Last week, two parliamentarians resigned from their posts after their educational qualifications were called into question. Below, Usman Zafar, an Islamabad-based producer for Express 24/7 discusses this development, commenting on the state of Pakistan’s current leadership:
Pakistan Peoples Party leader Jamshed Dasti, a prominent member of the National Assembly, is known for his vocal opinions in parliament, to the point where he has been reprimanded for using “un-parliamentary language.” As the Chairman of the Standing Committee on Sports, he has minced no words in lecturing the nation’s cricketers on the importance of ethical behavior on the field, at a time when accusations of match fixing and ball tampering were rife within the Pakistan team.
But on Thursday, the vocal Mr. Dasti was quieter than ever. Nor was he lecturing anyone on morality. The reason, was because his own morality was now in question.
A legal case had been filed against the PPP MNA in the Supreme Court, contending that Mr. Dasti’s Master’s Degree in Islamic Studies was fake, and hence disqualified him from being a member of Parliament. The matter was heard by a six member bench of the Supreme Court headed by none other than the Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry.
It was at this hearing that Mr. Dasti’s earsplitting remarks were reduced to mere murmurs. When asked if he knew the names of the first 15 suras (Chapters) of the Holy Quran, he could not answer. He couldn’t even name the first five suras, casting serious doubt on his credentials as a Masters in Islamic Studies.
But the real shockers were yet to come. When asked to recite the first verses of the Quran, he recited “Al-Hamd Sharif” (Sura-e-Fateha) to the dismay of the Apex Court. And when he was asked what version of the Quran he had read, he replied the version of Hazrat Musa! The Court was appalled. The so called MA in Islamic Studies knew less than a five year old on the subject!
It was then that the PPP MNA’s academic credentials truly came into the forefront. He could not tell what courses he had done in his degree, or what year he had completed it. He could not even give the right answer to 4 multiplied by 2! At that point, the hearing bench had heard enough, and Mr. Dasti was given a choice: Resign from parliament right away, or face a full investigation exposing all his dishonest actions in the courts. Mr Dasti took option one without any hesitation.
To add insult to injury, Mr. Dasti wasn’t the only one who tendered his resignation that evening. In another hearing at the Apex Court, PML-Q MNA Nazir Jutt also opted to resign after it was found out that his Bachelors degree was fake.
After the case hearing, the Chief Justice of Pakistan commented as to how these parliamentarians could make the laws of the country when they themselves were found guilty of gross lies and deceitful actions. And he couldn’t be more right. Our country’s parliamentarians claim to be the true representatives of the people. They campaign on a platform of virtue, honesty, and purity, adhering to the ideals of this country. But if anything, we have seen the exact opposite infiltrating our government. The President of this country is involved in money laundering cases amounting to billions of dollars, and would have not even been eligible for office had he not chosen to seek amnesty under the National Reconciliation Ordinance, a dubious deal under which thousands of cases concerning him, and other high profile politicians, were just swept under the rug, all in the name of “reconciliation”. There is no wonder that the NRO is called the “black law”, but the stains from this law remain, and they are darker than ever.
But sadly, rather than trying to purify the parliament from such impurities, they are actually exacerbating them. The government is actually defending the NRO in the courts, and that too after the Supreme Court declared it null and void on the basis of violating critical parts of the constitution. The cartels of this country run rampant in key areas like wheat and sugar, and the only organization charged with battling them, the Competition Commission of Pakistan, has been declared defunct last week, thanks to government inaction.
The great fable writer Aesop once said, “We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office.” That statement seems almost tailor made for the leaders of Pakistan, who seem to talk all about the vices committed by others, but look the other way when it comes to the major crimes committed by our leaders, and talk about how democracy must be allowed to foster. There is nothing worse for democracy than the prevalence of such hypocrisy, for it is the main reason for the public’s disillusionment in their representatives. Unless there is a crackdown on all such activities, and virtue restored to the heart of our governance, this democracy will die a slow painful death, and there will be no one more responsible than these so-called denizens of democracy.
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