PM throws weight behind process

Prime Minister Gilani urged the HEC chairman to "follow the rules" and not relent to any sort of pressure.

Express July 20, 2010

With the verification of legislators’ degrees entering a decisive stage, Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani has expressed his support for the process and urged the Higher Education Commission (HEC) chairman Dr Javed Leghari to “follow the rules” and not relent to any sort of pressure.

The HEC chairman called on the prime minister in a much-anticipated and talked-about meeting on Monday at the Prime Minister House, which was held on the request of Leghari, who had written a letter to the prime minister on Friday. Media reports had it that the HEC chairman was being pressurised by the Sindh government to forgo the verification of the degrees of some important political figures, including the president’s sister.

While the exact details of the discussions remain open to speculation, the meeting coincided with the release on bail of the HEC chairman’s brother, Farooq Leghari, a former DCO Tando Allahyar, who was arrested last week on charges of corruption.

The statement issued by the Prime Minister House following the key meeting stated that, “the prime minister directed the chairman, HEC, to follow the rules and procedures while dealing with the issue of verification of degrees.”

Sources privy to the discussion between the two reveal that the HEC chairman complained to the prime minister that he was being unfairly treated by the Sindh government, and that his family was being harassed to stop him from going ahead with the verification of degrees of some important politicians.

In addition to the arrest of his brother, Leghari informed the prime minister about raids being conducted at his native home ‘Goth-Leghari’, reported Online news agency. The HEC chairman also told Gilani that if such pressure tactics continued it would be difficult for him to continue on his post.

Leghari is reported to have also asked the premier to investigate into the maltreatment allegedly meted out to his family members during the raids. The prime minister is said to have assured the HEC chairman that he will personally contact Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah and provincial Home Minister Zulifqar Mirza on the matter.

The arrest of the HEC chairman’s brother coincided with hitherto unconfirmed media reports that the degrees of President Asif Ali Zardari’s sister and federal lawmaker Faryal Talpur and some of his closest aides, including State Minister for Ports and Shipping Nabeel Gabol and Senator Faisal Raza Abidi, are among those that could not be confirmed as genuine by the Sindh University.

Farooq Leghari was released on bail on Monday by an anti-corruption court in Hyderabad on a surety of Rs100,000. Speaking to the media upon his release, he said that the accusations levelled against him were false and he would reply to all the charges. He also hinted that he would take legal action in the matter.

In another development related to the case, PPI reported that the Sindh High Court has summoned the anti-corruption department chairman on a petition against the arrest of Farooq Leghari, filed by his sister Najma Leghari.

Meanwhile, the degree verification process saw another important development on Monday with HEC submitting a report of the first phase of the degree verification process of federal and provincial legislators to Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and the National Assembly’s standing committee on education.

Following his meeting with the prime minister, Leghari chaired a high-level meeting of the HEC, according to quarters privy to the developments on the topic. Members of the scrutiny committee briefed and updated the HEC chairman about the verification process.

Quoting sources in the commission, Online news agency reported that Sindh University and Punjab University were not fully cooperating regarding the process, and, for this purpose, the HEC has sought assistance from the parliamentary committee on education.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 20th, 2010.


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