Following various round of deliberations, the search committee formed for suggesting candidates to take the reins of Higher Education Commission (HEC) of Pakistan has forwarded four names to the prime minister for a final decision.
According to media reports, the shortlisting of candidates has so far proven a Herculean task for the committee and has even led to several disputes and differences among the members, with some even suggesting the dissolution of the body altogether.
One of the issues that added to the committee’s difficulties was the inquiries and investigations a number of applicants are facing, despite them meeting the criteria for selection otherwise. Even former HEC chairman Dr Mukhtar Ahmad has been left out of the race owing to National Accountability Bureau (NAB) investigations underway over his appointment and an ongoing inquiry over alleged plagiarism. Media reports said the committee initially shortlisted seven candidates, but dropped three names as they did not get a green signal from NAB.
Many prominent academics had applied against the vacancy that carries the protocol and benefits of a federal minister. Some of the contenders that dfid not make it to the final four included Punjab Higher Education Commission (PHEC) Chairman Dr Mohammad Nizamuddin, IIUI Rector Dr Masoom Yasinzai, COMSATS Executive Director Dr SM Junaid Zaidi, Sindh Madressatul Islam University Vice Chancellor Dr Mohammad Ali Shaikh, ECO Science Foundation (ECOSF) President Dr Manzoor Hussain Soomro and Government College University (GCU) Lahore Vice Chancellor Prof Dr Hasan Amir Shah.
The six-member committee consists of former minister Dr Sania Nishtar, former parliamentarian Shahnaz Wazir Ali, educationist Faisal Bari, Mirza Qamar Baig and secretary of the education ministry, while noted educationist and philanthropist Syed Babar Ali is the convener. The final four candidates nominated by the committee are Dr Tariq Banuri, Dr Muhammad Mukhtar, Dr Iqbal Chaudhry and Dr Anwarul Hassan Gilani.
Dr Banuri has a PhD in economics from Harvard and has worked both in the civil services of Pakistan and the development sector around the world, especially UN. Prof Dr Muhammad Mukhtar is currently working as a professor of biotechnology at Universiti Malaysia Pahang. He was previously the vice chancellor of Islamia University Bahawalpur and The Ghazi University. He has PhD from Drexel University of Philadelphia. Professor Dr Muhammad Iqbal Chaudhry has an extensive experience and expertise in organic chemistry and has over 1,000 research publications and 63 patents to his name. Prof Dr Anwarul Hassan Gilani is the chairman of Pakistan Council for Science. He has a PhD in pharmacology from University of Sydney and remained associated with Aga Khan University Karachi as a faculty member or over a decade.