by: Khalid Hashmani, McLean, Virginia
The sudden replacement of Vice Chancellor of University of Sindh and the harsh statement by a Sindhi Civil Society organization called Sindh Democratic Front (SDF) raises serious issue of transparency in this decision. The University of Sindh is a premier educational institution of Sindh with seven faculties and 46 departments. The selection of the top leader of this important institution and for that matter of any university requires a transparent and open process. A selection made through a proper and transparent process would earn support of academicians and other organs of civil society and as well international universities.
I tried to search information about process for appointing Vice Chancellors in Pakistan, but I there isn’t much available on this topic. A statement by a HEC official on November 8, 2006 posted at http://app.hec. gov.pk/Press_ Releases/ 2006/November/ November% 208th(letter) .htm offered some information on this matter. I hope the chair of Pakistan Higher Education Commission (HEC), Dr. Javaid Laghari, who recently shared his views of the mission of HEC would express his candid views on this controversy. The November 2006 HEC statement contains the following two explanations pertaining to this matter:
1. It says that HEC does not make recommendations for the appointment of Vice Chancellors. The statement goes on to say that the appointment of Vice Chancellors is the domain of respective Chancellors of the universities who are Governors of the provinces.
2. The same statement says that HEC had proposed a Search Committee process for appointment of Vice Chancellors which has been accepted at a meeting of the Chancellors Committee headed by President Musharraf on May 11, 2006. It also says that the Search Committees are formed by Chancellors and HEC neither participates in that process nor is it represented on any Search Committees. Giving more details on the process, the statement says that Search Committees propose three names and Chancellor may ask the Committee to propose new names if he/she does not like any one on the first list.
However, there were some statements that criticize the current Selection Process. One article in the newspaper Nation in October, 2009 summarizes many of those those concerns. The article is available at http://www.nation. com.pk/pakistan- news-newspaper- daily-english- online/Regional/ Islamabad/ 23-Oct-2009/ Academics- criticise- HEC-criteria- for-VCs-selectio n says that academicians in Pakistan are highly critical of HEC Criteria for the selection of Vice Chancellors due to the lack of uniformity in the policies of HEC. The article says that the policies are ambiguous and academic community has serious concerns on its provisions. This article implies that the HEC does have a policy in regards to the selection of Vice Chancellors. This is contrary to HEC statement on November 8, 2006. The article talks about differences in application deadlines that apply after an advertisement for Vice Chancellorship appears in newspapers. It also talks about non-uniform age limits. The newspaper also quotes officials of the Federation of All Pakistan Universities Academic Staff Association (FAPUASA) saying that the process of appointment of vice-chancellors of the public sector is not transparent and based on considerations other than merit. This article clearly implies that HEC does have rules and procedures for appointing Vice Chancellors.
Dr. Aftab Kazi also points out that Dr. Mazhar Siddiqui was appointed by Governor for another term of four years by the governor of Sindh recently. He further says that appointment was considered extra-official as Dr Siddiqui has already served four consecutive terms. Perhaps, there are HEC and/or government rules on the term limits for Vice Chancellors in Pakistan. However, I have not found any information that officially describe the selection process for Vice Chancellors or any term limits. This also begs the question as to why Dr. Siddiqui was appointed for the 5th term if there are term limits for Vice Chancellors. Was it mistake or intentional ignorance of rules?
As Pakistanis build democratic, educational, other institutions in Pakistan to ensure that the military dictatorship never returns, it is imperative that a transparent, open, and fair process for all selections including appointments of officials, scholarships or other awards. In addition to the criteria of merit, selection processes must also have elements of affirmative actions to encourage selection of persons from rural areas and other disadvantageous groups who do not have the same educational opportunities as the rich and middle class people who live in cities and towns.