Degrees of dishonesty
Lawmakers possessing fake degrees
June 21: A number of lawmakers in Pakistan are suspected of possessing fake degrees. The
shocking aspect of this is that custodians of the law may have hoodwinked the
system and made their way into esteemed lawmaking institutions. The holders of
fake degrees belong to different political parties suggesting the deep
entrenchment of the culture of unethical practices in our socio-political
Such unethical practices, however, were motivated by the
political interests of dictators. The academic subversion started when Gen Ziaul
Haq announced that the madressah asnad would be equated with the degrees of
formal educational institutions - although the curricula of madressahs and
formal educational institutions were poles apart. This politically motivated
move was to please the religious factions that always sided with army-led
governments. During the reign of Gen Musharraf, who pretended to champion
'enlightened moderation', it was decided that the old guard would be sidelined
and a new breed of politicians accepting his agenda patronised. A new order was
passed making graduation (BA) mandatory for lawmakers. At the same time
Musharraf intended to marginalise the PPP and the PML-N, for which it was
important that the MMA be facilitated.
The problem, however, was that
Zia's order regarding the equivalence of the madressah asnad was confined to
madressah students. Musharraf's government extended the relevance of that order
to contesting elections. This allowed many MMA candidates to contest the 2002
elections and become part of the assemblies. For the first time, the religious
parties formed a government at the provincial level.
The degrees of
around 81 members of the MMA (29 MNAs and 52 MPAs) were challenged in the
courts. The Musharraf government used this to blackmail the MMA into supporting
its policies, including the notorious 17th Amendment. One of the main reasons
the MMA played the role of friendly opposition was the sword of disqualification
dangling over the heads of its members. Even with cases ongoing in courts, MMA
members with controversial degrees managed to complete their terms. This was
mainly because of the marriage of convenience between the MMA and the Musharraf
The 2008 elections gave potential candidates sufficient time
to arrange for degrees. Non-graduate candidates explored different options and
some managed to get fake degrees. The acquisition of fake degrees is not much of
a problem, even in developed countries. In Pakistan, fake degrees can be
obtained through multiple means. Gangs involved in this business have access to
special paper on which degrees are printed, and logos, stamps and other
sophisticated techniques such as watermark printing. One can buy a fake degree
in any discipline.
Another major source of such degrees includes online
universities that only exist on paper. They charge you a certain amount and
offer you degrees including a PhD. Besides these, we have some universities in
the private sector which managed to get a charter but demonstrate little rigour
in their academic policies and processes, including admission, attendance and
assessment. Their main objective is to mint money.
One of the
contributions of the Higher Education Commission (HEC) was to challenge the
malpractices of such universities. In return tremendous pressure was mounted on
the HEC, which suggests the powerful political backing enjoyed by these
The ultimate result was that a number of candidates
managed to acquire fake degrees, contested the elections and became part of
prestigious lawmaking bodies. Cases were filed to challenge the degrees of a
number of candidates of different political parties. The Supreme Court has given
its verdict and five to six members have been asked to resign on charges of
possessing fake degrees. Re-elections have been held involving heavy funds.
Such episodes raise legitimate questions, one being that of
responsibility. Are the individuals responsible for having cheated? Or should
the party leadership be blamed for issuing election tickets to holders of fake
degrees? Or is it the election commission that is responsible, since it
scrutinised the applications and let fake degree holders contest the elections,
despite the graduation condition? In fact, the individuals, their party
leadership and the election commission are all equally responsible.
all civilised societies, cheating and unethical practices are not only disliked
strict penalties are also imposed on dishonest persons. Here hardly any
defaulter receives punishment. The irony is that in some cases they are rewarded
by their parties by being awarded fresh tickets for the by-elections. In one
case the prime minister himself went to the election meeting of a candidate who
was found guilty of possessing a fake degree.
According to the latest
information, the degrees of many lawmakers have been received by the Higher
Education Commission (HEC) for verification. The whole process should be
completed in a couple of weeks. It is feared that some more members could be
de-seated and if the numbers rise, there could be justification for fresh
elections which would jolt our democratic system.
In an interesting
parallel move, the HEC has decided to verify the degrees of faculty members of
universities and higher education institutions as well.Identifying the holders
of fake degrees will be a welcome move. There should be zero tolerance in this
regard in order to uphold the principles of honesty, truthfulness and
The writer is professor and director of the Centre for
Humanities and Social Sciences at the Lahore School of Economics and author of
Rethinking Education in Pakistan. -By By Dr Shahid Siddiqui
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Fata lecturers' protest enters fourth day
Peshawar: The Fixed-Pay Technical Education Lecturers Association has
been protesting for the fourth day on the Sher Shah Suri Road outside the
Cantonment Railway Station against delay in their regularisation.
Talking to journalists on Saturday, the protesters expressed concern
over what they called government's apathy towards resolving their problems.
"We have been observing token hunger strike for the past four days but
no official has so far bothered to pay us a visit and assure us of meeting our
demands," said Shahid Mehsud, a representative of the lecturers.
lecturers warned to march to Islamabad and hold a protest rally outside
Parliament House if the government did not take serious notice of the matter.
They said they had been appointed on contract basis with the commitment
to regularise them later but it didn't happen. Dawn
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Cut in education budget slated
Peshawar: Chairman Senate Standing Committee on Information Senator
Ghulam Ali on Saturday criticised the decrease in the allocation for education
in the federal budget, saying it was impossible to raise the living standard of
the people without providing education to them.
Speaking on the occasion
of a re-launching ceremony of a monthly Chitrali magazine at Peshawar Press
Club, he said in present era education was basic need to compete with other
He said it was duty of the government to take more practical
steps for provision of facilities to the people in this regard.
it was duty of the government to provide facilities of health, education and
communication but, he added, the rulers were not fulfilling their duties.
He said youth had a role to play in development and progress of the
country, especially in the backward areas.
He said federal government
had decreased the education budget by Rs7 billion as compared to last year. In
such a situation, he said, it was impossible to compete with the developed
Appreciating the people of Chital for their love with the
country, he assured them that he would raise his voice in the Senate for their
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