ISLAMABAD  -  The Supreme Court of Pakistan on Monday granted leave against the Islamabad High Court (IHC) order regarding restoration of Dr Tariq Banuri as Chairman High Education Commission (HEC). 

A three-member bench of the apex court headed by Justice Ijaz-ul-Ahsan conducted hearing of the federation appeal against the IHC order. The bench said that appointment by the HEC chairman would be subject to the final order of the apex court. 

The Court noted that the IHC still had not passed the detailed judgment on the reinstatement of Tariq Banuri as HEC chairman. 

A division bench of the IHC comprising Chief Justice of IHC Justice Athar Minallah and Justice Aamer Farooq on January 18 restored Dr Tariq Banuri as HEC chairman. The IHC declared the notifications, dated 26.03.2021 and 05-04-2021, have been issued without lawful authority and contrary to amended provisions of the Higher Education Commission Ordinance, 2002. “Dr Tariq Javed Banuri, therefore, stands restored as Chairman of the Higher Education Commission,” it added. 

During the hearing, Deputy Attorney General (DAG) appearing on behalf of the federal government requested the bench to restrict the HEC incumbent chairman to perform only day to day affairs of the commission till the final judgment of the apex court. He said that the chairman could not appoint executive director of the HEC. 

He said that the chairman be restrained to decide about the policy affairs of the commission. He informed the court that amendments have been made in the HEC laws. 

Justice Ijaz said that appointment in the commission would be subjected to the final order of the apex court. He said that they would decide about making appointments. The deputy attorney general said that the chairman can appoint only the experts. 

Justice Ijaz said that IHC has still not passed the detailed judgment and they would hear the matter after the announcement of detailed judgment of the case. 

The petitioners including Mosharraf Ali Zaidi, Prof Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy, Prof Dr M Asif Khan, Syed Ahmed Masood, Prof Dr A H Nayyar, Prof Dr Naazish Attaullah, Prof Ms Salima Hashm and others have moved the court through Faisal Siddiqui Advocate against the Higher Education Commission (Amendment) Ordinance, 2021 and Higher Education Commission (Second Amendment) Ordinance, 2021 and the removal of Tariq Banuri as the Chairman of the commission. 

Their petition said that Federal Ministry of Education and Professional Training acting in a malafide manner on the dictates of the present federal government suggested amendments in the Ordinance, 2002, on the ridiculous pretext that “in [the] post Covid era, the paradigm of Higher Education System and its delivery mode has undergone tremendous changes,” and furthermore that the process and criteria of tenured appointments need to be reviewed in order to “keep pace with the changing eco-system of 21st century skills”. 

They submitted that the stated purpose is floating with malafide and as explained below, the amendments suggested in the Ordinance, 2002 had the consequence of malafidely removing the Respondent No 6 (Tariq Banuri) as the Chairperson of the HEC (although the text of the First Impugned Ordinance does not support such intention) in order to destroy the autonomous nature of the HEC which was fundamentally safeguarded by the security of tenure of the Respondent No.6 and the members of the HEC. 

Banuri was appointed at the post by former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi in May 2018 and he was to complete his tenure in May 2022. 

On March 27, the present government had announced removal of Dr Tariq Banuri as the chairman of HEC with immediate effect. A notification issued by the cabinet secretariat read, “In terms of sub-section (5), read with sub-section (5A), of Section 6 of HEC Ordinance, 2002, as amended vide HEC (Amendment) Ordinance, 2021, Dr Tariq Banuri has ceased to be the chairperson, HEC forthwith and is accordingly removed from the said post with immediate effect.”