ISLAMABAD - Terming the allegations recently leveled against the Higher Education Commission (HEC) administration in the parliament false, the HEC has maintained that there has been a recent onslaught against the HEC by certain vested interest groups who do not wish education to flourish in Pakistan. In a statement it said false allegations are intentionally brought up to tarnish the image of HEC which has built up the reputation amongst the masses and the educated youth as being among the few government organisation in Pakistan which works on merit and in a transparent manner, is known and is respected globally. ‘Most of the allegations are false, incorrect, done with malicious intention and are based on a deliberate smear campaign rather than on reality. A very recent one against the Chairman was his membership in the Islamabad Club. This was proposed and approved by the Board, governing body of HEC, way back in 2009 and is not something approved recently or done in a discretionary way, and has been through various audits as well’. Another onslaught brought out in the Parliament recently was the “refusal” of the chairman to respond to a call attention notice, and the matter was therefore referred to the privileges committee. The Chairman being a former senator understands and respects the parliament and the urgency in responding to call attention notices, however in this case the notice was not even referred to the HEC before it was discussed on the floor, and therefore the question of “refusal” does not even occur. The notice was received later that evening and was responded to immediately, clarifies the Commission. Then there are false allegations on corruption and irregularity in scholarships. The HEC takes pride in its merit based procedure in which the economically deprived youth and those from the middle class and from the underdeveloped areas of Pakistan are able to avail scholarships, including for PhD, at some of the leading universities of the world. With over 7500 scholars pursuing their higher studies, awarded through a National Scholarship Management Committee constituted by Prime Minister and comprised of representatives of all provinces and interviewed by foreign experts/professor, and with over 2200 who have already completed their PhDs and have joined local universities, institutions and organizations to contribute for the development of country, it says. HEC has improved the procedure on VC hiring which are now done through search committees, though there is still room for improvement, and is developing the performance based evaluation of serving VCs. Statutory bodies are regularly meeting, and all appointments of faculty, and admissions, are being done on merit. All verification, attestation and verification of degrees is done according to a developed procedure which leaves no room for any irregularities. All these merit based and above board procedures are perhaps what the vested interest groups are not able to swallow.All HEC reforms are now becoming the envy of other countries in the region. ‘While Turkey already has a similar commission, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka are in the process of replicating the HEC model, and India is going a step further and establishing a supra-HEC with far reaching consequences to position itself as a regional leader. The World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report indicators on higher education and training, technology readiness and innovation have shown a consistent improvement over the last three years for Pakistan, much more than many other countries, which is clear proof that the higher education reforms are paying off’.