By Ammar Sheikh
The Punjab Higher Education Commission (PHEC) has been dysfunctional for almost a month as the Punjab government has been unable to appoint a permanent head and the duration of the temporary charge assigned to the Punjab Higher Education Department (HED) secretary also expired earlier in the month.
According to sources, the working of the PHEC has come to a screeching halt as there was no head of the commission. All of the work at the PHEC has stopped because of the legal requirement of the chairperson for approvals and signatures. Some of the pending work includes bills and payments due, the ongoing projects have been halted and new projects await approval. Besides, employees whose contracts expired have not been offered renewed contracts nor have new hiring in their place taken place.
The tenure of the last PHEC chairperson Prof Dr Nizamuddin ended on December 16, 2018, after which the government of the Punjab in late January advertised the vacant position of the PHEC chairperson. The last date to apply for the position was March 8, 2019. However, no appointment has been made so far and the post lies vacant similar to many in the universities of the provinces.
On January 11, the Punjab government gave the temporary charge of the PHEC Chairperson to HED secretary. Per rules and the notification issued to this effect, the temporary charge was given for a period of three months.
Meanwhile on January 11, the Punjab government gave the temporary charge of the position to HED secretary. Per rules and the notification issued to this effect, the temporary charge was given for a period of three months. According to the Punjab Higher Education Commission Act 2014, “If the office of the Chairperson is vacant due to any cause, the Controlling Authority may nominate any member of the Commission as Chairperson for a maximum period of three months during which period the Controlling Authority shall appoint a Chairperson.”
The ad-hoc charge to a bureaucrat was also seen with suspicion and the Federation of All Pakistan Universities Academic Staff Association(FAPUASA) said in a statement that the temporary “appointment of HED secretary as PHEC chairman was based on malafide intention of bureaucracy, as it wanted to bring higher education system under its clutches”.
The stop-gap arrangement for PHEC expired on April 10 and now the PHEC is left without a head at the helm of affairs. Meanwhile, the HED and the provincial government is yet to conduct interviews for the position. It is important to note that the PHEC chairperson is also the de-facto member of various search committees constituted for the appointment of vice chancellors’ appointments.