With the March 25 deadline for applying for the soon-to-fall-vacant seat of chairman of Higher Education Commission of Pakistan (HEC) now passed, the search committee is all set for a final few weeks of toil to shortlist names for one of the most exclusive posts in the country’s educational landscape.
The incumbent HEC chairman, Dr Mukhtar Ahmed, will be stepping down from the post in April 2018 following four years of service and a search committee has already been sanctioned by Prime Minster Shahid Khaqan Abbasi to shortlist candidates for a final appointment by the PM.
The committee consists of six representatives from the health and education ministries as well as parliament, including former minister Dr Sania Nishtar, former parliamentarian Shahnaz Wazir Ali, educationist Faisal Bari, Mirza Qamar Baig and secretary of the education ministry. Renowned educationist and philanthropist Syed Babar Ali is the convener of the committee.
Now that the applications have been received, Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training along with HEC officials will now go through the applications and shortlist candidates based on the criteria defined earlier by the selection committee.
Names of shortlisted candidates will then be forwarded to the selection committee, which will interview all applicants and subsequently recommend three names to the prime minister for approval. The PM can appoint either of the three candidates to the post at his discretion.
Speaking to The Academia on condition of anonymity, an important member of the search committee formed for the appointment of HEC chairman said the department had yet to contact the committee members for the interviews.
“The process of reviewing the application of candidates is underway. Once that is completed the interviews for the shortlisted candidates will start,” he said. He committee member said he had no idea about the possible time it would take to finalise the appointment process, as none had been set.
Names In The Game
Although it will be a few days until the committee makes headway into the appointment of HEC chairman, a probe by The Academia has revealed some interesting names that are vying for the coveted spot. They include some prominent and decorated academics who already occupy lucrative posts in the public and the private sector. But heading the premium higher education body in the country is an altogether different ball game. Following are some of the notable applicants that are in the running for the HEC top slot.
Dr Mohammad Nizamuddin
Chairman, Punjab Higher Education Commission
Recipient of various civil and academic awards, including Sitara-i-Imtiaz, Dr Nizamuddin presently heads the Punjab Higher Education Commission (PHEC) as its chairman. He has a master’s degree in Social Sciences from the University of Chicago and a PhD from University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, also in social sciences. He has been an assistant professor at the University of North Carolina and later a professor of Public Health at Columbia University. Dr Nizamuddin has also worked for the United Nations for well over two decades. In Pakistan, he remained the vice chancellor of the University of Gujrat, Government College for Women and University of Sialkot between 2006 and 2014.
Dr Masoom Yasinzai
Rector, International Islamic University
A former vice chancellor of the prestigious Quaid-e-Azam University Islamabad and Balochistan University, Dr Yasinzai is currently serving as the rector of International Islamic University and a renowned name in the country’s academic circles. Hailing from Balochistan, he did his master’s Bio-Organic Chemistry and BS in Biology and Chemistry. He completed his PhD from University of Hull, UK in 1983 and did his post-doctorate from Perugia Medical School, Italy. He is the only academician from Balochistan who served as the vc Quaid-e-Azam International University Islamabad.
Dr SM Junaid Zaidi
Executive Director, COMSATS
Dr Syed Muhammed Junaid Zaidi is a name well known in the Pakistani academia and one that his highly decorated for his notable involvement with science, education, entrepreneurship and administration. He has been a worthy recipient of Sitara-i-Imtiaz in 2007, Hilal-i-Imtiaz in 2014, The NCR Corporation award “IT Pioneer 1987-1995” in 2000 and Doctorate of Science Honoris Causa, Lancaster University, 2012. He has a master’s degree in mathematics and physics from the University of the Punjab, besides one in Operations Research from University of Birmingham. He completed his PhD at University of Birmingham in 1984 in optimisation of algorithms on networking.
He is the Founder Rector of COMSATS Institute of Information Technology (CIIT) and after his retirement in 2017, Dr Zaidi now serves as COMSATS executive director since March 2017. His achievements include drafting of the country’s first IT policy, plans for COMSATS Internet Services (CIS) as well as that for Virtual University.
Dr Iqrar Ahmad Khan
Former VC, University of Agriculture, Faisalabad
Dr Iqrar Ahmad Khan, Sitara-i-Imtiaz is a well-known agricultural scientist and former vice chancellor of University of Agriculture He served as the vice chancellor for University of Agriculture, Faisalabad since February 27, 2008 until 2017. He received his PhD from the University of California, Riverside. His notable work in the field include introducing a new variety of potato (PARS-70), pioneering research for breeding seedless Kinnow and discovery of two new botanical varieties of wheat.
Dr Mohammad Ali Shaikh
Vice Chancellor, Sindh Madressatul Islam University
Dr Mohammad Ali Shaikh is the incumbent vice chancellor of Sindh Madressatul Islam University in Karachi. Shaikh did his master’s degree in engineering from Mehran University of Engineering and Technology, Jamshoro and then completed a PhD in Mass Communication from University of Karachi.
He has held several key posts during his career, including that of an assistant professor and deputy provost at Mehran University of Engineering and Technology Jamshoro. He also taught print media at the Institute of Business Management, Karachi and had been the editor for a science magazine. He also remained involved with the Government of Sindh in various capacities, including director of colleges, director general of Sindh Ombudsman’s Secretariat, director general of Sindh Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and director coastal.
Dr Manzoor Hussain Soomro
President, ECO Science Foundation (ECOSF)
With an illustrious career spanning over 33 years, Dr Soomro is the current president of ECO Science Foundation (ECOSF), an inter-governmental specialized agency of Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) with 10 member countries. A crop scientist by profession, Dr Soomro’s reputation travels far and wide, with him being a recipient of the prestigious French Republic’s Award “Order of Academic Palms” and the title “Officier (Officer)” in 2013. He did his PhD in Crop Protection from the University of Reading, England in 1987, and won the UK’s ORS Award for three consecutive years.
Dr Soomro has extensive experience as a researcher, teacher and science & research manager under his belt, including diagnosis of two major crop diseases. He joined the Pakistan Science Foundation (PSF) in 1995 and worked extensively to popularise science education at schools and generate funding for scientific research at R&D organizations and universities He has also served as the director general of the Pakistan Museum of Natural History, as well as the Director General of Pakistan Scientific and Technological Information Centre (PASTIC), Islamabad.
Dr Soomro is the owner of six industrial patents and has nine gene sequences to his name besides other achievements.