Selecting HEC chief: Delay in sending summary to PM undermines selection process


ISLAMABAD: Though the six-member search committee tasked to select the next Higher Education Commission (HEC) chairman has finalised three names for the coveted post, the unnecessary delay in sending a summary to the prime minister in this connection has raised serious questions about the transparency of the selection process.

Well-placed sources told Pakistan Today that the search committee worked with great honesty and finalised three best contenders out of over hundreds of applicants in the last meeting. However, they said that once the committee had done its job sincerely it should send the summary to the prime minister at the earliest in order to fill the post which had been left vacant since April 14, 2018, due to unnecessary delays that in turn triggered unnecessary debate over this issue.

They said that the committee was scheduled to hold another meeting in the current week for further deliberation which raised serious questions because there was no need of any such meeting since the committee had already done its job by finalising three names.

Sources further said that the quarters that were raising questions over the delay in the process were justified in doing so because in the past a chairman whose name was not even included in the list sent to the then prime minister for selection, was still made HEC chief. That case was being currently being investigated by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).

“In order to avoid unnecessary confusion, the committee should publicly announce the names of the candidates and should send the summary to the prime minister, since keeping things under the carpet would provide a good excuse to others to question the transparency of the selection process,” they maintained.

The three candidates selected for the post of the HEC chairman, included Dr Tariq Banuri, Muhammad Iqbal Choudhary and Professor Dr Anwar-ul-Hassan Gilani.

Brief profiles:

Dr Tariq Banuri is a professor at the University of Utah and Ministry of Climate Change Global Change Impact Studies Centre (GCISC) executive director.

Education: PhD in Economics from Harvard University – MA in Development Economics from Williams College – BE in Civil Engineering from the University of Peshawar.

Honours and Awards: Member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 – Sitara-e-Imtiaz (Star of Distinction) received in recognition of services in the education sector – Allyn Young Teaching Prize in Economics received from Harvard University in 1983.

Muhammad Iqbal Choudhary is the director of International Centre for Chemical and Biological Sciences and a scientist in the field of organic chemistry. He is known for his research in various areas relating to natural product chemistry. He has more than 1,000 research publications to his credit, including 32 published books and 63 patents.

Education: He graduated with a BSc degree from the University of Karachi and later pursued his MSc in organic chemistry and then got his PhD in the same subject.

Honours and Awards: He has been awarded the Tamgha-e-Imtiaz, Sitara-e-Imtiaz and Hilal-e-Imtiaz by the Pakistani government. In 2015 he was recognised as the second most productive scientist in Pakistan.

Professor Dr Anwar-ul-Hassan Gilani is the chairman of Pakistan Council for Science and Technology. He is a distinguished pharmacologist.

Education: Won merit scholarship from primary school to PhD. He obtained his BSc (Hons) in Agriculture and Nutrition (1975) and MSc in Pharmacology (1978) with distinction from the University of Agriculture, Faisalabad. He started his professional career in 1979 as a lecturer in the pharmacy department of Bahauddin Zakariya University, Multan. After completing his PhD (Pharmacology) from the University of Sydney, Australia, in 1985, Dr Gilani joined the Aga Khan University as a lecturer and rose to the rank of full professor in 1997 through accelerated promotions. He occupied multiple leadership positions, including vice chair of Research and Graduate Studies, Director of PhD Programme in Health Sciences and chair of Board of Graduate Studies, in addition to holding prestigious overseas positions before occupying his current position in January 2015.

Meanwhile, despite repeated phone calls and text messages, Federal Education Minister Engineer Muhammad Baligh Ur Rehman could not be reached for his comments on the issue.

However, when Shahnaz Wazir Ali, a member of the search committee, was asked questions about the delay in sending the summary to the prime minister and the reason behind holding another committee meeting when the names have been already finalised, she just replied “no comments”.

When this scribe contacted Syed Babar Ali, convener of the search committee, to seek his point of view on the matter, he declined to comment on the issue and dropped the call instantly.