Pakistan Engineering Council [PEC] came into being in 1976 under an Act of the parliament, called the Pakistan Engineering Council Act 1976. The purpose of constituting PEC was to regulate the engineering profession as a whole throughout the country. As per the Act, PEC is headed by a Chairman, an engineer of good standing and so is its Vice Chairman. Then PEC has an Executive Committee and a Registrar who is a permanent full time official. PEC registered qualified engineers as professional and consulting engineers. Subsequently, PEC also started registration of consulting and contracting firms and categorizing them as per the trade and quantum of work the contracting firms were capable of handling.
PEC was also empowered to recognize the engineering qualifications, promote and ensure quality engineering education at the recognized universities by evaluating their method of education, review of courses of studies in consultation with the universities, conduct of examination, etc. PEC’s other important functions included laying down of code of conduct for engineers, promotion of reforms in the engineering professions, etc.
One could hardly differ from the excellent objectives set forth for it in the PEC Act. It was thus expected that PEC would play a very effective role in enriching the profession and putting on sustainable sound footings. It was also expected that subsequently the area of influence of PEC would be extended further to make it an still more effective professional body thus benefitting the profession in a big way.
Now let’s see how PEC operated and dealt with the task entrusted to it. The Act provided filling of posts of Chairman, Vice Chairman and Members of Executive Committee by federal and provincial government nominations for PEC’s first year of operation. Later these posts were to be filled through elections amongst registered engineers. Most regrettably, government’s engagement did not stop after PEC’s first and its influence continued for the greater part of PEC’s life and is still prevalent. Keeping aside the direct political and governmental involvement, the registered engineers are also to be equally blamed. For many years, uncalled for and unacceptable involvement of large public and private sector consulting and engineering organizations in the conduct of elections. For example, for many years the PEC ballot papers were illegally taken away from the post offices, most probably in connivance with the staff of post offices and then these ballot papers were traded between various groups contesting in PEC elections. This severely impacted the sanctity of the process of elections almost throughout Pakistan and thus, engineers of only large organizations could get elected to various positions of PEC. Though such activities have now stopped but political influence in one way or the other, including elections, is continuing which is impacting the partiality, competence and effectiveness of PEC as a regulatory institution.
As stated above PEC has a very important role to play for the betterment of engineering profession of this country. There are many areas where it has not even started operating but, with the powers vested in it, it can grow into a very influential body to impact and upgrade not only engineering education, betterment of engineers, recognition of Pakistani engineers at the international level, effective bondage between various engineering organizations and regulatory bodies of the country both at federal and provincial levels, etc. For example, PEC could collaborate with various building control authorities to ensure adequate building bye-laws, contractors’ acceptable qualifications, soundness of construction, compliance with fire safety and public health engineering, developing national engineering standards which have direct bearing on construction and installation, etc. Then, PEC should devise mechanism to participate in the governing bodies of universities affiliated with it. Then, why should we care only about universities? Equally important are the engineering colleges and centres of vocational training. Please keep in view that we have a serious shortage of qualified skilled workforce. It thus calls for an integrated approach covering the full spectrum of engineering education and training.
PEC’s organizes professional development courses to upgrade the skills and knowledge base of registered engineers. This is indeed highly commendable and must be continued with greater outreach and effectiveness. One should expect similar other initiatives with long range impacts.
Nevertheless, the falling standards of education at engineering universities, weak University-Industry linkage, the dissatisfactory standard of general construction in Pakistan do point out that there’s a lot that needs to be done by PEC. The sitting PEC officials and the Executive Committee should consider their role in context of nation building and far reaching objectives and impacts.
Originally published in Engineering Review.