ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani has said that the issue of fake degrees is a conspiracy to malign the parliament and urged members to thwart it.
Speaking in the National Assembly on Thursday, he defended his participation in Jamshed Dasti’s election campaign in Muzzaffargarh earlier this week and said that he had addressed the election rally as a leader of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) – to which Dasti belongs – and not as the prime minister.
“I visited Muzzaffargarh to show support for Dasti because my own brother was denied a party ticket from the same constituency. The visit was to dispel the impression that I have a personal grudge against Dasti,” he said. “My job is to meet people. My job is to meet tenants and farmers and if I am failing in this duty, who else would do my duty?” Dasti had resigned from his parliamentary seat last month when the degree based on which he contested the general elections in 2008 proved to be fake.
But, the ruling PPP awarded him a ticket again to contest from the same NA 178 Muzzaffargarh-111 constituency as contenders are no longer required to hold a bachelors degree in order to contest. Gilani said that all members of the Parliament should rise above party affiliations to protect their institution from attacks by anti-democratic forces that wanted to defame the parliament. His speech coincides with media reports that suggest that as many as 150 parliamentarians hold fake degrees. Responding to these reports, the prime minister said he respected the media but reporters lacked information, which is why they put the number that high.
Gilani said members from all political parties except those from the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) were being accused of holding fake degrees. “Graduation is not a qualification for contesting polls in any other civilised, democratic country. It was introduced by General Musharraf only to keep some of his sworn opponents like Nawabzada Nasrullah Khan out of the assemblies,” he said, adding that a large number of cases were registered against fake degree-holders after the 2002 polls but they were still pending in courts for judgment.
Published in the Express Tribune, May 14th, 2010.