing to his influence in both political and academic circles.