To be tabled in the Provincial Assembly over the next few days, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Universities (Amendment) Act 2021 is intended to introduce some grave changes in the legislation enacted by the Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in 2012, subsequently amended multiple times (with more than one hundred and seventy amendments made by the PTI Government) during the last couple of years.
The purpose of the proposed amendment
The most sinister among these is the amendment intended to curtail/slash representation of the administrative officers in the Syndicate-the key decision-making body in the public sector universities, as provided in sub-section (p) and (k) of section-22 of the said Act with the statement of objects and reason to remove duplication of membership of administrative officers in the Syndicate.
Nevertheless, it is widely believed that the proposed legislation is not aimed at removing duplication of the membership of administrative officers in the Syndicate rather it is contemplated, solely, to curtail representation of the administrative officers in the major governing body of the universities which they rightfully earned after a relentless struggle, against all odds, extended over the last couple of years.
Concerns of the key stakeholders
Dr Muhammad Ilyas Khan, Director Administration Agriculture University Peshawar and president Administrative Officer’s Association, a representative body of the administrative officers of the public sector universities, has expressed his serious concern about the proposed amendment for the reason that the administrative officers, being one of the key stakeholders, were not taken into confidence and the amendment is being tabled sans proper homework and without proper consultation with the key stakeholders.
Background of the amendments in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Universities Act concerning the representation of administrative officers
It is important to delineate, the historical background of the amendments made in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Universities Act with respect to the representation of administrative officers in the major governing bodies of the universities.
This article explicates the long-term implications of the unwarranted changes carried out in the Act alongside some viable suggestions for the policymakers to make the proposed amendment widely acceptable and long-lasting.
Historically, each university in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, since its inception had individual Act, proposed and approved for that particular university. As there were variations in the Acts (with subsequent variations in the Statutes, Regulations and Rules of different universities), amendments in each university’ Act had to be brought to the floor of the House individually each time germinating unending legal as well administrative complications. To overcome these lacunas, a uniform Act was promulgated for all public sector universities in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa during the ANP led Government in 2012.
However, numerous complications surfaced during its implementation. This called for further amendments and modifications in the Act. Hence new amendments were introduced in the same vide Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Universities (Amendment) Act, 2015.
Approval of the amendment about the membership of the administrative officers in the governing bodies
At that stage, besides other important amendments, for the first time, in the history of public sector universities, the administrative officers were granted representation in the governing bodies (i.e., Syndicate and Senate) of the universities. This was made possible only through the strenuous efforts of the Administrative Officer’s Association extended over the last couple of years.
The credit for the same, undeniably, goes to the PTI Government, however, legislatures from the opposition benches, particularly, the honourable members of the Provincial Assembly hailing from ANP and JUI deserve sincere admiration and due acknowledgement who played their part to make it happen.
Apprehensions of the administrative officers
At the same time, the administrative officers were apprehensive for being neglected in the case of their rightful and equal representation in the important decision-making bodies. Their sole concern was that though they were granted representation in the governing bodies of the universities but it was not at par with the teaching faculty in any case. Hence, they kept up the momentum of their struggle.
Increase in the representation of the administrative officers in the Syndicate
In 2016, through a landmark amendment in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Universities (Amendment) Act 2016, the representation of the administrative officers in the Syndicate of the universities were increased, from two (02) to three (03) vide sub-section (p) and (k) of Section 22.
Here, the administrative officers took a breather, nevertheless, the task was from being accomplished. Since they were demanding representation /membership in the statutory bodies comparable to the teaching faculty being equal stakeholders, however, the same was not yet honoured.
Issues in the implementation of the amendments in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Universities (Amendment) Act 2016
Right from the beginning, certain universities were not inclined to implement this amendment in true letter and spirit for which again the administrative officers had to fight a long, persistent legal battle.
Feeling deprived, the administrative officers, had no other option but to take the matter to the court of law for its implementation and in light of the historical verdict by the Peshawar High Court, in favour of the administrative officers, the said amendment was implemented in letter and spirit by the universities granting the administrative officers their hard-earned representation in the statutory bodies.
What the Government is intended to do now?
Now, paradoxically, the government, through the proposed amendments, is trying to roll back all the good work, undertaken in the past, in this connection, with no solid justification depriving the administrative officers of their due and equal representation in the key decision-making body.
Implications of the proposed amendments through Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Universities (Amendment) Act 2021
Truth be told, the administrative officers feel themselves at the receiving end for being divested of their rightful and equal representation in the important decision-making bodies. While they were given representations in the Syndicate and Senate but it was not at par with the teaching faculty in the first place. And now the Government is intended to reduce this representation in the Syndicate from three (03) to one (01) which is beyond understanding and shall lead to serious legal as well administrative complications in the universities.
This move, on the part of the PTI Government, will further augment the sense of deprivation among the administrative officers which need thoughtful consideration of the policymakers and provincial legislatures.
Some viable suggestions for the policymakers
To address the issue, the policy-makers should consider the following two-pronged suggestions:
- It is proposed, in the first place, that the number of elected representatives/membership of the administrative officers in the governing bodies such as Syndicate and Senate needs to be enhanced in parity with teaching faculty which is four (04) in both the statutory bodies rather than curtailing it to one (01) against the will of a key stakeholder i.e. administrative officers.
- Another workable solution to the problem is that the provisions in sub-section (p) and (k) of Section 22 may be merged in order to maintain the existing representation/ membership of the administrative officers in the Syndicate which is three (03).