Higher education dilemma - Dr Qaisar Rashid - Friday, April 15, 2011

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

The students seem to believe that they are being asked to countenance disassembling the Higher Education Commission for the sake of provincial autonomy but actually, the underlying reason for attempting to dissolve the HEC is to distract attention from the fake degrees scam involving politicians sitting in provincial and federal legislatures.

The problem generally with students is that they romanticise notions of equality, candour, equity, and merit. In a sense, the positive in the prevalent higher education crisis is that students have become aware of the real world outside their institutes before they formally finish their studies. In other words, practical life has overwhelmed them even before they enter it.

One wonders how a fake degree holder – now baptised into a law-maker – might be envisioning the aspirations of students studying in universities that he has never had been to. Parliamentarians, boasting both genuine and fake degrees, seem contemptuous of the fact that in the history of the world, universities are not only considered centres of learning and research but 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 influence the future of all, particularly students.

In political circles, securing access to the corridors of power in such a way may be considered the success story of a politician, but the question is, by doing so, what lesson is the parliamentarian teaching students? That having a fake degree and maneuvering around that to acquire public office is not a crime to be ashamed of, but a matter 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 elections. Besides, the existence of more than one hundred fake degree-holding 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 failed miserably to meet its constitutional obligations. One wonders why dungeons are not the final abode of these esteemed fakes – our parliamentarians. The political system cannot be rectified otherwise, nor can society be edified.

The students at the protest were also justified in questioning the rationale of the fake degree-holding parliamentarians who have the power to decide the future of higher education and research. Parliament should reply to their questions.

It is still not clear how a fake degree-holding 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 military dictators but it is also the duty of politicians to clean their stable and ensure the transparency and smooth running of democracy.

Even if more than two hundred legislators of both provincial and national assemblies are disqualified – as is anticipated – owing to holding fake degrees at the time of their electoral candidature, why can’t a bi-election be held?

Secondly, why is dismantling the HEC considered a better choice than making arrangements for a bi-election? Parliamentarians – those with genuine credentials – should take note of the matter before people lose faith in institutions themselves.

Has anyone thought about what impression the world would have of our parliamentarians? That Pakistani parliamentarians practice trickery and lie to their countrymen and, perhaps, to the world? The world must also be noting that all Pakistani parliamentarians are bent on destroying an institution which exposed their true faces to the 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 the parliamentarians to the HEC for verification of their authenticity. The EC is evading the HEC, it seems.

In this discussion of blight and plight, one must remember that Professor Dr Atta-ur- Rehman, former chairman of the HEC, made history by working honorary for eight years (2002-2010). One wonders why this example of dedication and sacrifice is not emulated by existing parliamentarians.

Pakistanis pay tribute to the services of Dr Rehman and realise that Pakistan is in dire need of more such people. Nevertheless, the services of incumbent Chairman of the HEC Dr Javed Leghari are also praiseworthy. Dr Javed did not succumb to the pressure exerted on him (by certain quarters) to render around one hundred fake degrees genuine, in favour of parliamentarians. A salute to him as well!

The writer is a freelance contributor.

Email: qaisarrashid@yahoo.com

Source : http://thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=41700&Cat=9

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