ISLAMABAD: Four lawmakers, including a sitting state minister, alleged to hold fake degrees, approached the Supreme Court on Thursday pleading it to term ‘invalid’ the Lahore High Court’s proceedings to probe their academic credentials.
The four lawmakers are State Minister for Human Development Sheikh Waqas Akram, who was elected from NA-89 Jhang-IV on the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid’s ticket, and members of the Punjab Assembly Mian Muhammad Azam Chella, Khawaja Muhammad Islam and Ghulam Nizamuddin.
They asked the apex court to drop the LHC’s hearing against them, claiming that the court had taken up the issue against the rules.
A two-member bench of the apex court, headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, issued notices to all stakeholders in the case including the Higher Education Commission, University of Punjab and other relevant educational boards to appear before the court on February 23 with a complete record.
The court observed that the issue was lingering on since February 2008 and would now be expedited.
Hafiz Khalid, a voter from Akram’s constituency, had challenged the minister’s election. However, Akram, along with the other members, approached the Supreme Court and held that only rival candidates could challenge their eligibility.
In this case, they argued, voters have challenged their eligibility, making the petitions against them not maintainable as per the Constitution.
Calling for Akram to be disqualified, the petitioner alleged that the minister held fake degrees of an FA and BA, and could, therefore, not contest the election.
The court was told that the elected members obtained fake degrees and despite the passage of four years, the verification process of their degrees could not be completed.
During the hearing, the LHC chief justice remarked that the lawmakers, who are enjoying perks and privileges, should sit at home till the findings of the matter are final. While accepting the petition for hearing, the Lahore High Court sought a complete academic record of the minister and other provincial assembly members.
An official of HEC told The Express Tribune that the commission already declared one of the MPAs’ degrees invalid, while the process of verification regarding other MNAs and MPAs was ongoing.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 17th, 2012.