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HEC starts to feel the heat

PU, Sindh University not able to meet HEC's deadline
Lahore, July 19: The arrest of Higher Education Commission (HEC) Chairman Javaid Leghari's younger brother Farooq Leghari and the 'non-cooperative attitude' of some universities have put the HEC left feeling the heat, thus creating doubts that the verification process of parliamentarians' degrees will not be completed in the coming months.

However, the most disappointing event this week has been the dissatisfaction and reservation expressed by the HEC regarding the verification processes being carried out by some varsities, with the commission having sent back various degrees to universities for re-evaluation. According to the HEC, some universities have been unable to verify the degrees according to the commission's criteria.

According to educational experts, certain elements not in favour of the verification exercise have been seemingly successful in hindering the process, subsequently forcing the HEC chairman to seek help from Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani to resolve various matters and hurdles in the verification process.

On the pretext of his brother's arrest, and due to pressure from parliamentarians, there are rumors that the HEC chairman may possibly be submitting his resignation to the prime minister. According to sources, the HEC chairman had been receiving threats from some parliamentarians from Sindh and he had, in this connection, written a letter to the prime minister, who thereafter showed his willingness to meet the chairman.

The PM stated that there was no pressure on the HEC chairman from the government and the government would not allow "corrupt parliamentarians" and fake degree holders to be successful in their agendas. The dilemma, however, is that if the HEC chairman actually decides to quit, it is expected that no other official will take the position and stand against these corrupt elements, depriving the Election Commission of Pakistan of its desired results.

In these circumstances, we see that there are two options for the authorities engaged in the degree verification process. For one, the authorities could take action against the administrations of universities that are not cooperating and are using delaying tactics to hinder the verification process.

The National Assembly Standing Committee on Education had instructed the HEC to submit the final verification report regarding all degrees by July 16. The HEC, following the instructions, sent the degrees to various universities for verification. However, from all the verified degrees received, the HEC found that only 200 of them had been verified according to proper criteria.

There is also an issue regarding parliamentarians, who had till now not submitted their degrees to the HEC for verification, thus further delaying the entire process.

Although checking degrees is a routine matter for them, some universities are still asking for more time in order to complete the verification process.

The worrisome thing is that it is the varsities' administrations that are giving a hard time to the HEC and there is a severe need to expose the corrupt officials delaying the process and the elements who are further supporting and guiding them.

Deadline: The PU and Sindh University are among the institutes that were not able to meet the HEC deadline for the degree verification process.

Another thing that can not be ignored is that the varsities engaged in this verification process, especially the PU, are also facing allegations of corruption. High-raking officials, including deans and directors, are allegedly involved in corruption and teachers are said to in pass students illegally.

Corruption stories of teachers who hold PhD degrees have not only astonished the nation, but even the fake degree holders are questioning the recent corruption in inquiries at the PU. The civil society too is demanding that the PU VC complete the process by not engaging corrupt officials, and by not allowing these elements to visit his office or the degree-verification cells until the process is completed.

Although PU Vice Chancellor Prof Dr Mujahid Kamran is doing his best to complete the process with transparency, with even the HEC acknowledging his efforts, it is still hard to ignore all the corruption being perpetrated at the varsity. The second solution to overcome this corruption is that the government identifies the parliamentarians who are pressurising the varsities, thus restoring the HEC chairman's confidence and fully exposing the corruption before the entire nation.

There is a dire need for the government, specially the president and the prime minister, to focus on the issue and to ask the authorities concerned to present their final reports in this regard so that a judicial process can be initiated against fake degree holders. Daily times

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Sindh University protecting fake degree holders, thinks HEC
Islamabad: The Higher Education Commission (HEC) suspects that the Sindh University is protecting fake degree holders as it needs almost two months for verification of degrees sent by the HEC.

Sources in the HEC confided that the Sindh University management was approached by the Commission on Saturday but it was non-cooperative and indifferent.

The commission officials, it is said, spoke not only to the controversial Vice Chancellor of the Sindh University Dr Nazir Mughal but also to its controller but their responses were found to be discouraging.

"We think they want to hide the facts," a senior Commission source said, adding that the vice chancellor, when approached, appeared totally oblivious of the deficiencies in the Sindh University's verification of over 100 degrees of parliamentarians already rejected by the HEC.

The source said that Dr Nazir Mughal told the commission official, who contacted him, to talk to the university controller. The controller, however, sought two months' time to complete the verification process to the satisfaction of the HEC.

"We were told by the Sindh University that the verification as per the requirement of the HEC could not be done in days or a few weeks' time though none of the universities had said so," the source said, adding that the HEC, however, did not agree with Sindh University's arguments.

Next week, the HEC sources said, the commission would again approach the Sindh University to do the needful at the earliest instead of using dillydallying tactics.

The Sindh University is said to be under the influence of the provincial government, which has started using all sorts of third-rate arm-twisting tactics to stop Prof Dr Javed Leghari, HEC Chairman, from verifying the degrees of members of parliament particularly from Sindh.

Javed Leghari, who is so far braving all sorts of pressures exerted on him, is determined to complete his job honestly and fairly. He is being pressurised to resign and in order to bring him in line, the provincial government has arrested his younger brother on hastily half-cooked corruption charges.

A number of his family servants have too been reportedly apprehended by the police, his farm house in Hyderabad was also raided besides sending him threatening messages.

All this state hostility against the HEC chairman has reportedly been let loose to secure from disqualification a large number of provincial assembly members and some high profile PPP leaders from Sindh.

The HEC chairman has sought a meeting with the prime minister to discuss the fake degree issues. Premier Yousuf Raza Gilani, however, told the media on Saturday that he had yet to receive the HEC chairman's request for the meeting but hinted that he would call Javed Leghari for a meeting in a couple of days and would not allow anybody to victimise anyone.

It is yet to be seen whether the prime minister could do anything when the home minister Sindh and close confidant of President Asif Ali Zardari, Zulfiqar Mirza, is already being blamed by the Chairman NA Standing Committee on Education for harassing Javed Leghari's family.

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Punjab varsity given deadline to verify 133 degrees
Lahore: The Higher Education Commission (HEC) has given a deadline of July 28, 2010 to the Punjab University (PU) to complete the verification of remaining 133 degrees of parliamentarians.

Earlier, the commission had given a deadline of July 13, 2010 to the PU to complete the verification of 313 degrees which the varsity could not achieve, as it could only send back 217 degrees out of which six were declared fake by the university.

Meanwhile, a Punjab University spokesman on Saturday said the varsity would send back around 65 more degrees after verification to the Higher Education Commission (HEC) by 20th or 21st July, adding the remaining 68 would be sent back to the HEC within a week's time.

He further said earlier 217 degrees were sent back to the HEC after verification, adding not a single of these degrees had been received back by the PU.

It is pertinent to mention here that the PU had returned the photocopies of degrees of eight parliamentarians to the HEC owing to their vagueness and illegibility while the same degrees are yet to be received by the varsity.

According to the sources, the PU is expected to receive more degrees from the HEC for verification in the coming days, as degrees of a number of prominent MPs who graduated from the PU were yet to be received by the varsity.

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HEC to submit report on degrees to NA Committee, EC
Islamabad: Higher Education Commission (HEC) will submit report on verification of degrees of the parliamentarians to National Standing Committee on Education and Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) today.

Executive Director Higher Education Commission Sohail H. Naqvi said the HEC will submit report on verification of degrees as per plan.

Adviser on Quality Assurance and Learning Innovation HEC Dr Mehmood Raza said that the Chairman HEC would send a series of reports after verification of degrees to the National Standing Committee on Education and the Election Commission.

HEC was given a deadline to finalise a report by last Friday by the parliamentary committee, which has initiated across the board checking of academic qualifications of all 1170 lawmakers.

According to HEC 939 copies of degrees were sent for verification out of which 736 were received back. The universities have verified 699 degrees as genuine and 37 as fake.

Another 168 degrees have still to be verified.

HEC is still engaged in the verification of the information provided by different universities, deeni madaris and foreign universities.

The Commission would forward the final report to the NA Standing Committee and the Election Commission, which would make the names public.

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Convicted fake degree holders to face eight-year ban
Islamabad: A phony degree holding federal or provincial legislator, who would be awarded three-year imprisonment for this corrupt practice, would stand debarred from contesting elections for at least eight years, legal experts say.

Previously, such a convict faced an extended ban on being a candidate for any elected body but the bar has been significantly curtailed courtesy the 18th Amendment, said one expert. The Article, 63(h), inserted into the Constitution by the 18th Amendment, says a person shall be disqualified from being elected or chosen as, and from being a member of parliament if he has been, on conviction for any offence involving moral turpitude, sentenced to imprisonment for a term not less than two years, unless a period of five years has elapsed since his release.

This means that there would be disqualification at all to vie for an elected slot if the sentence is less than two years. Additionally, a lawmaker, after undergoing his three-year sentence imposed on him for possessing a bogus degree, would become qualified to contest elections five years after his release from prison on the exhaustion of his term. Immediately after the enactment of the 18th Amendment, this and some other clauses of Article 63 evoked a sweeping attack from public circles for giving a clean chit to those convicted on highly serious criminal charges, including murder and rape, and for acting in any manner prejudicial to the ideology of Pakistan or sovereignty, integrity or security of Pakistan or integrity or independence of the judiciary or for defaming or bringing into ridicule the judiciary or the armed forces.

Experts say that the Representation of People's Act (RPA) 1976 provides three-year sentence to be awarded by a district and sessions judge for the "corrupt practice" of having a counterfeit degree. Such a convict has the right to file an appeal before a division bench, comprising two judges of the high court. After that, he can also approach the Supreme Court.

Idrees Ashraf, advocate, says the Section 100 of the RPA, which deals with disqualification of MPs on account of certain offences, allows the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) to make an order that a legislator having been convicted by a court of law for any offence specified in the law would be disqualified for such a period not exceeding five years from being or from being elected as a member of an assembly.

Experts point out that the earlier conviction under the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Ordinance also carried a 21-year disqualification to contest elections. This period was later reduced to 10 years through an amendment in the NAB law.

However, they say, this provision of the NAB ordinance has become redundant after the promulgation of the 18th Amendment, in the case of those disqualified under this law.

If, for example, someone is sentenced to one year under the NAB law, he would not stand disqualified to contest elections for 10 years. In fact, he would not be disqualified at all because the term of sentence is less than two years. However, in case of his conviction for two or more years under the NAB ordinance, he would be qualified five years after his release from prison.

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Seven KP MPAs accused of having fake degrees
Peshawar: Out of the total 124 in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly including one female lawmaker elected on reserved seat have been accused of having fake degrees. Two members of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl including Gulistan Khan and minority member Kishor Kumar have already been disqualified.

Three provincial ministers have also been accused of having fake graduation degrees. They include Sher Azam Khan Wazir and Rahimdad Khan, both belonging to the ruling Pakistan People's Party, and Syed Aqil Shah, a minister from the Awami National Party. All of them have rejected reports that their degrees were a fake.

An independent member of the provincial assembly from Swabi, Sardar Ali Khan has also been accused of having a fake degree. Two women lawmakers are being mentioned in connection with the fake degrees.

However, the name of the bogus degree holder could not be ascertained. The senior minister Rahimdad Khan claimed his degree was valid but some people wanted to damage his reputation through such tactics.

However, he observed that such elements would not succeed in their designs. Amid claims and counterclaims regarding the degrees of the lawmakers, the ANP-led provincial government is reported to have prepared a summary to summon the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly session to discuss the existing situation and pass certain important bills.

An elected MPA said on the condition of anonymity that he did not know the exact figure of the fake degree- holders but the number of such legislators would not affect the existing structure of the government and the assembly.

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Nawaz flays govt attitude towards HEC chairman
Islamabad: The chief of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Mohammad Nawaz Sharif has taken serious exception to coercion and intimidation that the People's Party-led government is allegedly perpetrating on the Chairman Higher Education Commission Javed Leghari in a bid to prevent him from performing his duty with honesty and a sense of highly professional and national obligation.

"I warn the government to refrain from its threatening conduct against a dutiful officer who has set examples of truthful working in evaluating academic degrees of lawmakers that ought to be emulated by all government officials in discharge of their duty," Nawaz Sharif said in a statement.

He said the way, the government is using coercive tactics against the HEC chairman, speaks high of its vested interests that it wants to serve in the degree assessment process.He said the arrest and release of his brother Farooq Leghari and the attempt to assault his village in Sindh only exposes the government design of exploiting the process to serve vested interests of the government.

"I understand Mr Javed Leghari has set higher standards of truthful professionalism in refusing to accept the government dictates and work on merit and worthy dispensation alone," Sharif added.

Pakistan, the PML-N chief said, needs officers like Javed Legahri in striking a balance between commendable conduct and wrongdoing for which he deserves the highest praise. The government will be well advised to shun its behaviour that points out to deriving certain nefarious political designs out of the degree evaluation process. He said the PML-N is fully alert to the situation and will in no way allow the government to manipulate wrong from the process. Sharif said that any attempt to destabilise and undermine the democratic order will meet an irresistible opposition that will ultimately frustrate the government conspiracy.

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Quaideen support HEC chief Dr Lagharia
Islamabad: Quaideen, the Alumni Association of Quaid-i-Azam University, has expressed solidarity with Dr. Javaid Laghari, chairman of the Higher Education Commission (HEC), against whom the Sindh government is applying tremendous pressure to stop the process of verification of degrees of senators, MNAs and MPAs.

In a statement, the QAU old students body said that the HEC or its chairperson do not have a major role in the verification process. It was the superior judiciary which asked the Election Commission of Pakistan to get the degrees of legislators verified when the number of fake degree-holders started inflating. The Quaideen said that the ECP had no option but to ask the HEC and its chief to implement the court orders.

The Quaideen lauded the services of the HEC chairman for making the process of verification of academic testimonials of elected representatives of the people transparent and asked the democratic governments in the centre and provinces to desist from taking any action which protects the politicians who sneaked into the elected houses by obtaining bogus degrees to fulfil the graduation condition inserted in the body of law by a military dictator.

The alumni also asked the government and judiciary to also get degrees of military officers, judiciary, bureaucracy and teachers verified.

It expressed its surprise that when most of the fake degree-holders belong to PML-N, why the Sindh government became so harsh only because the HEC head belongs to Sindh.

It lamented that when the petitions challenging fake degrees soon after 2002 elections had been decided by courts in time, many would not have dared to obtain more such degrees for the 2008 polls.

Professor Kaleemullah, general secretary of the Federation of All Pakistan Universities Academic Staff Associations, said that though the HEC is not cooperating with FAPUASA on accepting demands like recognising journals, upgradation, qualification allowance and GRE condition, his federation fully backs the HEC chaiman. He said that it is strange that instead of brining the fraudulent MPs to book, the family and relatives of Dr. Laghari are being harassed. The news

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