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Syed Babar Ali Tells The Govt Not To Undermine Higher Education Commission

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In a letter addressed to Shafqat Mahmood, eminent businessman and founder of LUMS, Syed Babar Ali has criticized the incumbent government for smashing autonomy of HEC and sacking chairman Tariq Banuri. He asks the education minister to be ‘bold” to prevent HEC from falling into incompetent hands. Not only the HEC, the state and future of higher education is at stake.

Babar Ali’s blunt but suggestive note to education minister has voiced serious concerns over govt’s policy on higher education, recalling the founding of the HEC. “I was a member of the team from thirteen countries of the Task Force during 1997-1999 sponsored by UNESCO and the World Bank to report on Higher Education and Society in Developing Countries.

The Report ‘Higher Education in Developing Countries: Peril and Promise’ was completed in 2000 and submitted to the World Bank in Washington. Armed with this Report, I requested then Minister of Education in Islamabad, Ms Zubeda Jalal to set up a Task Force in Pakistan to develop a vision for our own needs. I was Co-Chair of this task force with Dr Shamsh Lakha, and we presented the Report to President Musharraf and his Cabinet in 2001, as a result of which HEC was born!

He regrets how billions were squandered under Dr Attaur Rahman as the Chairman. “The likes of Dr. Rehman are likely to oversee whatever will remain of Higher Education.” Recently, the govt removed HEC chairman Tariq Banuri; a move highly criticized in education circles.

The command and control of a key institution would be handed over to incompetent people. “You do not need a Nuclear bomb to destroy a nation. Just hand over Education to incompetent and dishonest people!” Babar Ali, who was the Convenor of the Committee which selected Tariq Banuri, believes that “the HEC’s role is being severely curtailed via an ordinance.”

Addressing to Shafqat Mahmood, he encourages him to be bold, “I voted for you as I am from your constituency, and hence I have taken the liberty to be blunt. HEC needs to be protected from such machinations. Be bold if you have any interest in the future of Pakistan!”

He concludes the note in emotional tone: “I am nearing my 95th birthday and my only wish is to see Pakistan  prosper.”

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Naya Daur