Talking to lawyers and media in Quetta the other day, SCBA President Qazi Anwar (rightly) stated:
…the judiciary is free to function under the Constitution and nobody including Parliament would be allowed to restrict its independence.
Qazi continued the smugglers sitting at the Parliament could not be allowed the power to appoint judges, adding lawyers will correct themselves if all the institutions are back on the right path.
It is unthinkable under the Constitution to have a criminal as President of the state, as President needs to be free from all crimes including corruption under Article-248 of the Constitution, he maintained.
Of course this didn’t sit well with the smugglers, thieves, and other criminals sitting in the parliament. They screamed at this ‘contempt of parliament’. Speaking on a point of order, MNA Shiekh Waqqas Akram said that all the politicians had great respects for the lawyers and they never talked against them, adding that there were some great people like Aitzaz Ahsan, S M Zafar and Justice Waseem Sajjad (Interesting choice of lawyers to name, Sh Waqas 😉 )
Waqas also said there ought to be a law against this kind of truth being spoken:
Demanding inclusion of a clause ‘contempt of Parliament’ in the constitutional reform bill, he said that a joint privilege motion should be moved and if it was not done, he would do it in personal capacity.
(Of course there is as he sheepishly admitted on a talk show the next day — he just wasn’t aware of it 😛 )
Oh, and what was the reaction of the great defenders of the judiciary and law? Well, Khawaja Saad Rafique of PML-N said “Qazi Anwar was not mentally fit and was uttering confused things”
Well, I loved it when today that crazy old man reiterated his earlier stance saying parliament has no right to appoint judges!
Naeem Sadiq confirms Qazi Sahib spoke the truth and is not really a whacko — sorry PML-N 😉 :
Of the many gifts given to the nation by the 2002 parliament, there were 60-odd holders of fake degree and an equal number of those who were either loan defaulters or had had their loans written off. Many others even wanted in criminal cases. It was common knowledge that fake bachelor’s degrees were officially provided to many from the King’s Party and madressah sanads (certificates) were overnight upgraded to degree level to accommodate a large number from the religious tribe.
The Higher Education Commission (HEC) raised no protest against this official lowering of education standards. The Election Commission looked the other way. As expected, many of these conmen rose to great heights, becoming MNAs, ministers and even vice chancellors of universities. Thus, for five long years, the people of Pakistan were forced to suffer these spurious MNAs and MPAs, who moved in the corridors of power in the same manner as spurious drugs circulate in the market.
With the BA requirements still in place, the 2008 elections created a fresh market demand for the manufacture and sale of fake degrees. We have once again ended up with many fake degree-holders and yet others who declared fake records of their assets. Many with huge properties and assets in foreign lands pretended to be paupers at home. Two events of the last few days have, however, produced a ray of hope, because they might have an impact on future elections. Through a constitutional petition in the Supreme Court, a citizen has challenged the assets statements filed by parliamentarians before the Election Commission of Pakistan. The Supreme Court also heard a case of fake degrees against three parliamentarians, who agreed to resign as a face-saving option.
The three, who were made to step down “honourably” (instead of being sent to jail), represent only the tip of the iceberg. Many others whose cases have still not been challenged yet continue to occupy positions of great power and importance.
A federal minister, who proudly displays his framed degree in the background [that’s BABAR AWAN, The “LAW” Minister], each time he conducts a press conference, has a degree from a certain Monticello University. (http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/news/pakistan/06-army-colonel-lawyer-detained-on-espionage-charges-05-rs). However, the American Council on Higher Education Accreditation formally designates Monticello University as non-accredited. (http://www.michigan.gov/documents/ Non-accreditedSchools_78090_7.pdf.)
These and many other similar cases involving sitting parliamentarians have appeared a number of times in the print media. But they have failed to move those who ought to have prevented such lapses, in the first place.
Pakistanis need to question the credentials of their representatives and protest against them where they turn out to be bogus. It does not have to be their fate to suffer at the hands of those who hold fake degrees, make false asset statements and possess dubious characters. Why is the scrutiny system of the election commission so porous, so corrupt, so incompetent or so weak that it allows such blatant errors to go undetected? The Election Commission, the Higher Education Commission and the Federal Bureau of Revenue have repeatedly failed to scrutinise and filter out those with fake degrees or incorrect asset statements.
The judges of the Supreme Court had to ask only four questions to figure out the falsehood of a minister’s academic qualification. Why couldn’t the Election Commission ask the HEC and the FBR to verify the documents of all parliamentarians? If it is not the direct responsibility of the Election Commission, then who in this country is responsible for scrutinising these documents?
A new format for scrutiny of educational, financial and personal data of all parliamentarians needs to be defined to ensure that fraudulent people do not end up as our leaders. A three-stage filtration process needs to be adopted. Feedback from the public and scrutiny by the HEC and the FBR, and by the Election Commission itself. The Election Commission could place the facts declared by parliamentarians in national newspapers and ask all citizens to provide information on inaccurate declarations. For example, any citizen should be able to say that such and such a house in Islamabad, London or America also belongs to the parliamentarian in question but has not been included in the declaration.
Such reports (with an anonymity option) should be immediately investigated by special teams with authority to dig out the facts. The HEC and the FBR should be asked to scrutinise degrees and confirm if the degrees and the financial facts submitted by the politicians are genuine. Finally, the Election Commission must itself take responsibility for proactive scrutiny of facts by teams specially trained for this purpose.
Electoral reforms are urgently needed to improve the quality of the electoral process. Computerised voter lists must be displayed on a dedicated website. Voter education programmes must be initiated to help voters make informed choices about candidates. Voting must be made compulsory for all, and citizens must have the negative voting option when faced with a situation of having to vote either for rapist Tweedledum or murderer Tweedledee. We have had parliamentarians who served out full five-year terms without being exposed for their fake degrees or false asset declarations.
The government departments and the Election Commission have chosen the path of least resistance and opted to look the other way. While Article 62 of the Constitution stipulates many subjective, difficult-to-verify moral and religious requirements, the least we must do is to verify what is obvious, objective and easy.
Finally, one hopes that the Supreme Court will move beyond the polite “step-down” options for fake degree holders and go for the root cause – the ineffective Election Commission. Shouldn’t the Election Commission itself be held accountable for failing to verify the bona fides of these unethical individuals?
The writer is a management systems consultant and a freelance writer on social issues. Email: naeemsadiq @ gmail.com
“Crazy”, eh, Kh. Saad Rafiq?
Interestingly, the parliamentarians were up in arms against the stripping of Dasti, and they were heard screaming on TV channels “Parlaiment is supreme” and “SC had no right to [expose] a parliamentarian like that” and “SC has no right to question him as he has been elected by the people”.
Also, please do keep in mind one of the questions asked Mr Dasti was “What is 2 times 4?” Of course he could not provide the correct answer. Another? “What year did you graduate?” “I don’t know” came the reply. “What courses did you take?” “I don’t remember” “Can you name first two surahs of the Quran?” He gave the wrong answer (Remember the fella claimed to be a degree holder in religious studies) 🙂