The Balochistan Assembly may be dissolved in the coming weeks because possibly more than half its members have fake degrees, say officials.
Sources close to intelligence agencies told The Express Tribune that 35 members of the Balochistan Assembly used false academic credentials to contest elections. The Express Tribune was also informed that the government sought the help of agencies to investigate academic records of members of the provincial assembly. Considering that the total number of MPAs stands at 65, dissolution of the assembly seems quite probable.
Many submitted degrees from religious institutions but these are under scrutiny. The man under most pressure as a result of this situation is Dr Javaid Leghari, head of the Higher Education Commission, and a friend of President Zardari. Leghari insists he is “under no pressure from any side” but many parliamentarians are pushing the government to act on this so that their seats are saved.
According to president of the National party and Senator Dr Abdul Malik, majority of the MPAs paid huge sums of money to universities in order to obtain fake degrees. “Such people should be punished according to law,” Malik said while talking to The Express Tribune. He added that his party was pursuing those who made it to the assembly under false educational records. “We have filed a case against Minister for Industries Ehsan Shah in this regard. The hearing of that case is on June 29,” he told The Express Tribune. Malik however said that he doesn’t see any possibility of the provincial assembly being dissolved.
Senior Baloch journalist Kazim Mengal also said that the number of MPAs with fake degrees may not be enough for the assembly to be dissolved. “The total number of those holding false credentials is around 15 whereas the total strength of the assembly is 65,” Mengal said. In such a scenario by-elections are more likely to be held, he added. Mengal stated that the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI) may be the biggest loser in this issue as majority of the MPAs belonging to it have diplomas from madrassas that the Election Commission of Pakistan doesn’t consider to be the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree.
On Friday, leader of the opposition in the National Assembly, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said that there may be mid-term elections in the country, if a large number of parliamentarians turn out to be fake degree holders. The statement came a day after the Supreme Court ordered the Election Commission to initiate action against legislators who contested the 2008 general polls on the basis of fake degrees. According to media reports the number of lawmakers possessing fake degrees could be around 150.
The background of the fake degrees issue can be traced back to the general elections held in February 2008 when many contestants submitted bogus documents in order to evade a law that made only graduates eligible for contestation of elections. This law was introduced by former president Pervez Musharraf, who was in office at that time, to keep his adversaries out of the parliament.
According to secretary Election Commission of Pakistan Ishtiaq Ahmed Khan, chairman of the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Education Abid Sher Ali has sought details of degrees of 1,150 lawmakers, which have been provided to the committee.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 27th, 2010.
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