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Devolution in Pakistan: Unpacking the HEC debate
12 April 2011 Goto comments Leave a comment An amended, rationalised HEC needs to stay in place By Raza Rumi The 18th Amendment approved by the Parliament in 2010 signiﬁed a new era in Pakistan’s troubled federalism. Given our turbulent constitutional history, the new governance arrangements approved by all parties and federating units settled for a leaner centre and addressed long-standing demands of provincial autonomy. But the implementation of this amendment has been slower than expected, largely for reasons of capacity both at the federal and provincial levels. Despite the constraints, the Implementation Commission has delivered fairly well. Thus far, ten ministries have been devolved. Five ministries — local government, special initiatives, zakat & ushr, population welfare and youth affairs — were devolved in late December 2010. The recent batch of the federal ministries includes: ministries of education, social welfare and special education, Tourism, livestock and dairy and culture. Media rants: In recent days, a new controversy on the devolution of the Higher Education Commission (HEC) has plagued the implementation process with respect to the 18th Amendment. Television channels have aired the views of technical experts as well as the usual suspects who rant on every talk show on almost every subject under the sun, be it defence, culture, or cricket. The move towards the devolution of the HEC’s powers and functions to provinces has been construed as another move by the semi-literate and ‘corrupt’ politicians to thwart the degree validation process, which has been part of our pseudo political discourse. Such an argument is pretty lame, as the rule to have a degree to be eligible for an election has been done away with. The Musharraf scheme of a grand HEC, BA-holding legislators and ‘controlled democracy’ obviously failed in 2008 when the electorate rejected his party and sent representatives who sent him home. A non-discourse: Most of what has been said on the HEC constitutes a plethora of comments, hysterics and ‘opinions’ on the subject, which has sidetracked the debate altogether. From a national discourse on fostering federalism, we are now arguing whether HEC was an effective body or not? There have been sporadic protests — overplayed by the media — and random statements of Vice Chancellors who seem to be vacillating from one position to another. Furthermore, former head of the HEC, the talented Dr Atta-ur-Rahman, has not helped matters either. His direct invitation to the Army to step in and rescue the HEC is simply problematic. What do the armed forces have to do with this issue: they are legally not in charge; and by an educationist to make such wild calls, we can easily surmise that Pakistan’s democracy remains a sham, especially when it comes to the educated elite. Sanity, at last: Najam Sethi on his TV show argued for a reasoned debate on the HEC issue and emphasised that devolution of powers or functions to the provinces cannot be compromised. In a follow-up tweet on the Internet, he added: “HEC debate should be how to minimally retain its best federal and international aspects while gradually transiting to maximally efﬁcient devolution.” Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy, otherwise a ﬁerce critic of the HEC, has also alerted that a sudden dissolution of HEC will result in a ‘free fall’, due to a lack of technical capacities in the provinces and the important work that the HEC was undertaking. Similarly, Dr Pervez Tahir, former Chief Economist of the country, has also argued the HEC case in his op-eds published in an English daily. (8 April, 2011). Skeptics have also argued that we may lose nearly half a billion dollars of foreign aid due to be directed towards higher education reform in the country. Feisel Naqvi has made an important point that specialized regulation of higher education requires advanced capacities that are missing in the provinces. Devolution, a must: Conversely, the passionate proponents of total devolution of HEC — unsurprisingly from the smaller provinces — argue that this body had not created a revolution despite the sevenfold increase in its budget during the Musharraf era. Instances have been cited where the HEC failed to regulate many institutions, especially those related to the armed forces and had let many malpractices continue in the country. One ﬁrebrand MNA from Awami National Party opined during a-discussion, “I am convinced standards of education in general and higher education in particular will improve when HEC is devolved to the provinces. I think we should all welcome the change and extend support to the provincial governments to ensure the devolution process is effective and smooth.” Dr Ayesha Siddiqa, the bold critic of Pakistan’s security establishment has also questioned the efﬁcacy of HEC discussions and supported its full devotion.
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as the momentum to change Pakistan’s governance cannot be halted.Devolution in Pakistan: Unpacking the HEC debate . Similarly. a detailed programme for capacity assessment and development with the provinces needs to be designed immediately and implemented in the next 12 months whereby. 3) Form long term perspective we have to devolve this institute in gradual manner not overnight.com. First. Thereafter. the ultimate arbiter of this issue is the Council of Common Interests — the apex mechanism in the Constitution. He blogs at www. 2011 at 4:49 pm There are some questions 1) Is this a real devolution as we know that HEC might be broken into different federal ministries so where is devolution for provinces. Managing change is a sophisticated process that needs to be carefully deliberated and planned. which mediates federal relations. want full control over the HEC budget and spending priorities. Thus. The HEC is no exception.com Source :http://www. 6) Afer devolution special quotas for Sindh and Baluchistan will be vanished and budget will be allocated according to number of universities and scholarships will be awarded according to number of enrolments in a province and there Punjab again got major share because it has more universities and enrolments. Overnight transition did not work out well as the districts and tehsils did not have required capacities or resources. with reference to Raza Rabbani’s “end to Financial Choudrahat” is reason behind this. education. which would read like a recipe for disaster. notwithstanding many failures. Therefore. governance. executive diktats and foreign advisories.htm#1 All My Posts. 2) Somehow the bad administration in HEC isn’t a reason that you should dissolve or devolve that institute. http://razarumi. Therefore. governance. as the revenue generating units. foreign scholarships. Constitution.pk/thenews/apr2011-weekly/nos-10-04-2011/pol1. Is this haste.com/2011/04/12/unpacking-the-hec-debate/ Unpacking the issues: Centralisation of HEC planning and resource management is the issue here. 4) Higher education is still in federal list of 18th Amendment not in a concurrent list which is vanished 9 months ago. (capacity) 7) After devolution govt. Second. not the regulatory aspects per se. he writer is a policy adviser based in Lahore. and donor-ﬁnanced programmes ought to be retained under federal control.jang. Learning from past mistakes: A major wave of devolution came about in the wake of Musharraf’s devolution reform in 2001-2002. HEC.razarumi. This is a fair demand given that we have a decentralised governance framework and the National Finance Commission Award of 2010 has increased the provincial shares in national revenues. some of the regulatory functions can be handed over to the provinces by April 2012. comprises four major steps. an amended. education. rationalised HEC needs to stay in place.All My . Lastly. devolution. PAEC and SUPARCO research scholarships only those candidates will be considered who belong to federal capital under ICT. regulatory and policy issues need to be kept federal in a single institution instead of diffusing them to the Cabinet Division (validating degrees). internal and external coordination and quality assurance and monitoring functions. Therefore. Section 7 of this list states that “coordination of scientiﬁc and technological research” is a federal function. All of its good work. means for KRL. Pakistan 7 Comments to “Devolution in Pakistan: Unpacking the HEC debate” 1. Published in the NEWS 18th Amendment. section 12 is clear that the federation is also empowered to set “standards in institutions for higher education and research. 2 of 7 12/28/12 2:54 PM . Ministry of Foreign Affairs (international scholarships) and Ministry of Inter-provincial coordination (administration of the National College of the Arts).. Which way now? The way forward therefore. Higher-Education Commission.com and manages webzines Pak Tea House and Lahore Nama Email: razarumi@gmail. and the actual execution of ‘schemes’ to use the favored parlance of Pakistan’s public sector development process. but there are lessons inherent in this experience. the budgets and projects can be transferred to the provinces. It would be senseless for a body such as the HEC to fund laboratories in universities from Islamabad when education is a provincial subject. We are not known for managing change as it is induced through military ‘revolutions’.. These federal ministries have generalist cadres of civil servants whose record of handling their normal work routines is unenviable to say the least. Given this clear prescription in the Constitution. we need to separate the two issues: the regulatory powers of the HEC which determine quality control. that was done in haste under a particular authoritarian agenda. the way: The Council of Common Interests (CCI) formulates the policy in part II of the Federal Legislative List contained in the Fourth Schedule of the Constitution as amended in 2010. the HEC devolution can be phased in a manner in which functions such as quality assurance. will have to build HEC type organization which will be needed for international commitments which is wastage of resources. development. and c) physical works and improvements in the facilities within universities. Majja KukadApril 12. scientiﬁc and technical institutions” along with ‘education’ with respect to “Pakistani students in foreign countries and foreign students in Pakistan” (sec 17). What needs to be understood is that the provinces. to fulﬁll the demands of constitutional governance. All other functions can swiftly be devolved to the provinces. a smaller and more efﬁcient HEC can operate under the Cabinet Division carrying out the essential standard setting. By devolving it we are going against our constitution 5) After that devolution. the unbundling of HEC mandates and functions needs to take place and considered by CCI as well as the implementation commission tasked with devolution of powers to the provinces. which have sufﬁcient capacities to handle physical works and even management through their higher education departments or wings. and often faltered in discharging their functions under the new governance architecture. A hasty devolution will result in a crisis of sorts as the provinces are not yet ready with the requisite capacities to manage universities and deal with specialised problems that are associated with such oversight. we have three aspects to address: a) standard-setting and quality control. Admittedly. b) foreign education and aid management. This is a rare opportunity. Thirdly. cannot be undone in one stroke. which cannot be squandered.
ANP minister was basing the claim based on…what exactly? Is this devolution only for devolution’s sake? I believe that this is something that you can appreciate. On Lahore’s canal | Lahore NamaApril 14.. This has to be more than just about devolution. “I am convinced standards of education in general and higher education in particular will improve when HEC is devolved to the provinces. 2011 at 10:57 pm Devolution of the HEC is a non-issue. 2011 at 5:33 pm [... How and what will they do once the HEC’s responsibilities have been shifted to them? Should the provinces at least not be expected to provide a blue print as to how they will proceed? I think that should take care of many concerns and furthermore University charters can be managed by the provincial HEC equivalents PLUS some sort of federal body. The federal level also provided the critical regulation on standards. Siddiqa with all her scholarship is hardly an unbiased voice of reason. Dr.. “India has shown [. Reply 6.] Reply Leave a Reply Name (required) E-mail (required) URI Your Comment 3 of 7 12/28/12 2:54 PM ..” Dr Ayesha Siddiqa. D_a_nApril 12..com/2011/04/12/unpacking-the-hec-debate/ Reply 2.] RazaDevolution in Pakistan: Unpacking the HEC debateAn amended. ie.] Reply 7. Addition to the Federal Legislative List with respect to higher education makes the legislative intent clear. SadiaApril 12. Also. RFI SmithApril 13. Devolution in Pakistan: Unpacking the HEC debate | GlobalPostApril 27. rationalised HEC needs to stay in place By Raza Rumi The 18th Amendment approved by the [.. 2011 at 6:29 pm ‘One ﬁrebrand MNA from Awami National Party opined during a-discussion.] corruption and its ‘harmful effects’ and lo..] and federating units settled for a leaner centre and addressed long-standing demands of [. 2011 at 4:30 am This is an issue in other countries too. I think we should all welcome the change and extend support to the provincial governments to ensure the devolution process is effective and smooth. Reply 5. D_a_nApril 12. our moment has come..Devolution in Pakistan: Unpacking the HEC debate . responsible and risk free to lock stock and barrel hand it over to the provinces then that is fallacy.. The ﬁnancial situation of many universities is suffering and the dependence on international enrolments is widely criticised. In the meantime the contributions of universities to scholarship and public debate seem to have lost a lot of punch. 2011 at 7:09 pm Glad to see you are no devolution fundamentalist Raza Bhai Reply 4. Now that federal funding has diminished and universities depend on fees for about 60 percent of their income (much of it from international enrolments) the federal level is having yet another look at its regulatory framework. Universities claim it is intervening too much.] Original Article [. Reply 3. the bold critic of Pakistan’s security establishment has also questioned the efﬁcacy of HEC discussions and supported its full devotion. Focus should be on ﬂeshing it out rather than back-tracking and questioning devolution itself. someone having this concern. The struggle continues.ﬁrebrand.’ So the ..All My ... In Australia the legislation supporting universities has been at state level while between the 1960s and 1990s federal funding kept universities within budget. 2011 at 9:56 pm [. http://razarumi. If anyone thinks that it is safe. I have a genuine concern that the provinces are not prepared to handle this being devolved to them at all..
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