Degree condition to go ab initio
Lahore, July 20: A good news for the fake degree holder parliamentarians is that the country's political forces are united on striking down the bachelor's degree condition by declaring the law as being void from the outset.
They have agreed on making necessary amendments to declare Section 99 (1) (CC) of the Representation of the People Act 1976 as well as Article 8A of the Chief Executive Order No 17 of 2002 as being ultra vires to the constitution from day one.
After the passage of this amendment, the bachelor's degree condition would stand removed from day one, and no proceedings on this base could be taken against sitting legislators.
The degree issue has brought a bad name to all political parties, as fake degree-holder parliamentarians do not belong any to one party. Rather, they are associated with almost every mainstream party.
A Higher Education Commission (HEC) spokesman recently confirmed that 29 degrees submitted by the parliamentarians were fake.
"We received 936 degrees, of which 511 degrees have been verified and 29 were found invalid," Mehmood Raza, an adviser at the HEC, confirmed at a press conference the other day.
However, he refused to give the names of parliamentarians whose certificates were declared fake. Independent sources in the HEC say that the number of fake degree-holders has reached 46.
These include members of the Senate, the National Assembly and all four provincial assemblies.
The names include Senator Akbar Magsi, the younger brother of Balochistan Governor Nawab Zulfiqar Magsi, Sindh Food Minister Nadir Magsi, PML-N MNA Salman Mohsin Gilani elected from NA-165 Pakpatan, PPP MPA Waseem Afzal Gondal, elected from PP-119 Mandi Bahauddin, PPP MNA Akhundzada Chatan from Bajaur and PPP MPA Safina Saima Ghurki from Punjab.
The controversy over fake degrees surfaced when Jamshed Dasti, a PPP MNA from Muzaffargarh and chairman of the NA Standing Committee on Sports, had to resign during proceedings against him in the Supreme Court.
Another PPP MNA, Amir Yar Waran, also resigned over the same issue.
MNA Nazir Jatt and MPA Muhammad Ajmal Asif of the PML-Q, Naghma Mushtaq of PML-N MPA, Rana Mubashir Iqbal from Lahore and a PML-Q MPA from Multan also resigned to avoid possible disqualification by courts hearing petitions challenging their academic degrees.
PML-N's MNA Javed Hasnain and MPA Rizwan Naurez Gill from Sargodha and MPA Malik Yasir Raza from Rawalpindi were declared ineligible by the Lahore High Court for holding fake degrees.
Liaquat Ali Ghumman, another MPA of the same party from Sialkot, sent his resignation to the party leadership before the court issued a verdict against him.
The situation was so embarrassing for party leaders that while speaking on the floor of the House, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani had to say that parliamentarians' degrees should not be a hurdle in their eligibility and that the parliamentarians should collectively protect parliament, as it was being maligned over the issue of fake degrees.
He said there were several MNAs in the House, who had fake degrees and their cases were pending, but parliament would have to respect the mandate until there was a final decision.
The political leadership considered the matter at length and saw a ray of hope after a decision by the Supreme Court on a constitutional petition against the condition of having a bachelor's degree for contesting election to the Senate and national or provincial assembly seats.
The seven-member bench of the Supreme Court struck down the condition declaring the provision contrary to Articles 17 and 25 of the Constitution on 20 April, 2009.
Then chief justice Abdul Hameed Dogar, Justice Faqir Muhammad Khokhar, Justice Ejazul Hassan, Justice Moosa K Leghari, Justice Chaudhry Ijaz Yousaf, Justice Syed Zawwar Hussain Jaffery and Syed Sakhi Hussain Bukhari were the members of that bench.
The bench said, "For reasons to be recorded later, this petition under Article 184(3) of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973 is allowed. The provisions of Article 8A of the Conduct of General Election Order, 2002 (Chief Executive's Order No. 7 of 2002) and clause (CC) of subsection (1) of section 99 of the Representation of the People Act, 1976, which lays down that a person shall not be qualified to be elected or chosen as a member of Majlis-e-Shoora (parliament) or a provincial assembly unless he is at least a graduate possessing a bachelor's degree in any discipline or any degree recognised as equivalent by the University Grants Commission under the University Grants Commission Act 1974 ,or any other law for the time being in force are declared to be void prospectively on account of their being inconsistent with Articles 17 and 25 of the Constitution."
The petitioners have pleaded that the provisions of Section 99 (1) (CC) of the Representation of the People Act, 1976 as well as Article 8A of the Chief Executive Order No 17 of 2002 may be declared ultra vires to the Constitution and set aside.
The cabinet followed the decision of the Supreme Court and passed Election Laws (Amendment) Bill 2009, and abolished the graduation clause for taking part in elections, which had been introduced by Gen (r) Pervez Musharraf.
This decision of the Supreme Court and the amendment in the relevant laws was beneficial for the candidates contesting elections after the approval of the House to law, but the existing legislators could not get relief from it.
"The Dogar court struck down the law declaring it ultra vires to the basic clauses of the Constitution, but with an addition of prospective effect of the law. This was to control the persons having degrees from madrassas (seminaries). Actually, they wanted to have legislators of religious parties under the thumb of the government. The law should have been abolished from day one as no legislation can be made contrary to the clauses of the Constitution," Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah Khan commented while talking to this scribe.
The issue of fake degrees has put the politicians on the backfoot and forced them to contact constitutional experts.
Constitutional experts, sympathisers of different political parties, after dilating upon the judgment advised that any law which is against the constitution could not be made and if declared unconstitutional would stand null and void from the day it came into being.
The Article 17(1) of the Constitution reads, "Every citizen shall have the right to form associations or unions, subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interest of sovereignty or integrity of Pakistan, public order or morality."
Whereas Article 25(1) of the article says, "All citizens are equal before law and are entitled to equal protection of law."
Legal experts told party leaderships that the law of imposing educational condition was also against the UN Charter. One of the constitutional experts quoted a UN resolution, adopted by the General Assembly on December 10. Article 21(1) of the UN Charter reads, "Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives."
The political forces have initiated 'backdoor diplomacy' on the issue and are now united to end the law ab initio. The bill regarding this amendment is on cards.
Federal Minister for Law Babar Awan while talking to a select group of journalists has also hinted on an amendment to the law. Daily timesYour Comments
HEC sends MPAs' degrees for verification
Peshawar: The Higher Education Commission (HEC) has sent the bachelor degrees of all members of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly for verification and the task would be completed in the next few days, an official confirmed on Monday.
A concerned MPA, who wished not to be named said that the government had made arrangements to summon the assembly session, which could be called within the next few days.
Though the lawmaker said the government wanted to pass some important bills, some of them fear they may not be able to attend the next session if the HEC completed the verification process.
The HEC has sent the testimonials of all the members for verification who had submitted their degrees with their papers while the documents of others would be verified later.
The completion of verification process, the lawmaker said, would clear the prevailing uncertainty among some members and end the ongoing claims and counter-claims. "There could be no truth in some reports but it would also clear the mess," he said, posing a question jokingly as to whether the list also carried his name or not.
Regarding the women parliamentarians, the HEC officials were not sure as to how many degrees of elected representatives were bogus. The members hailing from various political parties, however, feared that the lists would carry the names of more than the reported two among the women members.
Only two lawmakers hailing from Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl, Gulistan Khan and Kishore Kumar, have been disqualified for having fake degrees while the names of the remaining members have so far not been confirmed, although the list is swelling with each passing day. The list of fake degree holders carries the names from almost all political parties and independent candidates.
PU declares four MPAs' degrees fake
Lahore: Punjab University on Monday sent back 63 degrees after verification to the Higher Education Commission (HEC) and out of them four degrees, one of a senator and three of MPAs of the Punjab Assembly, were declared fake.
The degree of another MPA from the Punjab Assembly was found suspicious as discrepancy has been found between particulars provided to the Punjab University (PU) by the HEC and the relevant record available with the varsity's examination branch.
A PU spokesman said among three of the MPAs whose degrees had been found bogus one MPA was already disqualified while another had resigned as per a court decision. He said the verification report on the remaining 73 degrees would be sent to the HEC on July 27.
The spokesman added eight degrees of parliamentarians which were returned to the Higher Education Commission for being vague and illegible had been again received by the PU on Monday.
Notices over bogus institutes: The Lahore High Court on Monday issued notices to the attorney general Pakistan and advocate general Punjab on a petition challenging the mushroom growth of fake educational institutions in the country.
The petition was filed by Barrister Javed Iqbal Jaffrey who had sought court's directions for the government to close down all the fake and unrecognised colleges and universities. The petitioner submitted that scores of bogus and ghost institutions were functioning unchecked in the country, adding that they were playing havoc with the careers of youth.
He pointed out that the government had no mechanism to check private colleges and universities and they were minting money from students providing nothing in return. The court issued notices for July 27. The news
EC yet to receive record of fake degrees from HEC
Islamabad: The Election Commission of Pakistan is yet to receive from the Higher Education Commission the record of fake degrees of parliamentarians to launch the process of declaring them ineligible to hold their offices.
"We have not yet received a single case from the HEC," ECP secretary Ishtiak Ahmad Khan said on Monday.
He said that in the light of the Supreme Court judgment the ECP would not require any reference either from the Senate chairman or speakers of the national and provincial assemblies to disqualify a legislator for holding fake degree. He said that a reference was not required when the cause of action was there before the polls were held.
Mr Ishtiak, however, conceded that the ECP had not yet nominated a senior officer to supervise the process of sending such cases to sessions judges. "We are looking at legal, constitutional and administrative aspects and are in the process of working out modalities for implementation which will be done this week." Answering a question, he said there was no immediate plan to verify the degrees of all the candidates who had taken part in the 2008 election.
"Right now we are implementing the SC judgment which only mentioned the sitting lawmakers. However, we can look into it (the issue of all candidates) after the process of verification of degrees of 1,100 members of the Senate and national and provincial assemblies is completed."
Mr Ishtiak said that a long exercise was required to verify the degrees of thousands of candidates because it needed to be started from the 2002 general election when the condition of holding a graduate degree was introduced. The condition also applied to the 2008 election.
About 15,000 candidates contested the general elections in 2002 and 2008.
In 2002, 3,270 candidates were declared eligible for National Assembly seats after disposal of appeals against acceptance and rejection of nomination papers, with almost half of them (1579) from Punjab alone. About 653 candidates from Punjab either withdrew their papers or retired from the race, bringing the number of candidates on the polling day to 926.
The number of validly nominated candidates from Sindh dropped to 613 from 848 and those from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to 234 from 408. And 111 of 186 candidates from Fata and 127 of 204 from Balochistan contested elections for NA seats.
The number of validly nominated candidates from Islamabad was 47 of whom 19 withdrew their papers and one retired from the race, bringing down the number of candidates to 27.
The number of candidates for provincial assembly seats in 2002 was 4,986 – 2,362 from Punjab, 1,516 from Sindh, 628 from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and 480 from Balochistan.
Brother of HEC chief released on bail
Hyderabad: The special judge (provincial) anti corruption granted bail to Farooq Leghari against Rs100,000 on Monday.
The court had earlier granted him bail against Rs200,000 in a crime case.
Mr Farooq, who is younger brother of Chairman of the Higher Education Commission Dr Javed Leghari, had been released and was rearrested on July 12 on the charge of corruption committed while he was DCO of Tando Allahyar and Tando Mohammad Khan.
Meanwhile, Hyderabad circuit bench of the Sindh High Court has directed the chairman of Anti Corruption Establishment to appear before the court on July 21 to explain about departmental proceedings against Dr Farooq. Dawn
LHC refuses media bar over fake degrees
Lahore: A member of the Punjab Assembly, facing a fake degree case in court, made another attempt on Monday to launch a vilification campaign against the media when his lawyer sought a restraining order from Lahore High Court Judge Justice Sh Azmat Saeed against media, saying his client was facing a media trial.
Malik Iqbal Langrial, who had won election from PP-226, Chichawatni, on a PML-Q ticket, is contesting an election petition moved against him by Saifur Rehman of the PML-N, a defeated candidate from the same constituency.
As proceedings started on Monday, Langrial's counsel started spewing venom against media persons, saying they were unnecessarily dragging the issue and his client was being presented as a cheat.
The judge, however, turned down his plea, saying that Article 19-A inserted through 18th Amendment, provided protection to the access to information. He said that if someone had any complaints about misreporting, he could take a legal course against that reporter and newspaper. The judge made it clear that it was media persons' right to report court proceedings with precision.
"Even human error could be overlooked. But a deliberate attempt to tarnish image of a person, is an offence and victim could initiate legal proceedings," Justice Saeed said, adding that the respondent's lawyer was perhaps complaining against the media reports on Higher Education Commission which was verifying degrees of all parliamentarians.
"If the HEC's reports are true then there is no harm in its publication. The media could face music only if it is publishing news contrary to the HEC's reports," the judge further remarked. As far as case proceedings are concerned, the court directed the respondent MPA to produce witnesses before the local commission for recording evidence on July 23. The court will resume proceedings on July 24.
HEC team visits PU
Lahore: A threee members' team of HEC accreditation council in agriculture education visited Punjab University (PU) Institute of Plant Pathology. A press release said the team comprised DG NARC Prof Dr Iftikhar Ahmed and Prof Dr Irfan-ul-Haq of PMS Agricultural University, Islamabad while Dr Naseer Alam was present as a representative of NEAC. The team also interacted with the faculty members and students of the institute. The news