Fake degrees stir fear of ‘mini mid-term polls’ in Pakistan

June 29, 2010

punjab universityPakistani education authorities are verifying university degrees of members of parliament amid fears that scores of them could be disqualified for holding “fake degrees”, leading to “mini mid-term elections” less than three years after general elections were held in the country.

Large scale by-elections could trigger political uncertainty in the country which is presently confronted with growing threat of Islamist militancy and is struggling to bolster a weak economy.

Pakistan’s increasingly assertive Supreme Court last week ordered election authorities to take action against legislators who were found guilty of forging their education degrees to contest general elections in February 2008.

Under a law introduced by former military ruler Pervez Musharraf,  a member of parliament must be a university graduate. The move was seen as an attempt by Musharraf, who resigned after the defeat of his allies in elections, to keep his rivals out of politics, many of whom were not university graduates.

The government of President Asif Ali Zardari, who replaced Musharraf, later struck down the law but the parliamentarians elected in 2008 when the law was in place could find their wins challenged in court. Already, by-elections for about a dozen national seats and four provincial seats have been held recently after the degrees of some office-holders were found to be fake.

Several newspapers quoted a former senior official of the election commission as saying that about 140 members of national and provincial assemblies are holding fake degrees.

The Supreme Court’s decision triggered a heated debate in the country with many people calling for stern action against those found guilty of forgery.

“More is needed,” the liberal newspaper Daily Times said in an editorial. “They need to be barred from ever contesting elections again. Once a fraudulent character has been proved, our frail political system should never have to entertain them again.”

But Pakistani political parties, dominated by powerful feudal lords, are unlikely to shun forgers in any great numbers.

Last month a  legislator of the Zardari’s party from a rural, undeveloped constituency in central Punjab province resigned on accusations that he was holding a fake degree. But the party again fielded him as a candidate in by-elections. He won re-election, drawing strong criticism from media and people.

“Can these people be called sagacious, righteous, non-profligate, honest and ameen (trustworthy) as required by … the constitution,” Azfar A. Khan, a citizen, wrote in a letter published in the daily Dawn.

But Zardari, who is himself accused by his rivals of massive corruption,  defended his party’s decision in a recent speech at a public rally and said it showed people’s confidence in his party.

Most of the holders of fake degrees are believed to be members of the main opposition party led by former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, the PML-N, which rules country’s biggest and most important province of Punjab.

Some in the media have called for “a measure of pragmatism” on the issue of fake degrees.

The Dawn in a recent editorial said disqualification of around 140 parliamentarians, who are believed to be holding fake degrees, would mean by-elections would have to be held in these constituencies.

“A mini-mid-term election is not something the country needs presently,” it said.

The paper suggested the government should push legislation through parliament to exempt the sitting members of  parliament from holding university degrees to avoid political instability.

“Legislation with retrospective effect is not something that should be encouraged, especially where it benefits assembly members themselves, but in the present instance it would be a small price to pay for righting a wrong of Gen. Musharraf’s doing.”

(Reuters photo: A policeman stands guard at Punjab University in Lahore/Adrees Latif)

Comments

The voluntary resignation of our politicians is very refreshing…but also a bit unnerving. Keep in mind the total number that are under investigation. If a significant number of resignations occur (forced or voluntary), then we might be headed towards more than just a mini-midterm. I wonder if we can really afford this kind of political instability right now?

” Military and Politician Billionaires – Your wealth is obviously ill-gotten so 95% lump tax on all assets..”

I think this will give a collective heart attack to all our ‘lotas’ . All the more reason to do it perhaps :)

Speaking of lotas, the ‘king lota’ gives his two cents. http://www.thenews.com.pk/top_story_deta il.asp?Id=29772
I wonder what the punishment under Hudood law is for being as stupid as this guy.

Posted by Shuqaib.Bhutto | Report as abusive
 

@tupak_shakir

Are you ret_ard or something? It was posted by some Johnvoxx. I did not believe it hence inquired to confirm it since there is a possibility. If you did not get a chance to read the that chusman, he was a total nut-case and brought the entire blog down last week before he was span_ked by keystrokes by people like you and me and then moderators.

As for that Johnvoxx guy – unless he confirms himself, his claim would be ruled out. Can’t you even see that?

Posted by Seth | Report as abusive
 

Post Your Comment

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
  •