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Election Commission, HEC & fake degrees

EC, HEC poles apart on fake degrees
Islamabad, June 26: The issue of the fake degrees of parliamentarians is far from being resolved as the two institutions charged with verifying the degrees are not on the same page as far as authentication process is concerned.

Both seem to be indulging in a blame game aimed at making the other the scapegoat. While the EC is blaming the HEC for not realising the importance of the issue and giving it due importance, the HEC is claiming it cannot move as it has not been provided all the required documents.

Although it seems as if this spat has been provoked by the HEC's decision to send back 140 "illegible degrees" to the EC and asking for clear copies to proceed with the verification process, the hostility on both sides indicates that the unpleasantness has existed for some time.

The EC is not happy with the HEC. An EC official said that degrees of 873 legislators had been sent to the HEC on May 24 while another 228 were forwarded on June 14, but the HEC had yet to verify even a single degree "despite the fact that it is interconnected with all the boards and can verify a degree of a private applicant within 24 hours".

In his opinion, a degree does not need to be completely legible to be verified "as long as just one component such as the roll number is visible, the rest of the details can be gathered", he said.

Nonetheless, he added the EC was trying to resend clearer photocopies to the HEC. "The Returning Officers concerned will be asked to send readable copies."

The official said that in a few cases the HEC had asked for "English translations". He was of the view that the verification of degrees "was a national issue" that should have been handled on an emergency basis.

However, in the halls of the HEC tempers are just as frayed as the flustered staff is trying to deal with an issue they contend they are not equipped to handle.

"The media is making it appear as if the HEC can check the authenticity of a degree with a click of the mouse. But it is not that simple," an HEC official said.

He explained that there was no such thing as simply authenticating a single document or degree: "Even if we have to verify a BA degree, we will first check the candidate's matric and intermediate certificates to first determine if he or she were eligible to sit for the bachelors," adding that an applicant who is seeking verification of a BA, MA or PhD degree has to provide photocopies of all prior certificates as well.

The HEC insists that it will not shorten its procedure even if this is "a national issue". Its officials insist that the education commission needs the original documents because apart from all else "we also check the paper the certificate is printed on for authentication".

In the absence of all the documents the HEC needs for its procedure, an official insists, "all we can do is pass on the photocopy of the degree to the educational institution concerned and ask it to verify the document". In other words, the HEC can do nothing but act as a post office, the official said.

It seems as if despite the pressure of people such as Abid Sher Ali and institutions like Supreme Court, which directed the EC on Wednesday to initiate action against legislators accused of getting elected to legislative institutions on fake degrees, the nation is going to have to wait a long time to learn which of their representatives lied about their educational qualifications. Dawn

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'Fake degree holders should resign, apologise to leadership'
Lahore: Parliamentarians who submitted fake degrees to enter the corridors of power should tender their resignations and apologise to the nation and their party leadership, women legislators of the treasury and opposition benches said on Friday. Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) female lawmaker Arifa Khalid Pervez, talking to journalists in the assembly lobby, said that submitting a fake degree to the Election Commission to be a parliamentarian was a regrettable act and it was a cause for embarrassment for party leaderships. She said that fake degree holders should voluntarily tender their resignations from parliament and apologise to the nation and their party leaders, who were being criticised by the masses and opponents "due to such acts perpetrated by their party members". "The public showed confidence in the leadership of the PML-N, which was reconfirmed in the recent by-elections in PP-160 in which the PML-N candidate won," she said. Separately, Opposition member Samina Khawar Hayyat of the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q), criticising fake degree holders, said that her party did not support such acts. She said that disqualification of parliamentarians on the issue of holding fake degrees was embarrassing for the country's political institutions. Another member of the opposition, Seemal Kamran, said that the issue of fake degrees of parliamentarians was defaming political parties and the democratic system in the country, adding that political parties and other organisations should make a policy to give party tickets only to those people who have a good reputation and credibility among the people. Daily times

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Punjab plans to spend Rs6bn on schools
Rawalpindi: The Punjab government will spend Rs6 billion on 800 primary and 200 middle schools in the next fiscal year to augment their physical infrastructure.

Chief Minister's Taskforce on Elementary Education chairman Raja Mohammad Anwar said this while addressing the concluding ceremony of a teachers' training workshop held at the Government Girls High School, Kallar Syedan in Rawalpindi on Thursday.

Mr Anwar said improvement in elementary education was the top priority of the Punjab government by providing basic infrastructure to the educational institutions.

"Run-down school buildings will be rebuilt with an amount of Rs6 billion in 2010-11."

The taskforce chairman informed the audience that besides improving educational standards of public-sector schools, the government was also committed to establishing information technology laboratories in all 700 elementary schools by 2013.

To strengthen computer learning in schools, appointment of IT teachers in all elementary schools will be done on merit. He disclosed that the Punjab government had decided to start a special educational stipend scheme for deserving students belonging to minority community.

Mr Anwar said as a policy initiative, the provincial government had appointed female educators close to their homes, adding that allowances for teachers showing exemplary performance in teaching would be enhanced from the coming fiscal year.

He asked the newly recruited teachers to take their job as a sacred mission.

The function was also addressed by officials of the education department and teachers who dwelled upon the need of improving school education on priority basis.

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Pakistan may not achieve Education for All goals
Islamabad: Speakers at a roundtable stressed the need for reappraisal of educational priorities and resource allocation to address issues related to Education for All (EFA) goals.

They regretted that instead of increasing the GDP spending on education, the government had condensed the GDP spending on education from 2.49 in the fiscal year 2007-08 to 2.05 per cent for 2009-10.

They suggested the federal and provincial governments to plan their future development projects and reforms keeping in view the challenges being faced by the country. They also pointed towards the need for removing inequality in the education system.The session on "Financing quality basic education for all" was organised by Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency (Pildat) in collaboration with Unesco.

According to the global monitoring report, Pakistan is among 29 countries which are not likely to achieve EFA goals by 2015.

The report said Pakistan may need another 15 years to achieve 86 per cent literacy rate and 38 years to achieve universal primary education or 100 per cent net enrollment rate. This means EFA goals will not be achieved before 2048 if the present trend continues and special initiatives are not launched.

Dr Warren Mellor, the Unesco representative, said Pakistan needed to make significant investment in education if it wanted to address issues related to EFA.

Senator S.M Zafar, chairperson Senate standing committee on education, said there was a lack of political will to promote uniform education in the country.

Former finance minister Omar Ayub Khan recommended that the education budget of districts, tehsils and UCs should be analysed if the education system was to be improved.

Tahira Abdullah, a civil society representative, criticised the cuts made on social sector budget including education.

Arshad Khan, national specialist (education) Unesco, said of 1,000 children enrolled in class one, only 550 retained up to class five while 13 per cent of them were lucky enough to get secondary school certificate.Ahmed Bilal, executive director Pildat, said the country had a number of international obligations in the form of MDGs besides commitments made in its national education policies. Dawn

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