Higher Education Commission Pakistan and Brain Drain

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My friend and I had the misfortune of daring to visit the HEC during office hours, arriving there at 10 am on Friday Jan 2, 2009 after a grueling long haul from Lahore that started aboard the midnight train.

When we first heard that the Scandinavian countries are accepting Pakistani applications for admission in higher education free and online and with load shedding making it impossible to complete single  form online at home, we rushed to the Internet cafes. Among excitement by this new hope to inject some much needed fresh expertise into the future of our country and spasms in the belly and chest from the effort of dealing with the harsh circumstances prevailing.

It was as if I was willing my body to generate extra electricity and gas to compensate for the lack of it outside. Then with Motorway closed, we walked in the fog to find a rickshaw, barely able to see our own feet in the fog and scaring the unseeing motorists who thought they saw ghosts floating out of the dark suddenly appear at their windscreens, it was an ordeal to make to the Lahore Railway Station, let alone Islamabad, only to be barred from entry into the premises of the HEC. "Time is over. All tokens are issued before 8 am." The guard at the gate said with a self-satisfied grin.

"Excuse me! The offices open at 9 am and you're telling me we should have been here at 4-5 am to get a turn in the long line peopled from all over the country?!." To the Civil Servants, after we pleaded our way in and reassured by the guard that our work has a snowball's chance in hell to get done, "If you think you are here to be served by the public then let me correct your information, Sir. You are here to serve the public and during office hours, it is my right as a citizen of this country to get all the assistance you can afford to give because our country needs every highly educated citizen it can afford. At least allow us to speak to the director.

We have come all the way from Lahore. Two ladies struggling against the odds who have only one day to accomplish our task and believe me we are lucky to have made it here alive." Still the chains of red tape would not budge. Even after repeated phone calls, on our own mobile phones, through which we were able to get the official at the HEC Lahore to talk to the officials at HEC Islamabad, the officials at HEC Islamabad, eying our mobiles as they would an Ebola virus, took them reluctantly as if they were about to explode and talked in a bureaucratic smirk "call on the landline," and threw our phones back at us. When we had lost all hope of talking any reason into the clerks and after they graciously referred us to the empty desk of the Director General, we left the HEC building with our heads hung low and trudged back to Lahore.

It was only one BA degree that we needed to get attested and not that great big a problem for them. So much for "Khawateen Ordinance" and being in the 21st Century. I asked Mr. Bureaucrat if there was any way he could help us, any way he could find it in his busy schedule to spare a couple of minutes for us after having made this hectic journey as we did not have the luxury to stay overnight and risk losing our jobs, it would have been easier to get a response from the statue of Abraham Lincoln at that point and maybe stone would have moved and did what the people who are paid to do it would not during their hours of duty in public service.

Does not Pakistan want its people to get a higher education? Is the HEC averse to earning some much needed funds for the government exchequer? If I were heading that department I would have put in more hours to accommodate the increased influx of attestation seekers who have to send their degrees to reach the Scandinavian universities before January 15, 2009. If the Scandinavian countries are making it easier for Pakistanis to get the much needed free higher education for our country, not to mention the much needed foreign currency exchange remitted by students working abroad, why is the HEC making it impossible?

If this is not brain drain then I do not know what is!!!

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