While commencing arguments in response to a plea seeking restoration of Dr Tariq Banuri as Higher Education Commission chairman before the Islamabad High Court on Tuesday, the attorney general for Pakistan submitted that the prime minister wants his own team at the HEC.
He argued before a divisional bench of the IHC comprising Chief Justice Athar Minallah and Justice Aamer Farooq and explained the reason for the impugned HEC Ordinance, saying it was promulgated in accordance with the mission and vision of the PM for higher education.
The AGP also placed on record certain materials with a request to the Islamabad High Court to keep these confidential. The court, however, did not take any decision on that matter.
AGP Khalid Javed Khan resumed his arguments by reading out minutes of meeting of the Prime Minister’s Task Force on Education (PMTFE) to share the process that led to the issuance of the HEC Ordinance that has been challenged in the court for illegally removing Chairman Tariq Banuri as he enjoys a protected tenure.
The minutes noted concern of the PMTFE on agitations across the country by university employees against changes governing research publications and other reforms at the HEC. He asserted that it was the lack of performance by the HEC chairman that caused such agitations across the country.
Chief Justice Athar Minallah observed the Ministry of Education has failed to make up a case as the agitations were against reforms and policies introduced for quality improvements. The AG actually had no arguments save the assertion that it was the right of the Prime Minister to realize his mission and vision for higher education and therefore, the Ordinance was a legally valid instrument towards that end.
However, the AGP continued to deny that the impugned HEC ordinance targeted a single person. All else are very much there and the only person removed has been Dr. Tariq Banuri, observed CJ Minallah after graciously letting the AGP drone on for a while.
Before the two member bench, identical petitioners including Mosharraf Ali Zaidi and others have made the federal government as respondent in the matter, urging the IHC to declare government notification of removal of Dr Banuri as chairman HEC malafide, illegal, and issued without jurisdiction.
The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government terminated the services of the HEC Chairman Dr Tariq Banuri by promulgating an Ordinance on 26 March 2021. This was again replaced by an amended Ordinance on 7 April 2021 as the first one had serious legal lacunas in terminating Dr Tariq Banuri. The tenure of the HEC Chairman is protected under the original HEC Ordinance governing his appointment. The court was hearing the AG that the notifications were issued without malafide and were not person specific and thus inherently validly formed.
Interestingly, the AGP also argued that Dr. Banuri was appointed by the last Prime Minister on his last day in office. It remains to be seen how Banuri’s lawyers respond to it on the face of it that makes the appointment no less valid in the eyes of law. Former Governor KP Shahid Hamid offered the court his friendly inputs since he was part of the legislature that designed the original law with a protected tenure for the HEC Chairman. The court will also hear him on Wednesday (today) once after the AGP concludes arguments. Later, the bench adjourned the hearing till September 15
He is a renaissance man understanding the social and political reality across south Asia. He is well travelled and connected with a network of friends and brings professional dedication to his work. Kahlid started with the official news agency APP and has worked with the leading local and global media houses over the last 33 years. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org