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Supreme Court verdict on fake degrees

Is the SC verdict on fake degrees being sabotaged?
Islamabad, July 22: The recent Supreme Court judgment that obligated verification of MPs' degrees by the Election Commission envisages no role whatsoever of the Education Ministry that has now been asked to oversee, or impede, the work of the Higher Education Commission (HEC).

The June 14 ruling exclusively left it to the ECP to get the genuineness of the degrees checked, without naming any organization to do this job, a plain reading of the judicial order shows.

In pursuance of this decision, the ECP approached the HEC for authentication of the degrees because it found the HEC the only government establishment dealing with such matters relating to the universities.

It is the ECP that will be answerable to the apex court when the latter will call it to explain the progress on the implementation of its decision, and the Education Ministry will have nothing to do on this count, Idrees Ashraf advocate said.

Paragraph 17 of the judgment is quite explicit about the verification of the degrees. It reads: "Shouldn't it then be incumbent upon the ECP, in discharge of its constitutional obligations to guard against corrupt practices, to launch prosecution of persons who stood accused of the commission of the same. Needless to say that punishment and consequent disqualification of such-like persons would not be an act undermining the dignity and the majesty of the Houses of Legislature but an act in aid of enhancing the same."

The next paragraph says, "The ECP is, therefore, directed to initiate action against all such persons who are accused of commission of corrupt practices; of committing forgery and of using, as genuine, documents which they knew or at least had reason to believe to be forged. The ECP shall ensure that the investigations in these matters are conducted honestly, efficiently and expeditiously and shall depute one of its senior officers to supervise the same."

The sessions judges to whom these trials shall then be entrusted, are also directed to conclude the same without any delay. In any case, it should not take each sessions judge who gets seized with the matter more than three months to conclude the same.

Although the apex court verdict is clear and provides no room for any role of his ministry, Education Minister Sardar Asseff Ahmed Ali has been quoted as saying in an interview to an English daily that he would go through the detailed judgment and would see how his ministry should act in coming days.

The HEC Chairman Dr Javed Leghari explained at length during his recent meeting with Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani that whatever he was doing for authentication of the degrees of the MPs was in accordance with the apex court ruling and the HEC law. But the minister has accused him of not following the prescribed rules.

If Sardar Asseff involves Law Minister Babar Awan in this process as he has vowed, the matter of verification of degrees would be dragged as has done about the implementation of the Supreme Court judgment against the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) especially the reopening of money laundering cases against President Asif Ali Zardari in Switzerland.

Experts say according to the Supreme Court decision the only body that, under the law, can move against those possessing phony degrees, is the ECP after the charge is conclusively established against them. They say that the National Assembly Committee on Education, which is vigorously working to expose the fake degree holding MPs, has no power to approach a court of law seeking disqualification of any such federal or provincial legislator on this charge.

Former ECP Secretary Kanwar Dilshad said the June 14 judgment has authoritatively interpreted election laws which make it mandatory for the ECP to proceed against the bogus degree holders. He said the decision elaborated the corrupt practices, which was never done before.

He said that the ECP could not directly disqualify any MP on the charge of holding fake degree and it has powers to file a case with the sessions judge to prosecute him. Such prosecution can earn him three-year imprisonment.

Dilshad said the ECP could seek the assistance of any government institution as it has now done in the case of the HEC in the performance of its legal and constitutional functions. The news

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HEC to act against 'irresponsible' VCs
Lahore: Fear of action against the vice chancellors (VC), who verified the degrees of parliamentarians without following the criteria set out by the Higher Education Commission (HEC), has forced the varsities' administrations to strictly start overlooking the degree verification process, while also checking the Matriculation and Intermediate records of parliamentarians, learnt on Wednesday.

The administrations of the universities that are engaged in verifying the degrees are also worried after not getting any relaxation with regards to the deadline given by the HEC.

More records: Some varsities, including the Punjab University (PU), have asked the HEC to also send them the Matriculation and Intermediate records of parliamentarians.

All the universities engaged in the degree verification process have increased the pace of their work after the announcement of disciplinary action by the National Assembly Standing Committee on Education and the HEC, which will be taken against the varsities not verifying the degrees according to the HEC's criteria. According to some sources within the HEC, a plan has been devised to take action against the VCs of those varsities who have been 'disturbing' the verification processes, have been unable to meet the HEC's deadline and have been irresponsible while checking the degrees. They said the HEC had suffered a lot due to the irresponsibility of the VCs, many of which sent back the degrees without verifying them as per the commission's criteria.

Due to this attitude of several varsities, the HEC has now sent back the degrees to the universities for re-evaluation, the sources said, adding that more than 500 degrees were sent back to the universities for re-evaluation, which included PU, Allama Iqbal Open University, Karachi University, Sindh University and Balochistan University, and some universities from Peshawar as well. They said that an inquiry would be held against the VCs who have shown irresponsibility and have ignored the HEC's instructions regarding the degree verification process.

After the announcement of this inquiry, the varsities have started taking the task seriously, while some have also written to the HEC, asking them to send further documents for verification. The PU also wrote to the HEC, asking for Intermediate certificates of around 18 parliamentarians. The PU Public Relations director said that the names of these 18 parliamentarians have not been disclosed, as per the university's policy.

According to a PU spokesman, the committee that is verifying the degrees has 'doubts' over the bachelor's degrees and has therefore asked for the Intermediate certificates of the parliamentarians to be reviewed as well. It is important to mention here that there are still 78 parliamentarians' degrees still left to be reviewed at PU, while the verification report of 2,809 parliamentarians' degrees has already been sent to the HEC, amongst which 11 degrees had been declared fake.

Separately, sources from the HEC said that the varsities' demand to provide Matriculation and Intermediate certificates was "astonishing", since all of them had submitted the reviewed degrees earlier without seeking these certificates.

The sources said that the VCs had already been told not to show any reluctance in verifying the degrees. "The VCs, however, ignored the HEC's instructions after which the commission asked the varsities to send back the degrees so the commission could itself check the degrees following the proper criteria," they said, adding that the HEC has denied all requests of the varsities for extending the deadline and have instructed the varsities to complete the degrees' verification by July 23. Daily times

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SU seeks speaker's help for degree scrutiny
Islamabad: University of Sindh has asked speaker of Sindh Assembly Nisar Khuhro to assist it in properly scrutinising the educational qualifications of lawmakers.

It has been learned that the university has failed to find even a single fake degree because it has not been following the criteria set by Higher Education Commission for verifying the academic qualifications of lawmakers.

Sources said that after the HEC rejected the university's initial report that gave a clean chit to its 105 graduate legislators, the university has started the exercise all over again and decided to follow the prescribed rules.

Now instead of only relying on details which the Election Commission has provided to it through the HEC, the Sindh University has asked Mr Khuhro's office to provide educational particulars of assembly members.

According to the special form which the HEC has formulated for the purpose, the universities need to check the graduate-level degrees as well as verify the lawmakers' matriculation and intermediate certificates and their computerised national identity cards.

Moreover, the verification of signatures of vice-chancellors concerned has also been declared mandatory for the process.

Surprisingly, the university had initially sent an "all OK" report about the educational claims of 105 lawmakers who largely belonged to the Sindh Assembly.

The Balochistan University which has 56 graduate legislators had sent a similar report to the HEC which was rejected by the commission. According to the sources, Sindh and Balochistan assemblies will be more affected as result of ongoing verification process.

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Balochistan minister's degree termed fake
Karachi: Karachi University dispatched its report on the verification of lawmakers' academic certificates to the Higher Education Commission (HEC) on Wednesday after declaring one educational degree fake.

The degree declared fake was that of Mohammad Khan Toor, a provincial minister from Balochistan.

It is worth noting that the KU had received a second batch of academic certificates of 16 lawmakers for verification a few days ago. Of them, 14 were declared genuine a day earlier.

Dr Nasiruddin Khan, KU pro vice chancellor said that the university completed its task much before the July 27 deadline that had been given to it.

"The academic credentials of Sindh MPA Shama Arif Mithani are found to be genuine. However, no examination record of Mr Toor could be found at the university," he said.

Earlier, the university had declared 105 degrees out of 106 genuine. The case related to Yaqub Bazenjo, an MPA from Balochistan, was not looked into on the grounds that it is pending in court. Dawn

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PU seeks MPs certificates
Lahore: The Punjab University has requested the Higher Education Commission to furnish the record of intermediate examination certificates of 18 parliamentarians in order to complete the verification of their degrees. According to the spokesman of the Punjab University on Wednesday, the university, at present, is carrying out verification of 78 parliamentarians while verification report about the degrees of 280 parliamentarians has already been sent to the HEC. The news

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