ISLAMABAD, The Supreme Court on Monday pushed the Higher Education Commission (HEC) on the back foot by ruling that it has no right to prevent its scholarship holders from leaving the country in search of better job.
The HEC’s counsel prayed before the apex court that after signing a bond, students who availed government scholarships for higher studies in foreign universities were supposed to stay and serve the country for a certain time.
As per the agreement, a scholarship winner must serve the country for five years after completing PhD and two years in case of master’s abroad.
The three-member bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry in its order said since the HEC could not provide job guarantee to the returning scholars, it had no right to stop them from leaving the country in search of better future.
Questioning the validity of the HEC’s direction in which it has asked the FIA to put names of its ‘defaulter scholars’ on Exit Control List (ECL), Chief Justice said, “if there is rule of law in the country you did a wrong thing and if there is rule of jungle you did a right thing”. The court also ruled to take appropriate action against official of the HEC who had written to the FIA for putting name of the students on the ECL.
Earlier, the Lahore High Court, Rawalpindi Bench, in its decision allowed two HEC scholars, Sajid Ahmad and Shireen Khan to leave the country. They had taken the stand that since they were jobless in Pakistan, therefore, they should be allowed to proceed abroad for better jobs.
Officials at the HEC told Dawn they were desperately trying to hold back students in whom they had heavily invested in the form of scholarships. Roughly a PhD student cost HEC over Rs10 million, a top official of the HEC observed.
Most of the developed countries are short of quality manpower in their research and development organisations, and they offer better jobs to Pakistanis besides scholarships for further studies.
Presently, the HEC has initiated cases against over 100 scholars who have breached their contract. Some of them have left their studies half way through, some after completing their studies didn’t come back and there are also cases in which they did come back, but left the country quietly without serving mandatory time period.
“Yes, there is huge demand of Pakistani researchers abroad, but we can’t educate them at government’s expense to serve in other countries,” the official said.
In response to a question, the official said under a special programme the commission assured placement of returning scholars in research and development organisations at a monthly salary of Rs80,000.
Moreover, the HEC provides them Rs500,000 research grant for improving their skills. However, the HEC could not provide a written guarantee of job to the scholars while awarding them scholarships. The HEC is undertaking an ambitious human resource development programme and in this regard massive Rs10 billion would be spent on various types of scholarships.