Guest Post by Naeem Sadiq, published in Dawn 12th December 2007
Of the many gifts given to the nation by the Election Commission of Pakistan in 2002, there were some 68-odd fake degree holders and an equal number of those who were either loan defaulters or had their loans written off. Many others had the dubious distinction of being wanted in criminal cases. It was common knowledge that fake bachelor-degree certificates were officially provided to many from the king’s party while ‘madressah sanads’ were overnight upgraded to degree level to accommodate a large number from the religious clan. The Higher Education Commission (HEC) raised no voice against this official lowering of education standards. The Election Commission conveniently looked the other way when scrutinizing the credentials of these parliamentarians, as they were badly needed to act as rubber stamps in Pakistan for the next five years.
As expected, many of these con men rose to great heights, becoming heads of various ministries, chancellors of universities and governors of provinces. Thus for five long years, the people of Pakistan were forced to suffer these spurious MNAs and MPAs who floated in the corridors of power in the same ratio as the spurious drugs in the market.
There were citizens who repeatedly approached the Election Commission and the Higher Education Commission to review and scrutinise the credentials of these shady individuals and unburden the conscience as well as the exchequer of Pakistan, by unseating those whose degrees were fake or had issues with loan defaulting or indulgence in crime.
Despite these repeated requests, the Election Commission and the HEC refused to budge. Their response was bureaucratic and clerical, indicating utter disinterest and helplessness. The fact that these two commissions were ultimately and solely responsible for weeding out this junk never dawned upon them and they kept on feigning naivete each time the matter was brought up before them.
It is once again the winter of elections. We have the original judges under house arrest, a PCO-ed Election Commission and a brand of new judges intoxicated with the ‘PCO elixir’ that provides job security for the next five years or the next PCO, whichever comes first. The eligibility of candidates and their credentials are being scrutinised under the umbrella of a ‘Personal Constitution Order’ (PCO). We are therefore utterly vulnerable to the insatiate appetite of a single person who would like to have a parliament that could obligingly indemnify his acts of playing football with the Constitution. The fake degrees, the loans and the crimes of candidates would hardly be issues of consequence before such an obsequious ‘PCO-compliant’ Election Commission. Thus we will once again suffer the calamity of fake degree holders, loan defaulters and criminals who will be our rulers for the next five years.
It is precisely for this reason why we as citizens ought to insist on a retroactive recall of the PCO, the restoration of the judiciary and holding of elections under an impartial Election Commission. We must demand that the Election Commission should ask all potential MNAs and MPAs to submit their original degree certificates, which should be passed on to the HEC for scrutiny and clearance. Likewise the State Bank should scrutinise these gentlemen for loan defaults, the police for criminal cases and the tax department for payment of due taxes.
Finally, these documents, facts and figures should be publicized in national newspapers for the public to know the profile of their future leaders, and to point out the erroneous declarations, if any. The Election Commission and HEC must be held accountable if it is discovered at a later stage that a bad fish was allowed to pass through their net.
The people of Pakistan must vote for only those political parties who insist on retroactive recall of the PCO, restoration of the judiciary and an independent Election Commission as a prerequisite for the January election. Not willing to undertake these steps would only mean yet another five years of misrule by spurious politicians, whose fake degrees and criminal cases were conveniently overlooked by the 2007 Selection Commission of Pakistan.