Pakistan's 'fake' degree scandal is growing by the day. Dawn reported today that according to the Higher Education Commission, the number of fake degrees amongst Pakistani politicians has now reached 47, with another 28 considered 'doubtful'. A total of 934 degrees are being examined by the HEC.
Dawn's report said the degree of Faryal Talpur, the sister of President Asif Ali Zardari and also head of the PPP's Women's Wing, as well as those of Ports and Shipping Minister Nabeel Gabol, MNAs Shamshad Sattarand Mukesh Chawla and Presidential Adviser Faisal Raza Abidi have all been declared "suspicious". More records are being sought.
Faryal Talpur later said that her degree was authentic and resending her degree to the university for re-verification was inappropriate. She said that she had an authentic MA degree in Sociology and no one had contacted her in this regard. Faisal Raza Abidi also said that his degree was genuine.
In Pakistan, it is a requirement for national and provincial politicians to hold a valid university degree. The present situation has come about because on 24 June this year the Supreme Court ordered the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to initiate action against legislators accused of having used fake degrees to contest the most recent election.
Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry issued the order after writing a detailed judgment rejecting an appeal by Rizwan Gill, a former PML-N member of the Punjab Assembly, for possessing a fake bachelor’s degree.
In Rizwan Gill's case, he had secured 72 per cent in a subject called IPS. When asked in court to define what it stood for, he answered with a long silence. At the court’s insistence and after much thought, he replied “Health and Physical Education”. The detailed marks certificate produced on record by Mr Gill himself noted that IPS stood for “Islamic Studies/Ethics and Pakistan Studies”.
“This answer of the appellant said it all,” the verdict said.
The ECP is required to depute an officer to supervise the entire exercise, while sessions judges conducting the investigations are required to conclude the probe within three months. One wonders how high the scandal will reach.
Meanwhile, in the Rawalpindi District Court 48 lawyers have been struck off after it emerged that their law degrees were fakes. The affected lawyers had been practising for between 10 and 23 years.