Veracity challenged: Over 100 lawmakers may have fake degrees

Oct 28, 2013| Courtesy by : tribune.com.pk

By Zahid Gishkori

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As many as 100-plus lawmakers from different political parties have suspected education credentials, The Express Tribune learnt on Sunday.

The Higher Education Commission (HEC) has received over 100 allegedly fake degrees for verification belonging to legislators from the National Assembly as well as the provincial assemblies.

These degrees either have been challenged in tribunals or have been referred to the HEC by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) after the May 11 elections.

“We received 107 cases of fake or dubious degrees since the polls. Of these, 25 cases are still being processed, while the verification of some has been completed,” confirmed HEC spokesperson Aayesha Ikram.

The remaining 82 cases will be taken up as the quarters concerned approach the HEC, she said, adding that some older cases, registered before May 11, were being investigated.

Official figures revealed that around 50 MNAs and MPAs with alleged dubious or fake degrees belong to the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N). It is followed by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), the party ruling in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, which has degrees of 24 of its MPAs and MNAs being challenged in courts.

Meanwhile, dozens of MPAs and MNAs belonging to the Pakistan Peoples Party might also get the axe if fake-degree cases against them in court are proven.

The veracity of educational degrees of four other lawmakers of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl has also been challenged. Names of two independent candidates are also included in the list along with a few others belonging to other political parties.

A senior ECP official revealed that it has issued five disqualification notifications to legislators after the general elections.

However, the other side of the story is that it is usually the political rivals or the runner-up in the election who challenge the veracity of the lawmakers’ degree. Political analyst Dr Hasan Askari Rizvi terms this rising trend ‘political polarisation’. He called for amendments in the existing Article 62 and Article 63 of the Constitution that describe the qualification and disqualification criteria for Majlis-e-Shoora membership.

Article 62(f) of the Constitution states that a person shall not be qualified to be elected or chosen as a member of the Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament) unless: “He is sagacious, righteous and non-profligate, honest and ameen, there being no declaration to the contrary by a court of law…”.

Dr Askari said, “Amendments are needed in the existing laws to make the system sounder.”

The two mentioned articles are weapons in the hands of political rivals against an elected lawmaker, he remarked. “It’s a tool that may bring more controversies in the near future.”

Those in question

The Sindh High Court has issued notices to PPP MNA Shazia Marri in a fake-degree case, asking her to clarify her position.

The election tribunal declared a sitting PTI MPA of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Yousaf Ayub, ineligible last month, ordering fresh polls in his home constituency of Haripur. On the other hand, the apex court has also summoned another PTI MPA, Faisal Zaman. Ghulam Sarwar has been accused of holding a fake degree. The SC has suspended his NA membership.

Separately, JUIF’s Mir Badshah Khan Qaisrani F from Dera Ghazi Khan has already been disqualified.

The apex court also directed for the verification of Zaib Jafar’s degree who has became a member of the Punjab Assembly on PML-N’s reserved seat.

The Intermediate certificate of PML-N MPA Khawaja Muhammad Islam has also proven bogus in court. A judgment has also been reserved in a similar case against PML-N MNA Sumaira Malik last week.

Another PML-N MPA Iftikhar Ahmed Khan from Jhang has been disqualified, while degrees of Arif Mahmood Gill and Shaukat Aziz Bhatti of the same party have been suspended.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 14th, 2013.