The Bottom Line About the HEC

Well, the bottom line about the HEC is this.

An institution is never a problem in itself, the people who run it could be. So you get those people replaced and make them manage it in a better way.

You don’t dissolve the SECP, for instance, just because for some reason, the people who run it are not doing their jobs properly up to the required standards. The HEC is a regulatory and control authority of the education, just like the SECP is for business. If the SECP is not following better standards, the only way to go about it is making corrective measures instead of its dissolution.

But making that argument does not mean that I support the anti-devolution policies of some political parties in Pakistan. Of course, every province has the right not only to control, although how much they would coordinate with each other, given the level of national unity in Pakistan right now, is another matter. As we see with a number of other provincial subjects.

Of course, devolution should be promoted. But how is devolution not possible under the auspices of the HEC, I fail to understand. You could always restructure it. Even simple business organizations are restructured every now and then. Correct me if I am wrong, but I think the HEC is an institution of the Government of Pakistan. It is a part of the government of the President and the Prime Minister, who could take actions in that direction.

While the federal control is wrong in theory as far as advocacy for provincial decentralization is concerned, I think it can be considered that it will bring order and discipline to the education system in the country, could provide arbitration in case of disputes over fund allocation from the federal government in liaison with the provincial governments, apart from provincial budgeting, and uniformity in the educational standards across the country, if that is what we are aiming for, hardly though.

You just cannot shut down an organization just because it is neglecting the provinces of Sindh and Balochistan. Of course, it would not be a part of the HEC charter that Sindh and Balochistan should be deprived. This shows that there is something wrong with the people running the HEC in that regard, who may be deliberately resorting to such policy, and that could happen with any other institute, which has to deal with the provinces on a federal level.

The argument here should be whether we can make the devolution possible within the structure of the HEC without abolishing it, how to minimize its practices that deprive some provinces as far as education is concerned and how to decentralize the control into provincial subsidiaries of the organization.

However, it is nevertheless the right of the people of every province to control their own matters pertaining to education, so if the recent changes offer a good alternative with this solution, well no one should really be upset, unless of course things start to turn out wrong and educational institutes start to suffer. Though, some people are of the opinion that the dissolution of the HEC was not really necessary for that.

The argument of HEC preferring quantity over the quality of the Ph. D. degrees is yet another example of how an organization is being managed instead of something being fundamentally wrong with the purpose of an organization. Well, you tell the chairman of the HEC to improve its standards to really achieve the standards it really boasts about, instead of shutting it down for it.

You do not shut down an organization because it is not working properly right away. You make corrective measures. So while I do agree that UGC could do everything that the HEC could, and it was rather unnecessary to form the HEC in the first place in a way, I think it still makes no sense to convert the HEC back to either the UGC or the provincial educational ministries or respective structures. I mean, why all the shuffling?

But that is not just the point.  Everything about the HEC episode has been political point scoring right from its creation to dissolution, apparently, with due respect to the constitutional amendments.

The truth is that this organization was created for political point scoring as well, as obviously the case with the dissolution, in which case I could be wrong, because the HEC has added value to the way education has been delivered in Pakistan, whether through foreign aid or not. But the point is, if something is working better than your average Pakistani institute, why shut it down?

Remember the “elected mayor (Nazim) or the district commissioner from the beauracracy” debate, and the subsequent decisions? Yes, that happened during the term of the current democratic government as well. Whatever happened to devolution at that time? But the Nazim over the Commissionerate System had one thing in common with the HEC; it was introduced during the term of the military dictator President Pervez Musharraf. So obviously, terminal problems with it.

And if my argument does not make any sense, then I would gladly recommend the federal government to suspend all similar other organizations on the federal level, which pertain to provincial subjects in the constitution, to create their respective provincial equivalents, so that we could devolve in a much better way. I am sure a lot of institutions are neglecting Sindh and Balochistan in a lot of other things too.

Why touch education only, especially when you do not even bother about it in any way otherwise and only spend no more than 2% of your GDP on it? And I have heard all the respected educational experts ranting frantically on the local TV that even that much is not spent fully or properly. According to a lot of them, funds are not as much an issue as the intent is. And I have heard the defense budget is recommended to be raised by an insane 18% this year, especially when you are broke as a country.

And Senator Raza Rabbani, who is doing an excellent job legislating by the way, is way too smart not to know all that. But I am happy about his clarifications and assurances in his latest press conference, and let us hope things will move in a better direction.

The issue with the people blindly supporting the decision of dissolution is that they do not want to see the matter the other way, since the decision about it has been taken by the party. Not that the supporters of other political parties are any better, especially the parties who signed the 18th Amendment without considering the possibility of the dissolution of the HEC and are complaining now, which speaks volumes about their incompetence.

But it is just not about creating hurdles to the provincial autonomy. Nothing too wrong with dissolving the HEC, and actually we should welcome the change if it is really positive, being optimists, but only if you have solid reasons for it.

However, if you are against the dissolution of the HEC, here is the other side of the picture by Marvi Sirmed, which is the best argument that I can find as yet, which clarifies that the problem lies in the federal control of the institution. Although I am still not convinced by the article how an organization like the HEC is all-evil.

Of course, the HEC is not the Schutzstaffel.