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ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif-led federal cabinet has raised questions over the establishment of National University of Pakistan (NUP), a brainchild of the Ministry of Defence, saying that parallel structures are being created by the ‘establishment’, well-informed sources told Business Recorder.

On August 16, 2022, Defence Division apprised the Cabinet that the Federal Government Educational Institutions (FGEI) Directorate was an Executive Department of Ministry of Defence. The FGEI comprised 356 institutions including 45 colleges and it was providing quality education to more than 200,000 students across the country.

The FGEI Directorate had proposed to set up National University of Pakistan (NUP) in Islamabad to cater for the needs primarily arising from the issues and challenges being faced including scheme of studies, varied academic forecast, different admission policies, different exam schedules, varied evaluation criteria, varied grading system and fee structure, thus leading to problems for students during their migration to other universities. Moreover, affiliation with private sector universities was financially not viable for FGEI Colleges. As far as provincial universities were concerned, they only offer affiliation to the colleges within the provincial territorial limits.

FGEI Directorate took up the matter with the Higher Education commission (HEC) and according to their advice submitted a detailed report to HEC followed by submission of draft charter/bill through the Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training. The HEC vetted the proposal for establishment of National University of Pakistan in accordance with Federal Universities Ordinance, 2002 in their letter of March 2, 2022.

The draft bill, for the proposed National University of Pakistan was forwarded to Law and Justice Division for vetting. In response, the Law and Justice Division on March 30, 2022 advised to obtain prior approval from the cabinet in terms of Rules 16(1)(a) of the Rules of Business 1973.

The Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training on June 14, 2022 proposed that Federal Government Educational Institutions (Cantt/ Garrison) fell under the domain of Ministry of Defence, therefore, Ministry of Defence should move a summary accordingly.

During discussion, the members expressed reservations on creating parallel structures and establishment of yet another university in Islamabad. It was observed that a new educational entity was being created in ICT which will not be restricted only to the extent of affiliation of FGEIT’s colleges but will also venture into private sector affiliations. The Defence Division explained that FGEI colleges were scattered across the country and conforming to multiple standards was problematic. Minister for Defence informed the Cabinet that there was no matching network of colleges in the country and establishment of NUP would bring the institutions under one umbrella. A member enquired as to why the Cabinet’s approval was being sought at this stage, when apparently the land had already been allocated and the project stood approved by the CDWP. It was clarified that the approval of the Cabinet, in principle, was a requirement under Rules of Business, 1973, before the vetting of draft Bill by the Law & Justice Division.

The Cabinet Secretary pointed out flaws/deficiencies in the summary in terms of relevant rules and suggested its re-submission after due corrections. The members also noted that the para with the proposal was not clearly articulated and the draft Bill was not annexed. It was, therefore, agreed that the summary should be resubmitted after removing the deficiencies. The Minister for Law & Justice pointed out that after 18th Amendment the federal government’s domain had been confined to granting charters in ICT, so franchises and affiliations could cause difficulties. He offered to review the draft Bill before seeking, in principle, approval of the Cabinet.

The Cabinet considered the summary titled ‘Establishment of National University of Pakistan, Islamabad’ submitted by the Defence Division, and directed that the summary be re-submitted after removing the deficiencies.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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