Higher education dilemma

Daily: The News
Date: 15.04.11

For one to envisage what is forthcoming, the slogan such as ‘shame on you – the fake
degree-holder parliamentarians’ displayed on banners in the streets of Islamabad by the
students of various universities on April 12 must be sufficient.  

The students seem comprehend that apparently they are being asked to countenance
disassembling the Higher Education Commission (HEC) for the sake of provincial autonomy
but actually the underlying reason for attempting to dissolve the HEC is to paper over the
fake degrees scam of politicians sitting in provincial and federal legislatures.

The problem generally with students is that they romanticize notions of equality, candor,
equity, and merit. In a sense, the positive in the prevalent higher education crisis is that
students have got aware of the real world outside their institutes before they formally finish
their studies and brave tribulations of the practical world: before students take over the
practical life, the practical life has overwhelmed them.

On the other hand, there is also a problem with parliamentarians, genuine and fake –
classified on the basis of authenticity of their degrees which had made them eligible or not
for electoral candidature. They think that students are perhaps obliged to sense their
trepidation. One wonders what a fake degree holder – now baptized into a law-maker –
might be envisioning aspirations of students studying in universities he never had been to.
The knowledge of parliamentarians of both genuine and fake hues seems contemptuous
for the fact that in the history of the world universities are not only considered centres of
learning and research but universities are also deemed the womb of revolutions.

Veiled in the fake degrees of parliamentarians is the muck of deceit and lies, the bane of
Pakistan’s progress. The protesting students seem to have fallen short of assimilating the
reality that politicians holding fake degrees can hoodwink the Election Commission (EC),
deceive voters, get elected, join the rank of parliamentarians, draw hefty salaries, enjoy
perks and privileges and enact a law – to affect the future of all including students. In
political circles, securing an access to the corridors of power in such a way may be
resounded as a success story of a politician but the question is, by doing so, what lesson
that parliamentarian is inculcating in students: having a fake degree and maneuvering it to
one’s advantage is not a crime to be ashamed of but a matter of honour to be proud of?

Students do not know that politicians also make possible the existence of fake voters in
thousands in each constituency to vote for them. The bogus votes help them win election.
Besides, the existence of more than one hundred fake degree-holder parliamentarians
means that the electoral system is too feeble to preclude lateral entries and too fragile to
hold the offenders accountable. In this regard, the EC has miserably failed to meet its
constitutional obligations. One wonders why dungeons must not be the final abode of those
violators, the fake parliamentarians. The political system cannot be rectified otherwise, nor
will the society be edified.

The students at the protest were also justified in questioning the rationale of the fake
degree-holder parliamentarians to decide the future of higher education and research.
Parliament should reply to such questions of students. Nevertheless, it is not yet known how
a fake degree-holder legislator can protect the constitution, abide by the law and promote
democracy? The point is, it is not only the duty of the media, civil society and the judiciary
to hedge the political system against falling into the clutches of martial laws but it is also a
duty of politicians to clean their stable and ensure incessant supply of democracy.

Even if more than two hundred legislators of both provincial and national assemblies are
disqualified, as this huge number is being anticipated, owing to holding fake degrees at the
time of their electoral candidature, why a bye-election cannot be held? Secondly, why
dismantling the HEC is reckoned a better choice than making an arrangement for a bye-
election? Parliamentarians bearing genuine credentials should take cognizance of the
matter before students oppugn credibility of parliament.

Has anyone thought what the impression would be beaming across the world about
parliamentarians of Pakistan: Pakistani parliamentarians practise trickery and tell lies to
their countrymen and the same, perhaps, they do to the world? The world must also be
saying that look all Pakistani parliamentarians are bent on destroying an institution which
could not avoid exposing their true face to Pakistani masses. That was the original sin of
the HEC. Had that not been the case, the EC would have hitherto sent the degrees of the
rest of parliamentarians to the HEC for verification of their authenticity. The EC is evading
the HEC in this regard.

In this discussion of blight and plight, one must not blink the fact that Professor Dr Atta ur
Rahman, former Chairman of the HEC, made history by not drawing any salary from the
national exchequer and by working honourary for eight years (2002-2010). One wonders
why this example of dedication and sacrifice is not emulated by parliamentarians. The
Pakistanis pay tribute to the services of Dr Atta and think that Pakistan is in need of more
such people. Nevertheless, the services of incumbent Chairman of the HEC, Dr Javed
Leghari, are also praise worthy. Dr Javed did not succumb to the pressure exerted on him
(by certain quarters) to change the results of (around one hundred) fake degrees in favour
of parliamentarians. A salute to him as well!

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