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Fake degrees' debacle

Degrees verification process may take longer
July 21: The saga of lawmakers' fake degrees has taken yet another twist. It emerged on Monday that the verification process of the legislators' educational qualifications may take longer than expected. The Election Commission of Pakistan has expressed a lack of confidence in the way the Higher Education Commission is conducting the process of scrutiny. It will now re-verify the HEC's findings. According to the ECP secretary, every lawmaker whose degree has been declared fake would be given the chance of a personal hearing "to prove their claim". The secretary was also quoted as saying that "we don't need anybody's direction on how to do our job". If this were true the fake degrees' issue would not have emerged in the first place. What can also prolong matters is that the HEC will now have to submit its findings to the education ministry, instead of directly to a parliamentary committee on education.

The HEC appears to be doing an impartial job. Without naming names, it declared the degrees of 37 lawmakers to be bogus. Resultantly, the government was seen to apply pressure tactics to HEC chairman Javaid Laghari when his brother Farooq Laghari was picked up by security men on July 12 in Hyderabad. Farooq Laghari was charged with corruption during his tenure as DCO of Tando Mohammad Khan. Regardless of the veracity of the claims against him, the timing of Mr Laghari's arrest casts a dubious shadow on the government's intentions. It strengthens the belief that his arrest was a pressure tactic aimed at harassing the HEC head. Prime Minister Gilani's intervention - in the aftermath of which Farooq Laghari was released on bail - indicates the government's involvement in the harassment of Javaid Laghari in order to influence the verification process. Mr Gilani also asked the Sindh chief minister to "avoid any victimisation" of the Laghari family after the HEC head met the premier on Monday. The fact that a democratic government can apply pressure tactics more suited to totalitarian regimes is troubling.

The issue has dragged on long enough. The government must not interfere in the verification process and refrain from harassing those tasked with scrutinising the degrees. The issue needs closure so that the country can move on. The lack of a clear direction is fuelling speculations about mid-term elections, which is not what the country needs at this point. The government cannot delay the issue indefinitely hoping that it will go away. The matter needs to be resolved - and the best way forward is for the task to be accomplished honestly and speedily. Dawn

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HEC in yet another spiral
Islamabad: A meeting between Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and the Higher Education Commission (HEC) chairman has sent the commission into another spiral, making the outcome of the issue of fake degrees more confusing.

On one hand, a number of universities has sought more time from the HEC after the expiry of the deadline for completing the verification process, and the prime minister's new directive for submitting the verification reports to the education minister rather than the National Assembly Standing Committee on Education that is headed by an opposition lawmaker, has added to the mess.

In the meeting with HEC Chairman Javed Leghari, Gilani had directed him to submit verification reports of degrees to Education Minister Assef Ahmed, instead of submitting them to the National Assembly Standing Committee for Education, headed by PML-N's Abid Sher Ali.

The Election Commission of Pakistan and the Supreme Court, which had directly sent some degrees for verification, are also waiting for HEC's report.

Following Gilani's directive, the HEC on Tuesday sent its report to the education minister, declaring 183 degrees valid, while reporting 37 to be fake. However, the names of the degree holders have not been made public so far.

The HEC has allowed additional time to some universities and asked them to complete the verification process by July 27.

Sources said there were some universities that were delaying the progress, while Khairpur University, situated in the Sindh chief minister's hometown had not sent a single degree back. Daily times

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HEC refuses to accept clean chit for all lawmakers
Islamabad: During the ongoing scrutiny supervised by Higher Education Commission (HEC), University of Sindh and University of Balochistan have given clean chits to all their graduate lawmakers, an outcome which the HEC has refused to accept.

According to the HEC, 105 members of the parliament and provincial assemblies claimed to obtain their BA degrees from Sindh University, whereas 56 lawmakers said they had had their education at University of Balochistan.

"Both these universities have sent us their one-line response that each degree sent to them is genuine, which the HEC has refused to accept. The commission has asked them to repeat the entire verification exercise," said an HEC official close to the development.

The HEC formulated a special form for scrutiny of lawmakers' educational backgrounds, whereby all universities were supposed to check not only their BA degrees but also matriculation and intermediate certificates along with their computerised national identity cards. The criterion was the same for every university, and the HEC would not compromise on that, said the official.

Though the exercise was taking considerable time, the universities were largely following HEC instructions in running checks on the claims made by the lawmakers, he added.

According to the HEC, the University of Punjab tops the list as 313 legislators have claimed to have completed their graduation from that university. Next comes the University of Peshawar which is scrutinising the degrees of 110 members of parliament and provincial assemblies.

The University of Karachi has 100 of its former students in national and provincial legislatures followed by the Bahauddin Zakariya University with 50 graduates.

The Pakistan Military Academy, which also has the status of a degree-awarding institution, is verifying degrees of eight graduates. The Gomal University and Allama Iqbal Open University are investigating educational qualifications of 10 legislators each. Ten members of parliament and provincial assemblies have done their graduation from the now-defunct Al-Khair University.

The HEC is also investigating degrees of 36 legislators who have claimed to have graduated from foreign universities. Twenty-one lawmakers had contested elections on the basis of certificates issued by 10 madressah boards of the country. The HEC has already written to the boards, seeking their confirmation.

The Election Commission is yet to provide degrees of 161 legislators to the HEC for verification.

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HEC chief 'unwilling' to continue in office
Islamabad: Higher Education Commission chairman Javed Leghari on Tuesday met President Asif Ali Zardari and updated him on the fake degree issue, sources in the Presidency said.

No official press release was issued because it was said to be a one-on-one meeting for which media coverage was not allowed.

Like other events from which the Presidency tried to keep media away, the meeting between the president and the HEC chief took place inside the president's residence.

Insiders said Mr Leghari presented a report on fake degrees and the names of politicians whose cases might be sent to the Election Commission for further action.

The HEC chairman had called on Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani at Prime Minister's House on Monday and presented him the report.

It has been learnt that the HEC chief has expressed his inability to work for the commission because of reported pressures and threats he had been receiving since he had started scrutiny of education degrees of lawmakers on a Supreme Court order.

However, President Zardari asked him to continue for some time because his resignation would generate a new controversy and ultimately the government would be blamed for it.

Presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar said he could not comment because it was a one-to-one meeting.

Meanwhile, a leader of Pakistan Muslim League-N, Abid Sher Ali, told a private TV channel that the HEC chairman was being harassed by Sindh Home Minister Zulfiqar Mirza to keep the issue under wraps.

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KU verifies degrees of 14 more legislators
Karachi: The educational degrees of 14 out of 16 lawmakers that were recently sent to Karachi University by the Higher Education Commission for verification have been declared genuine.

The legislators whose degrees have been declared genuine are: MPA Zareen Majeed, MPA Ameer Nawab, MPA Muqeem Alam, MPA Mohammad Abdur Rauf Siddiqui, Sindh Local Government Minister Agha Siraj Durrani, MPA Waseem Ahmed, MNA Mir Hazar Khan Bijrani, MNA Dr Azra Fazal, MNA S.A. Iqbal Qadri, MNA Khush Bakht Shujaat, MNA Haider Abbas Rizvi, MNA Sher Mohammad Baloch, MNA Husna Aftab and Senator Safdar Ali Abbasi.

Prof Nasiruddin Khan, KU Pro Vice Chancellor, said that two cases pertaining to Mohammad Khan Toor, a provincial minister from Balochistan, and Shama Arif Mithani, an MPA from Sindh, were being processed.

However, sources said Mr Toor's educational record was not available with the KU. Dawn

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