The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has unofficially extended the deadline for submission of educational certificates of Members of Parliament (MPs) for an indefinite period. Officially, the commission has strongly denied doing so under pressure.
Sources in the ECP revealed that there is no deadline for MPs to comply with the letters sent to them earlier this month by the commission. As many as 249 MPs were asked to submit their educational certificates within 15 days of the notice or their degrees would be declared fake.
Though recent developments suggest that the ECP is dragging its feet on taking action against the MPs, the commission says no one is pressing it. “There is no pressure on the ECP … and why should there be any,” Additional Secretary Afzal Khan told The Express Tribune on Saturday. Khan, however, declined further comments.
The issue came to lime light when Leader of the Opposition Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan censured the ECP during the National Assembly session for having sent “derogatory letter to MPs”. Chaudhry Nisar’s views were endorsed by every party in the lower house.
Soon afterwards, Chief Election Commissioner Fakhruddin G Ebrahim telephoned Chaudhry Nisar to pacify him. The opposition leader has also demanded the commission withdraw the letter sent to him and other MPs. Additional Secretary Afzal Khan did not reply when asked if the commission had withdrawn the letter.
On the other hand, Justice (retd) Tariq Mehmood said ‘degrees’ of MPs was not the real issue. “The condition of graduation for contesting elections is no more relevant for the next elections, therefore, this [fake degree issue] is like a distraction,” he added.
Responding to a question on ECP’s letter which warned the MPs of initiating criminal proceedings against them if the failed to comply with the directives and their degrees would be presumed as fake, Mehmood said “criminal cases cannot be lodged on mere presumption.”
Published in The Express Tribune, February 24th, 2013.