On Tuesday, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) restored Dr Tariq Banuri as chairman of Higher Education Commission (HEC) and stated that the notifications of his removal were issued without lawful authority and were contrary to the amended provisions of the HEC Ordinance, 2002.

In an unfortunate case of political intervention, Dr Banuri was unceremoniously removed from office by the government in March 2021 when his tenure was shortened from four to three years via an amendment. Given that Dr Banuri challenged his removal in the IHC, no new chairman was appointed till the case was decided.

Though the chairman has been reinstated, the HEC saga could continue as some are of the view that a tussle may be on the cards between Dr Banuri and the government’s appointed member, Dr Attaur Rahman. The matter became contentious last year following the removal of Dr Banuri as he leveled serious allegations against Dr Rahman and the federal government regarding the lack of accountability and use of funds—which certainly merited proper investigations. Keeping this context in mind, it is possible that the government will challenge this decision by the IHC. Prolonging and politicising this matter any further however will only be to the detriment of the HEC as an institution.

Apart from this, there is still uncertainty surrounding the future of the HEC. This is because after Dr Banuri’s removal, several policies initiated by him were reversed by the HEC. Will those be reinstated? Would there be any point to that considering how Dr Banuri’s tenure is due to end in May 2022 as per the notification of 2018? Or perhaps, will he be given an extended term by the court in its detailed order as he was restored after 10 months? In addition to these, there are other questions that remain unanswered at this point in time. The hope however is that the matter is put to rest once and for all, with both parties acting gracefully and putting the interests of the country’s suffering higher education sector before their parochial interests.