AS THE new political government is set to take charge of the federal government for the next five years, it has rekindled the hopes that the higher education would get back on the right track once again in Pakistan after the five disastrous years, marred by tension between legislators and Higher Education Commission (HEC). It is heartening to know that the PML-N has placed in its election manifesto the higher education among the top priorities like energy crisis and economic revival with a promise to allocate five per cent of the GDP to education and allocate 25 of which for the higher education. It needs no argument that the national prosperity and survival hinge on promoting the higher education in addition to ensuring maximum autonomy to make effective policies. However, it remained very painful as a number of parliamentarians of the previous government, during its five-year tenure, had launched several assaults to clip the HEC autonomy. Their nefarious designs to cripple the HEC later got exposed to the whole country and the world as well when the Supreme Court had intervened to protect this premier institution and ordered verification of parliamentarians academic certificates and many of them were later proved to have been holding fake degree holders. Even the caretaker government, in violation of the apex court order of April 12, had also tried to undermine the HEC autonomy by transferring its degree verification power to Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination through issuing an office memorandum. It is worth mentioning here that HEC, with its founding chairman Atta-ur-Rahman, had emerged as an exemplary institution not only in the country but also the outer world recognized its policies and initiatives regarding promotion of higher education. Despite the previous governments negligence, HEC had tried to enhance the quality of education in the country as four years ago none of our universities could feature in world ranking but now six Pakistani universities have made it to top 300 global institutions. According to international standard database Scimago, Pakistan will be ranked 27th in the world in 2018 in terms of research ranking. All these improvements prove that HEC had contributed enormously in improving higher education in Pakistan despite limited resources. Since all major issues facing Pakistan like economic crisis, law and order situation and other problems are linked to education, the next government will have no option but to give priority to higher education. It should also abolish the Sindh HEC which was illegally created by the government. The future of higher education can be brightened but it depends on how much serious the government is in promoting this important sector.

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