On fake degrees

Published: March 1, 2013

The writer is a former federal minister for science & technology, and the founding chairman of the Higher Education Commission

There is a row gathering strength regarding a large number of allegedly fake degree-holders in parliament, who wish to contest the next elections. This issue has arisen because of the failure of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to properly scrutinise their documents and to verify their authenticity before the last elections. They have been allowed to continue in power and rule over the destiny of this nation despite the decision of the Supreme Court that the ECP should check their documents. Around three years have passed since this decision was made by the Supreme Court, but the officials of the ECP decided to ignore these orders and the organisation has only just woken up. It was reported in a local newspaper that out of 13,490 candidates, there were about 2,000 fake degree-holders who had contested the last elections for seats in the national and provincial assemblies and that they will again be contesting the upcoming elections.

Broadly, there are three different kinds of persons who may be involved in the present fake degree-holders scandal. The first category is that of persons who have bought their degrees from fake international institutions that sell genuine-looking degrees against a payment. Such institutions are dime a dozen and this can easily be checked by the Higher Education Commission (HEC) that has a comprehensive and authentic list of recognised universities of the world. The second category is that of persons who would have forged a degree by having one printed. This would look exactly like a degree that belongs to a genuine university. This can be checked, provided the university cooperates. Since the parliamentarians involved are powerful and often adopt a menacing attitude if their wishes are not fulfilled, some of the vice chancellors can be browbeaten into submission and may refuse to cooperate with the HEC. The third category is of persons in whose case, the vice chancellor is acting on the orders of higher-ups and actively colludes to create false documents. In this scenario, it becomes necessary to check the school certificates of these individuals. The HEC has been very rightly asking for the matriculation and HSC certificates for verification, according to its normal procedures, which these persons have refused to supply. The ECP is under pressure by politicians that there should be no requirement to check school certificates but it must not yield to such pressures.

Another action that can be taken is for the HEC to examine the annual attendance records of the persons who claim to have got their degrees from various universities and to check their mark sheets in various tests that are conducted regularly. These records should be scanned for each individual under scrutiny and placed on the ECP’s website. If these false records are made public, then such persons will easily be caught by the students in the classes of those years. However, this will again require the cooperation of the vice-chancellors of the universities concerned.

Recently, the ECP declared 27 of the persons whose degrees had been found to be fake or invalid by the HEC, to be holding genuine degrees. Legally, it is only the HEC that has the right to verify degrees under its Ordinance, and the ECP has no legal right to do so. Justice (retd) Fakhruddin G Ebrahim appears not to have studied the Ordinance of the HEC in this respect. If the ECP had any reservations on the evaluation of the degrees by the HEC, it should have referred the matter back to it for reconsideration. There is still time. It must cancel its declaration about these parliamentarians and seek the HEC’s opinion and then abide by that. Otherwise, the issue will be challenged in the Supreme Court.

This recent development highlights the fact that four of the members of the ECP are nominated by political parties, which means that they may not be neutral and may act in the interests of the parties that nominated them. In this scenario, one cannot expect the ECP to be fair and unprejudiced. The chief election commissioner is the only neutral person in the Commission but he is not empowered to take decisions on his own. The ECP, therefore, needs to be revamped by removal of the four persons and the nomination by the Supreme Court of four new persons of integrity.

None of the persons involved in holding fake degrees should be allowed to contest the next elections. If they do not succeed in satisfying the HEC that they have genuine degrees, criminal cases must be initiated against them.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 1st, 2013.

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Reader Comments (21)

  • Usman
    Mar 1, 2013 - 12:18AM

    Excellent article. Keep it up

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  • shahid
    Mar 1, 2013 - 12:45AM

    Bravo …

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  • Usman
    Mar 1, 2013 - 1:16AM

    He is going to be bashed by PMLN troll soon because he tried to show the face of PMLN’s election commission.
    Election commission is totally biased in favour of PMLN and even call the PMLN leader on fake degree issue. Shame on biased election commission.

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  • Azhar Ayaz
    Mar 1, 2013 - 1:55AM

    Dr Sb,
    Very irrelevant and militaristic mindset appears from ur article.
    It appears that fame as an academician and scientist is being used to explain and understand politics. Many politicians work for their constituency sincerely without degrees.
    Degrees of politicians wont change anything as they didnt change before. You might end up with the son/daughter of sardar,choudhry or businessman contesting on his vacated seat. HEC is not NAB neither has the powers to verify school/college certificates. HEC can only verify degrees which again is only possible when universities are independant. Universities can only be independent when there is no political influence in the ppointments of VCs. For this you need to remove politicians and consequently have bureacracy/technocracy system.
    Relevant question is how to educate and empower masses so that they can question what is in their favour and what is otherwise. HEC can’t clear all the mess. It’s people who can!

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  • HEC Performance :O
    Mar 1, 2013 - 2:02AM

    This clearly shows that the HEC is completely failed in the record maintenance of the recognized universities .
    It also shows the credibility of HEC it self that it can not stop or even check 400 degrees.
    Then what actually HEC is doing if they can not have check on their own recognized institutions.
    Asking for a matriculation details suggests that the lower boards are more organized then HEC.

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  • Bonga
    Mar 1, 2013 - 3:18AM

    VCs are appointed by HEC according to their own criteria (except some armed forced universities or personalles) and HEC are providing million of $ to these universities. How come these VCs are not cooperating to HEC on fake degree issues?. HEC first have to review whether they have selected right persons on VCs positions.

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  • John the Baptist
    Mar 1, 2013 - 5:47AM

    Vote for PTI. Kick out the filth!

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  • asim
    Mar 1, 2013 - 6:14AM

    Also convicted by any court in the past should not be allowed to hold a public office

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  • JL
    Mar 1, 2013 - 7:08AM

    HEC should be shut down, it has completely failed in its job.

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  • Hassan K Bajwa
    Mar 1, 2013 - 11:30AM

    @ Usman

    Prophetic words indeed. The trolls lost no time bashing the author and clearly wish to deviate the discussion.
    Personally I really don’t think a degree should be required in order to be an elected representative of the people. But honestly that really shouldn;t be the discussion at this point either. The discussion at this point is about the forgery and fraud committed by said elected representatives in order to qualify for a seat. I believe they should be disqualified not because they don’t gave a degree, but rather because they exhibited their utter moral bankruptcy and total disregard for ethics and law by submitting forged and fraudulent papers.
    It is not their education but their lies that disqualifies them in my opinion. I see no harm in removing the degree requirement for elected representatives. In fact i would support such a move. I do however believe that all representatives that have submitted forged or false documentation should be disqualified for LIFE.
    I find it interesting that supporters of said representatives are trying to justify the absence of degrees by saying that they don;t matter. But they never EVER discuss the fact that the elected representatives they support very clearly committed a criminal act to qualify. How do they justify THAT?

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  • Mirza
    Mar 1, 2013 - 2:13PM

    The learned Dr. should know that the SC of Pakistan has deleted the condition of graduation from the constitution and it is not required anymore. This condition was imposed by a dictator who the Dr. served. In addition the previous assemblies served their five years under Mush without any verification of degrees. The current assemblies have almost completed their term and now the learned politicians are waking up! I would like a lawyer to write and clarify the condition of degree is constitutional or not after the SC decision to drop it.

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  • PTI Supporter
    Mar 1, 2013 - 2:39PM

    Mirza sb, with due apologies Mr. Bajwa’s comments before making your comments. Degree requiremet is wholly irrelevant but lying and fraudulent practice certainly is.

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  • Foreign Leg
    Mar 1, 2013 - 2:51PM

    When will the author realize that having such artificial constraints is detrimental to democracy?
    .
    Where is this country heading? Today it could be any degree, tomorrow it could be a degree in Islamic Studies.

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  • Aasim
    Mar 1, 2013 - 5:28PM

    @ foriegn leg..
    When will the author realize that having such artificial constraints is detrimental to democracy?
    .
    Where is this country heading? Today it could be any degree, tomorrow it could be a degree in Islamic Studies.

    Its not about degree its about the fraud that they have committed by submitting fake documents.
    Secondly, I would prefer the legislature to be constituted of literates as they are entrusted with the responsibility to formulate the law. Why is it that there is education requirement for the person who opens and closes the gates of the house of parliament but you do not want to have a degree requirement for someone sitting inside? Why is it that those entrusted to interpret the law and give verdicts based on those interpretations are required to possess certain academic qualification, but you suggest that the law-makers to be waived of any such requirements. How much more inequity do you want to introduce in this country??

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  • A. Etchen
    Mar 1, 2013 - 7:06PM

    As I understand, the four commissioners nominated by political parties cannot be removed unless voted out by the parliament. The Supreme Court should, instead, be advised to overwhelm them by nominating 4 others to take the total to 9 which will have a majority of those not nominated by political parties.

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  • Malik
    Mar 1, 2013 - 7:15PM

    Politicians with fake degrees. The ones who have real degrees are from third-rate institutions. This is the top of Pakistan who set the example for everyone. In Germany there was a case recently about a politician with a fake degree. It made big news with the politician having to resign. But not here, I know so many businessmen, senior Army officers,and high level bureaucrats who take money and think they are doing nothing wrong.

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  • Foreign Leg
    Mar 1, 2013 - 9:26PM

    @Aasim: You make a good point and I hope a day comes when all lawmakers in the subcontinent have degrees. However, I feel you should look at what an MNA is supposed to be in a democracy. If the population he represents is mostly illiterate or school dropouts, wouldn’t it be elitist to stipulate that the MNA have a degree? Bottom-line is that an MNA is a representative for the people he represents and I still feel there should be no more conditions.
    .
    Pakistan’s problems emanate from the feudal setup that created it and continues to thrive presently. A number of tiny regions in the subcontinent have had mass-agitations that have led to a limit on land holdings. In fact, I come from one such family who lost most of their land. However this fundamental equity was never achieved in Pakistan. I get emails from foreigners who visit Pakistan and are taken around in Land Cruisers and think that all of Pakistan is a wonderland.
    .
    Regarding the fake degrees. I guess anybody will perjure if put in a spot. Bill Clinton did it, so all of us are fallible.

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  • A Peshawary
    Mar 2, 2013 - 1:29PM

    @Usman:
    Of course, He is an excellent teacher, writer and person yet, he remained Charmian HEC for quite sometime. Perhaps he was one of the ministers who strongly propagated and recommended Graduation as a precondition for parliamentarians to contest election and was successful. The fiasco all of fake degrees started from that point. Why didn’t he implemented the suggestion of degree verification by HEC at that time. It is very easy to blame others and cover up one’s own follies.

    Nobody is talking about the universities or authorities who might have been involved in fake degrees scandal. They are equal partners even if they scummed to pressures as said in the article. Should they left alone as they were pressurized by someone or be brought to justice? Supreme court and contributors like Sir never suggested any punishment to them if involved in the scam. Why the politician are being singled out; perhaps for specific motives suiting few people. The fake degree case must investigated without bias & prejudice and the Universities & HEC if found involved in any case should also be brought to the justice.

    A Peshawary

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  • A Peshawary
    Mar 2, 2013 - 2:45PM

    Nobody is asking Mr. Atta-ur-Rehman saheb, Why dint’ he pointed the same when he pioneered the requirement for graduation to contest election? He was part of process when these fake degrees were submitted in the first instance, either as minister, advisers or Chairman HEC.

    Why EC, SC and Atta Siir, recommend investigations against fake Degrees issuing authorities or the people involved in preparing and attestation of fake degrees in addition to main culprits (singled out) parliamentarians.

    A Peshawary

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  • Mar 22, 2013 - 7:04AM

    what a shame..

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  • Imranbashir
    Mar 26, 2013 - 2:49PM

    @Azhar Ayaz: Mr Azhar, the aim of checking degrees is not to know the level of education of individuals but only to chech their integrity and honesty level. Whether they are cheaters or not. I hope u understand my point.

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