Higher Education Commission (HEC) Chairman Javed Leghari has sought an ‘urgent’ meeting with Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani in the wake of reports suggested that he is being pressurised by the Sindh government regarding the scrutiny of legislators’ educational degrees.
According to officials in the HEC, Leghari dispatched a letter to Gilani on Friday, calling for a meeting as soon as possible.
The latest development took place days after the arrest of a brother of the HEC chairman by the Sindh government allegedly to put pressure on the HEC chairman to be ‘lenient’ in the scrutiny.
Some unconfirmed reports revealed earlier in the week that the degrees of President Asif Ali Zardari’s sister and federal lawmaker Faryal Talpur and some of his closest aides may not be bonafide.
State Minister for Ports and Shipping Nabeel Gabol and Senator Faisal Raza Abidi, both of them top associates of Zardari, are also reportedly among those MPs whose degrees could not be verified as genuine.
Observers argue the arrest of Farooq Leghari, Javed’s brother, by the Sindh government on corruption charges is part of the effort to deter the HEC chairman from conducting the scrutiny freely.
The HEC and the election authorities are in the process of verifying the legislators’ educational records on the directive issued last month by the Supreme Court.
Though not valid any more, being holding a degree was one of the prerequisites to contest elections back in 2008 when the last general polls were held in Pakistan.
There have already been calls by a leading opposition group to hold snap elections if a large number of parliamentarians proved to be fake degree holders. The ruling PPP has, however, snubbed this demand.
Officials at the commission told The Express Tribune that a three-member committee assigned to oversee the process is set to present its report to the election authorities and a National Assembly panel next week.
Bigger than itself
Meanwhile, a top official at the HEC said the magnitude of the fake degree scandal could prove to be much bigger than it initially appeared to be. To substantiate this assertion, he revealed there are ‘suspicions’ about the educational records of as many as 553 legislators.
The official, however, was of the view that all of these suspected degrees might not be fake, but their record is somehow tampered.
The commission, he added, had already sought further details of these degrees from some 36 universities and educational boards.
As many as 10 degrees awarded by the Wafaqul Madaris, the education board of Deobandi seminaries, are also suspect, the official added.
More than 1,100 degrees were sent by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to the HEC for verification but it has so far received around 900 out of them.
More than 150 degrees have been sent back to the ECP as their copies were not clear (unreadable).
Up until now, 39 degrees have been declared fake.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 17th, 2010.
Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.
For more information, please see our Comments FAQ