From fake degrees to no degrees

Published: April 6, 2013
This time around, many aspiring candidates have no educational qualifications at all. PHOTO: CREATIVE COMMONS

This time around, many aspiring candidates have no educational qualifications at all. PHOTO: CREATIVE COMMONS

This time around, many aspiring candidates have no educational qualifications at all. PHOTO: CREATIVE COMMONS This time around, many aspiring candidates have no educational qualifications at all. DESIGN: ANAM HALEEM

While many aspiring candidates are facing sleepless nights trying to get their degrees verified, others are facing jail terms over their fake degrees. But the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s Zaheen Kanwal Mukhtar is not the least bit worried.

This mother of two runs a boutique in her home constituency of PP-205 (Multan-XII) and intends to take on heavyweights like PML-N’s Mehdi Abbas, the former MPA from this area, and the PPP’s Ghulam Abbas Kansi. Like many aspiring candidates this time around, she has no degree at all and has not even completed her matriculation.

“We want to change Pakistan. I’m giving a voice to the voiceless people in my constituency,” she told The Express Tribune. She is the first woman contesting elections from this constituency, and her campaign is being run by her two daughters, who are 16 and 11 years old. “The youth is the real source of PTI’s election campaign,” her daughter Taskeen Aslam said.

Mukhtar is one of many aspiring candidates who have received little or no education at all. With being a graduate no longer a pre-requisite for becoming a lawmaker, several illiterate and semi-literate candidates have submitted their nomination papers with the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). The graduate requirement was introduced by former president Pervez Musharraf prior to the 2002 elections.

At the time the decision was praised by those who felt this would lead to a new, and educated, leadership taking power in Pakistan. Critics pointed to the fact that, given low literacy and enrollment rates, the requirement effectively disenfranchised a large segment of the population. Musharraf’s decision to allow Madrassa sanads in lieu of academic degrees was also controversial at the time, giving rise to the belief that the former dictator was giving a clear field to religious parties while blocking their rivals. The graduation requirement was also enforced during the 2008 elections, but has since been removed, paving the way for candidates with no educational credentials at all to contest the elections.

One such person is Elahi Buksh Durs of the Sindh Taraqqi Pasand Party, who has filed his papers from NA-225 (Badin). Durs, who is a farmer by profession, told The Express Tribune that his supporters convinced him to stand for elections. “To be illiterate is not a crime. Being honest is more important. At least we are better than corrupt politicians,” he said.

All Pakistan Muslim League’s Syed Altaf Hussain Shah, who is contesting elections from NA-237 (Thatta), also has little or no formal schooling. Like Durs, he also says that this is not a handicap and that he can get the job done with the help of good advisors. “Integrity should be the criterion, not degrees. Only clean and fair leaders can change the fortunes of this nation,” he said.

They aren’t the only ones who feel this way. PML-N’s Naghma Mushtaq, who describes herself as a housewife, has filed her nomination papers from PPP-206 (Multan-XIII) and also says that being uneducated should not bar her from being an effective lawmaker.

Muhammad Salim Rajput, who is a shopkeeper by profession and is contesting from NA-225 (Badin), has only completed his primary school education. He, too, says that having a college degree does not necessarily mean one is qualified to lead.

While some candidates are simply leaving the column for educational qualifications blank, others are submitting more creative answers. Some candidates have listed ‘Hakeem’, ‘Hafiz-e-Quran’ and ‘Shahadatul Almia’ in the qualification columns. Qari Abdul Majeed of the Muttahida Deeni Mahaz, who is contesting from NA-174 (Rajanpur), for example, listed his qualifications as a Hakeem.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 6th, 2013. 

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Reader Comments (9)

  • Falcon
    Apr 6, 2013 - 4:15AM

    Best of luck to all people with no degrees contesting in the elections. I am specially happy for the two women mentioned above.


  • Truth and Justice
    Apr 6, 2013 - 5:28AM

    So you are going to make laws but you don’t need knowledge??????? and IQ maybe??????


  • Pakistani
    Apr 6, 2013 - 9:18AM

    @Truth and Justice
    Many businesses in pakistan are being owned by uneducated individuals. Education should not be the criteria to get ticket.

    Labour/Farmer/Small Trader who have no education (recognised by HEC) should also have the right to take part in the election.


  • Adnan
    Apr 6, 2013 - 9:37AM

    Look who wants to rule over you…simply pathetic!


  • Something Clever
    Apr 6, 2013 - 10:37AM

    Considering people only look at the fact it’s a degree and not what the degree is actually for, it’s all the same.


  • Sidster
    Apr 6, 2013 - 11:53AM

    Education I should not be a criteria of the member of assembly, but for the Prime Minister and the President of Pakistan. People with professional background without education are a good source of information regarding the problem faced by them while working with their trade.


  • DevilHunterX
    Apr 6, 2013 - 12:22PM

    That’s just great. More Ungutha chaaps!


  • Truth and Justice
    Apr 6, 2013 - 3:41PM


    Running a business and having a vision to change the fate or Pakistan are two different things. Maybe at lower levels illiterate angootha chaaps can work out but leading the masses out of turmoil is something that is simply beyond their comprehension. I consider my self educated but even I would fret at the very thought of something like that …


  • Something Clever
    Apr 7, 2013 - 5:10AM

    @Truth and Justice:
    By that logic, no country should have ever made positive progress in history. The degree requirement isn’t some kind of old tradition. It’s rather recent.


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