The day of degree-fakers - Iftekhar A Khan - Friday, July 23, 2010

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When a degree-faker passes Matric to MA in reverse order and leaves his peers way behind, it's time to announce that the art of forgery has reached its summit. People have witnessed commotion inside and outside the houses of parliament against the public reps with faked degrees. Recently, amid cacophony in the Punjab Assembly the good members in a rare gesture of solidarity passed a resolution against the media for pointing out degree-fakers. The chief minister who one thought was somewhat prudent was in his chambers at the time. By tacitly supporting the fakers, he has gone down a few notches on the public moral scale.

The Punjab chief minister didn't support the fakers in public. Did he censure them behind the scene for forging degrees? Perhaps he didn't because of political expediency and because of the crucial numbers game in the assembly that keeps him in power, which he doesn't want to lose for the sake of principles. And principles are expendable when they begin to impinge on one's self-interests.

However, regarding fake degrees, Prime Minister Gilani outdid all others. When the court deprived Jamshed Dasti of his National Assembly seat for faking his degree, Mr Gilani not only gave the party gem a fresh ticket but also brazenly led his political campaign to get him re-elected. Mr Gilani left no room for dichotomy on the reprehensible act of faking degrees. Henceforth, nobody is likely to ask him embarrassing questions. Propriety suggested that Mr Gilani had better keep a safe distance from Dasti after the court verdict. Instead, he chose the same candidate for the same seat and campaigned for him. Mr Gilani in fact denigrated the status of the honourable court that he doesn't tire of claiming to hold in high esteem. Herein is the dichotomy in what the prime minister says and what he does. End of debate.

The silent majority is aghast at how resourceful lawmakers have raised the level of fakery to an art form. Some shysters in the legal profession have done one better. They've even faked PhD degrees. A leading legal light who after a court appearance had acted as Al Capone returned victorious even wangled a PhD from a dubious American university unauthorised to confer it. Another such luminary briefly appointed a federation lawyer and relieved, when quizzed by a reporter about his PhD, retorted, "I am not obliged to answer your query". Why not, sir? Haven't you been addressed 'Doctor Sahib' for decades? Although it took long but you stand exposed, Doctor Sahib.

Had all these villains lived in a civilised society and exposed, they would promptly end up in gaol and forgotten. But in our dear land, they not only prosper but also hold the system hostage to their wicked ambitions. It's not as much about faking degrees that irks as it is about the collective mindset and integrity of the fakers, and more so, of their associates in parliament who strive to bail out the guilty by passing resolutions. It speaks of the decadence of the class that rules us. While the Pandora's box of fake degrees seems bottomless and new fakers crawl out by the day, what should be the next step? Isn't a midterm election the only option to clear out the scum? But not without first banning the fakers for at least a decade. Nevertheless, the ensuing battle is between the judiciary and vested interests of the politicians, which have nothing to do with public interests. The silent majority has thrown its full support behind the judiciary, praying for it to succeed, and waiting to see how the situation unfolds.

The writer is a freelance contributor based in Lahore. Email:

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