Like father, like son: Ex-VC’s son found to be HEC defaulter


–Around 70 scholarship awardees declared defaulters for violating HEC rules

ISLAMABAD: In what seems to be an unfortunate development, the Higher Education Commission (HEC) has declared around 70 scholarship awardees as defaulters for violating the terms of PhD scholarship, including son of the former vice chancellor of Sargodha University, who is himself in jail while facing a corruption reference filed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).

Dr Safwan Akram, son of Dr Akram Chaudhary, completed his PhD but did not return to Pakistan. He was thus declared as a defaulter by the HEC for violating the terms of PhD scholarship at Cambridge University, UK.

It is pertinent to mention here that former UoS VC Dr Akram Chaudhary is in jail while facing a reference by NAB on various charges of abuse of authority, unlawful appointments and corruption in the civil works. Now, his son has been declared defaulter whose guarantor was also his father, which could further add to his miseries.

According to details, Dr Safwan Akram is listed in the HEC website as a defaulter of foreign scholarship bond, with his father as the guarantor. The scholarship was awarded in January 2007 for the University of Cambridge, UK under the project titled ‘Overseas Scholarship for MS/MPhil Leading to PhD in selected field Phase-II’.

“After completion of PhD degree, he started the Post-Doc at the same University and not returned to Pakistan,” the notice issued by HEC on its website reads.

The HEC website lists 70 such awardees as defaulters under the Phase-II of the PhD scholarship program, which is now put on hold, of which 57 are male awardees while 13 are females. Each defaulter’s name and photograph, with specific charges, is available on HEC website for public information.

They were awarded a scholarship under the project titled ‘Overseas Scholarship for MS/MPhil Leading to PhD in selected field Phase-II”. After completion of PhD degree, they either started jobs or got admission in postdoc without HEC approval, as per HEC rules they have to serve in Pakistan for a period of 5 years which they and their guarantors agreed before the start of scholarship. Their scholarships have been cancelled by the competent authority and they have to refund the amount to Government of Pakistan; hence legal proceedings have been started regarding recovery through the court of law.

According to HEC rules, scholars are required to return to Pakistan immediately upon completing their studies to serve in the country for a period of 5 years; however, none of them fulfilled the HEC obligation.

“Dr Safwan Akram did not fulfill his moral, ethical and legal obligation to serve in Pakistan for a period of 5 years,” the notice says.

The HEC has initiated legal proceedings against Dr Safwan Akram to recover the amount awarded him for the said scholarship, who is presently serving as a Senior Lecturer in Microbiology at the Teesside University, UK.

Since his arrest in October 2018, Dr Akram Chaudhary had sought bail from Lahore’s NAB court and Lahore High Court, but to no avail. His bail application is pending before the Supreme Court.

In the NAB reference, a major case against him and ex-registrar of Sargodha University, Brig (r) Rao Jamil, pertains to the establishment of Public-Private Partnership (PPP) sub-campuses in Lahore and Mandi Bahauddin.

In February, four arrested officials of the management of these PPP sub-campuses were released from prison, after they entered a plea bargain with the NAB, agreeing to pay Rs 110 million to the University of Sargodha as unpaid dues and to PPP students as overcharged fees.

Sources in the HEC told Pakistan Today that there are a number of issues due to which they are being declared defaulters as some of them did not completely declare anything in the prescribed time. They added that most of these cases have been sorted out.

They said that there are around 450 defaulters in ‘Overseas Scholarship for MS/MPhil Leading to PhD in selected field Phase-I’; however, some of the cases have been sorted out while the authority is in touch with the defaulters to resolve remaining cases.

Sources said the defaulters have to refund all the expense incurred on their scholarship along with a 25% penalty.