It would be entirely wrong to characterise everybody in Pakistan as dishonest because they are clearly not, but those in the political band of the spectrum are another matter entirely. ‘Fake degree’ cases have been reported with regularity in the last year. Cases where members of the federal parliament, the Senate and the provincial assemblies have lied about their academic qualifications. Another case has now reached a resolution and the Supreme Court (SC) of Pakistan on October 28 disqualified PML-N MNA Sumaira Malik. She had contested the 2008 elections holding a fake degree. The SC has further told the Election Commission of Pakistan to file a criminal case against her and to top off a comprehensive finding of guilt, the SC further said that Ms Malik should be asked to reimburse the expenditure she incurred during her tenure — an unknown but possibly considerable sum. There may be as many as 100 holders of fake degrees in the federal and provincial assemblies.
This newspaper supports the disqualification of Sumaira Malik, likewise the disqualification of any other legislator found to have been holding a falsely-claimed qualification. That the offences occurred in the historic past is neither here nor there, for if Pakistan is to cleanse itself of corruption in high places, then there can be no exceptions, no flouting of the law by the rich, famous and powerful. Although individuals are being caught and punished for their deception, they are not alone in their crime, they would have had to have bought or strong-armed individuals within the academic milieu to provide the false documents. Other people would have been complicit in their crime and it is entirely possible that in some but not all cases, the political parties they were elected to represent were aware of their phony academic documentation yet allowed their candidacy to go ahead. Ms Malik’s sister, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) member Ayla Malik, was also disqualified in July for precisely the same reason. We look forward to further disqualifications.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 30th, 2013.