Our national shame
Saturday, March 30, 2013
From Print Edition
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[Our national shame]
For the last five years a strange drama is being played out by the Election Commission of Pakistan to support the biggest crooks in the land. This relates to supporting hundreds of those parliamentarians that forged their degrees in order to become eligible to contest the elections in 2008, and then looted thousands of billions of rupees after coming into power.
According to Transparency International of Pakistan, a colossal sum of Rs18,000 billion (that is Rs100 crores repeated 18,000 times over!) was looted by those in power in the last five years, drowning the country in debt. This amounts to about 180 billion dollars.
Considering that we have been quibbling over aid from the USA that is only about 1-2 billion dollars annually, it shows the magnitude of what has been actually going on in the country. Pakistan has been skimmed dry and is today essentially a bankrupt country. We will be unable to pay the next installment due to the IMF unless we can get a loan from somewhere to help us do so.
All this went on under the nose of our judiciary and the army who watched helplessly as the loot and plunder continued unabated. Many Neros were just playing with the fiddle while Rome was burning. The Election Commission even ignored the orders of the Supreme Court issued about four years ago to have the degrees of the elected ‘gentlemen’ verified and looked the other way while daylight robberies on our national exchequer continued. The acute poverty that has resulted across the country has aggravated the law and order situation.
A former prime minister has been charged with massive corruption involving the hiring of obsolete power generating plants at exorbitant prices. The cost of power generation from these plants is over Rs50 per unit as opposed to Rs6-8 per unit from other plants. Money has been transferred under hand to foreign bank accounts while industries have been devastated. Had the Election Commission done its job five years ago many of these crooks that ruled us would not have been able to perform their villainy.
What is alarming is that the ‘save the crooks’ approach still continues and attempts are being made to allow these very fraudsters to escape from scrutiny and participate in the next elections. This scheme has been recently exposed in a letter written by the chairman Higher Education Commission to the chief election commissioner; it has also been sent to the chief justice of the SC.
The Election Commission, apparently bowing to political pressures, has cleared 27 of those members of parliament that had been found to have fake degrees. It may be noted that the ECP has no legal right to declare degrees fake or genuine. The HEC is the only institution that has these powers and the step taken by the ECP to declare the degrees as genuine after the HEC had found them to be fake and declared them to be so is illegal.
The HEC has formally informed the ECP of this vide its letter of March 4, 2013. The Supreme Court should take suo motu notice of this and if it is found that the Commission is guilty and continuing its ‘save the crooks’ policy, then a new commission should be constituted.
An alarming development has been the refusal of another large group of 189 parliamentarians to submit their documents to the HEC for verification in spite of repeated attempts by the HEC for the last two and a half years. It is obvious that they are defying the orders of the Supreme Court and hope to avoid being caught.
All such persons should be assumed to be holding fake degrees, as is evident from their refusal to submit their documentation, and debarred from taking part in the elections. Criminal cases should also be initiated against them without further delay.
It is notable that after sleeping for five years, the ECP was forced to wake up but only after the long march of Dr Tahirul Qadri. As a result Sanaullah Malik, director (legal), issued a letter to 249 of the former MNAs and MPAs, giving them a deadline of February 22 to submit all their documents, failing which their degrees will be treated as fake and criminal proceedings will be initiated.
School certificates were also required to be submitted under this letter. This was necessary as some of the MNAs and MPAs had forged the degrees or had the issued from a university through political pressures. It has been alleged that a vice-chancellor has been involved in the issuance of many of these degrees.
As a result of subsequent political pressures and ‘other’ considerations, the ECP has now backtracked and has decided not to implement what it had stated in its letter of February 22 to the 249 parliamentarians. This is evident from the fact that the deadline passed weeks ago and no action has been taken by the ECP either to declare the degrees illegal or to initiate criminal proceedings against the remaining 189 MNAs and MPAs who have not submitted their documents for scrutiny. The Supreme Court should take immediate notice of this failure of the ECP that will allow these crooks to escape.
It may be noted that it is the normal procedure of the HEC for all citizens of Pakistan applying for verification of degrees and there is no reason why a more relaxed approach should be taken when scrutinising the documents of these MNAs and MPAs. This becomes particularly necessary since recently the HEC found that the A-Level school certificates of even the former federal minister of education and training, Waqas Akram, who was hell-bent on destroying the HEC, were fake. The ECP is now bound by law to initiate criminal proceedings against this gentleman.
Pakistan is at a crossroads. We may be able to save this country if we can get clean people in the government and there is a huge responsibility on the Election Commission of Pakistan to ensure this. Alas it appears that the Election Commission is continuing its ‘save the crooks’ policy and failing to honour its own commitment – that it will take criminal action against all those ‘gentlemen’ who continue to refuse to produce their documents for scrutiny.
There are 189 such persons who have refused to do so till today and the Election Commission continues to look the other way. This is a national shame.
The writer is the former federal minister for science and technology, and former chairman of the Higher Education Commission.Email: firstname.lastname@example.org