The teaching community has expressed concern over contemplation by the incumbent government of rolling back the 18th Constitutional Amendment, with the Federation of All Pakistan Universities Academic Staff Association (FAPUASA) demanding the authorities strengthen provincial bodies in light of the 18th Amendment.
In a statement, FAPUASA Central President Dr Mahboob Hussain and Secretary General Arif Khan demanded the government strengthen provincial higher education commissions (PHECs) in light of unanimous decision during the 35th meeting of Council of Common Interests (CCI) held on February 26, 2018 and 18th Constitutional Amendment.
Sharing the background of the issue, they said the passage of the 18th Constitutional Amendment had put education under the legislative and executive jurisdiction of the provinces. Over the recommendations of the multi-party 10-member Implementation Commission constituted under Article 270, the CCI during its meeting held on April 28, 2011 decided that “a limited extent body would continue to work as Commission for Standards in Institutions of Higher Education in the light of Entry No 12 of Part-II of Federal Legislative List i.e. Standards in Institutions of Higher Education and Research, Scientific and Technical Institutions”.
The FAPUASA statement further said with the devolution of higher education, Punjab and Sindh governments had established their respective provincial higher education commissions through acts of provincial assemblies, after proper deliberations, to cater to the growing needs in higher education sector in their respective provinces. On the other hand, Balochistan Assembly passed a joint resolution for establishment of provincial HEC and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has already prepared a draft for autonomous higher education body. The superior courts through various verdicts have also recognized the legitimate role of these autonomous provincial higher education bodies.
In its meeting held on March 18, 2015, the Council of Common Interests (CCI) set up a committee to look into the matters pertaining to higher education in post-18th Amendment scenario. After three years of deliberations, the recommendations of the sub-committee were submitted in 35th meeting of CCI held on February 26, 2018, under the chairmanship of Prime Minister of Pakistan.
Endorsing the recommendations of the sub-committee, the CCI decided unanimously that federal government would deal with seven functions in higher education sector mainly setting up minimum national standards and defining national policy in higher education while provinces would play main role in higher education sector while performing 12 key functions including policy formulation, regulation of higher education, issuance of guidelines & NOC for establishment of new universities and implementation of quality assurance system.
It was also decided that the seven functions would be performed both by the provincial and federal governments. The FAPUASA statement added that among all 192 recognized universities, only 19% of universities are federally charted universities while provincial governments control the majority of the universities i.e. 81% (155 out of 192). The federal government cannot effectively handle matters of 155 provincially charted universities. The multiple challenges being faced by Pakistani higher education without recognizing key role of provinces in higher education sector and strengthening provincial HECs in the light of 18th constitutional amendment and the decision of 35th meeting of CCI, they added.
They said FAPUASA, being representative body of more than 100 public sector universities, had already deliberated over the issue of effective implementation of 18th Constitutional Amendment in higher education sector.
They would academically resist any un-constitutional step undermining the role of provincial governments and provincial HECs in higher education sector. They demanded immediate implementation of unanimous decision of 35th meeting of CCI and confining the role of federal government in higher education sector as per Constitution of Pakistan.