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PM took notice of parents protest

16 September, 2015

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ISLAMABAD: Following protests in major cities over the exorbitant fees charged by private schools, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif finally took notice of the campaign by affected parents and ordered that the chairman of the body designated to deal with this issue be appointed without delay.

According to a government source privy to the proceedings of a cabinet meeting held on Tuesday, the issue was raised by Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, who urged the prime minister to direct the concerned ministries to take necessary measures.

“There is so much unrest among parents due to an increase in monthly fees by private schools and, unfortunately, the government is not doing enough to deal with their due concerns,” Chaudhry Nisar was quoted as saying to the prime minister.

The cabinet was told that the Private Educational Institutions Regulatory Authority (PEIRA), which was the appropriate forum to address the school fee issue, was currently working without a chairman.

At this point, the prime minister looked towards Education Minister Baleeghur Rehman, who said he was already looking into the issue and was in touch with stakeholders.

However, he explained to the PM that PEIRA fell under the jurisdiction of the Capital Administration and Development Division (CADD), which was recently upgraded to the status of a ministry.

Finance Minister Ishaq Dar then chimed in, saying that to deal with the issue of overlapping ministerial roles, an exercise to redefine administrative responsibilities have been completed and “a summary to this effect is lying on your (the PM’s) table”.

But the PM would have none of it, and told his cabinet that the issue must be resolved swiftly, because “this is not acceptable at a time when the prices of everything else in the country are witnessing a downward trend”.

The PM also asked the education minister to “facilitate” the appointment of a new PEIRA chairman as soon as possible.

PEIRA has not had a chairman for the last two years, ever since the last chairman, Atif Kiani, finished his four-year term on June 10, 2013. Since then, sources say, CADD has been running the affairs of the institution on an ad-hoc basis and a number of bureaucrats have enjoyed the additional charge of PEIRA chairman, but none of them has been able to produce results.

Currently, a grade 21 officer is “looking after” the office of PEIRA chairman, which is against the rules since the position is a grade 20 posting. CADD had even sent a summary to the Establishment Division, seeking approval for handing over additional charge of the PEIRA chairman’s office to the CADD senior joint secretary, who is a grade 21 officer.

Although the Establishment Division rejected the summary, CADD has yet to appoint a new head for the body and, in the interim, is sticking with the joint secretary to run the dysfunctional body.

CADD Secretary Khalid Hanif told reporters: “Under the rules, grade 21 officers cannot hold additional charge of a grade 20 post. I have written to the minister and highlighted this issue.”

When asked why the appointment of a new chairman had been put off for so long, he claimed, “I’m doing whatever I can: I have moved three files for the appointment of a new PEIRA head and I have also written to the Establishment Division,” he said, giving the impression that the matter would be resolved very soon.

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