Articles of the year 2010

Bogus Degrees
Published on May 15th, 2010

The Jamshaid Dasti saga has gone into high gear with the latest moves of the Prime Minister appearing on the campaign trail with Dasti, who resigned his MNA seat when his degree was declared fake. Since then the Prime Minister of Pakistan has given him a ticket to fight a by-election from the same seat, and is actively campaigning on Dasti's behalf.

It is indeed incredible that the PPP high command has ignored the legal implications of making a false declaration to the Election Commission. I am told by my lawyer friends that there is prison sentence, for giving a false statement to the commission specified under the constitution, of three years, and the prime minister by campaigning may be held as complicit in assisting a purported criminal into the National Assembly and worse he could be held liable to the same charge, as this was in his direct knowledge. After all the prime minister as the Chief Executive of Pakistan under his oath of office must ensure that legal niceties are observed by everyone in Pakistan, especially those within his knowledge. It is therefore very surprising that the prime minister would God-Father someone of Dasti's self-admitted transgressions. It is sad that our prime minister would expose not just himself, but the office of the prime minister to such open and flagrant violations of the constitution.

It has also been disclosed by the recently retired secretary, Election Commission of Pakistan, Kanwar Dilshad, that as many as 148 MNAs and MPAs are holding degrees that are reportedly fake. It is therefore imperative that the Election Commission take the necessary action to bring these (criminals) before the appropriate courts. As the Election Commission it is its duty to scrutinise, and to validate all the applications that are placed before it. The mandate of the ECP is to keep criminals out and to bring honest people into Parliament. Also there is no time bar on the ECP's findings, and the ECP should take action even now. Instead of being an honest referee the ECP has been reduced to a rubber stamp for the political parties. It is important that the ECP assumes its constitutional role in the scrutiny of the parliamentarians. Perhaps, the ECP itself should be looked into for its dereliction of duty in the case of the fake degrees.

The people of Pakistan have a right to know why the safeguards in the constitution, such as the scrutiny of degrees, were not undertaken. It is high time that members of the various government offices be asked to follow their official duties, as they can be called to account for their omissions. Their allowing 148 suspect degree holders could have a devastating effect on the composition of the Houses, and may even leave the laws passed in the assemblies, open to challenge, including the election of the president.

The Supreme Court would do well to examine the constitutional violations in allowing such members into the Assemblies by furnishing fake degrees, which are the equivalent of fraud - at the very least.

The Supreme Court itself may take notice of the prime minister's campaigning on behalf of Dasti, and could examine whether his paperwork has disclosed that he committed a fraud in his earlier election. As explained to me by a leading lawyer there is no time bar on a criminal case, (the fake degree submission to the ECP is in itself a criminal act). Can this action be condoned? What action can be taken against the Election Commission? The least could be the disqualification from the pres-ent contest. As matters stand, the Election Commission sta-nds guilty of knowingly allowing fraudsters to have entered the Assemblies on forged documents.

The people of Pakistan are wondering if the 'democracy' that they had yearned for and Benazir had died for, could have brought them an assembly filled with crooks who are not even interested in unmasking her assassins, while playing a charade with the UN and the local police. Even her loyal Party members are horrified at the manner her enquiry has been sidetracked into blind alleys going nowhere. The most obvious leads such as the disappearance of the backup vehicle from the scene of the bombing with three of her inner circle on board, letting her bleed to death in a car whose tires had been blown off, to limp away on rims, till she was transferred to Sherry Rah-man's car whose driver was certainly more loyal than her own people; people who were the major beneficiaries of her death.