Posts Tagged ‘PML-Q’

Protests Against the Fake Degree Scandal - AP

Last week, Aslam Raisani, the Chief Minister of Balochistan told reporters after a provincial assembly session, “a degree is a degree whether it’s authentic or fake.”

Actually, no. No it’s not.

His statement came after the Supreme Court ordered election commissions to vet the education credentials of Pakistan’s federal and provincial politicians. According to Al Jazeera, “Up to 160 elected officials have been accused of faking their degrees in order to meet a requirement for holding office.” An Election Commission official told Reuters, “The Higher Education Commission [HEC] is verifying the degrees of all parliamentarians in line with the orders of the Supreme Court.” On Tuesday, Dawn reported that the commission is currently “pondering” over whether it’s a good idea to invoke the Pakistan Penal Code “to initiate criminal proceedings against lawmakers who are proven guilty of having fake degrees.”

Pakistani politicians tried as criminals? How novel.

But while you’re at it, HEC, maybe you should also try politicians who have defaulted on their loans, who are horribly corrupt, who profited under the National Reconciliation Ordinance, and who continue to to put their own interests above those of their constituents term after term. I’d guarantee that we’d barely have any lawmakers left.

In March, contributor Usman Zafar discussed the circumstances surrounding the resignations of politicians Jamshed Dasti (PPP) and Nazir Jutt (PML-Q), after the Supreme Court ruled that Dasti, a prominent party leader, had lied about his Islamic Studies Masters Degree. When questioned by the six-member bench, the former Chairman of the Standing Committee on Sports not only couldn’t recite the first verses of the Quran, but he even gave the incorrect answer to 4 multiplied by 2. Islamic Studies Masters Degree #FAIL.

Since the inquiry was announced, several lawmakers have already resigned from their posts, including PML-Q MPA Samina Khawar Hayat and PPP MNA Amir Yar Waran, who resigned last Thursday. As the “furore” (Dawn’s word not mine) grows, the fake degree scandal has garnered a call for mid-term elections from parties like Jamaat-e-Islami and Tehreek-e-Insaf, who both boycotted the polls in February 2008. Dawn noted in its coverage, “For obvious reasons Prime Minister Gilani has said that fresh polls were not the solution to the country’s problems.”

The apparent source of the fake degree scandal stems from a law imposed by General Pervez Musharraf in 2002, which required political candidates to hold a bachelor’s degree “or its equivalent.” According to Al Jazeera, Musharraf said he imposed the law to “improve the calibre of MPs, but critics alleged the move was designed to sideline certain opponents.” The law was struck down in April 2008, though just after the February elections of that year.

In a country where the education system is lackluster at best, should we expect more from our leaders? My answer is an adamant yes. Education standards aren’t just set to create or enforce a political elite, it’s to ensure that our leaders can actually lead (though the correlation between education and leadership is definitely a worthy debate). And let’s face it: how many today can? How many have the integrity to be an example to Pakistan’s future generation? And how many have the foresight to think past their selfish aims for the greater good of the country? Not many. And while I hope this current scandal doesn’t lead to a distracting witch hunt, I do think it should raise discussion about these very questions. Because as a Pakistani, I am ashamed to call many of them my leaders.

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Dawn photo: Abbotabad Riots

Below is my piece that first appeared in Foreign Policy‘s AfPak Channel, a continuation on my previous post that delves more into the party politics that often clouds what the real issues are or should be:

As the 18th Amendment, the constitutional reforms package designed to bolster parliamentary democracy in Pakistan, inches closer to becoming a historic “landmark bill,” one particular part of the legislation has sparked considerable controversy and political wrangling — the renaming of North-West Frontier Province to Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

Over the weekend, people from the province’s Hazara Division, (who speak mainly Hindko as opposed to Pashto) staged demonstrations, and on Monday, at least seven people were killed and over 100 were injured in Abbottabad when police used force to break up a protest. The demonstrations continued on Tuesday, with Dawn reporting that mobs in Haripur, Mansehra, and Abbottabad (in Hazara) blocked roads, chanted slogans, and burned tires — all in the name of a name.

The bumpy journey to Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa did not begin in the last few weeks. The Awami National Party (ANP), the secular Pashtun nationalist ruling political party of the province, has long campaigned for a change to Pakhtunkhwa, even passing a resolution in favor of the development in November 1997, noted The News columnist Rahimullah Yusufzai. The name, argued the ANP, accurately reflects the Pashtun-majority of the region, much like Pakistan’s other provinces — Balochistan, Sindh, and Punjab.

But the PML-N staunchly opposed this label, (officially calling for a referendum last September), claiming the title marginalized other ethnic and linguistic groups in the province, including Hindko, Seraiki, and Khowar-speakers. A deadlock over the name continued, with an array of alternative names proposed as a compromise. While some reflected more neutral geographical areas (Khyber, Neelab and Abaseen) and historical references (Gandhara, the old Buddhist-era name of the region), other noteworthy runner-ups included Afghania, the clandestine ‘A’ in “Pakistan,” coined by one of the earliest proponents of the Pakistani state, Chaudhry Rehmat Ali in 1933.

At the end, hyphenating the name to Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa became the compromise everyone could agree on.

Well, almost everyone.

Although Pakistani media outlets televised people in the “province-formerly-known-as-NWFP” celebrating in the streets, the honeymoon period was soon over. PML-Q immediately expressed reservations over the new name, claiming they were not privy to the negotiations between the PML-N and ANP. PML-Q leaders have since criticized both the ANP and PML-N, alleging that PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif supported the new name “for his personal gains,” and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa was part of “a conspiracy to divide the province.”

While it would be easy to cloak Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa with the “conspiracy” label, twirl some handlebar moustaches and call it a day, Pakistani politics are never that straightforward. The PML-Q, as Ejaz Haider, National Affairs Editor of Newsweek Pakistan told me, has significant support in the Hazara division, “as is clear from the fact that its candidate was the runner-up in the January by-election in Mansehra.” However, PML-N has a more considerable vote bank in the region, with strong ties to the people of Hazara.

Given that the PML-Q suffered major losses in the 2008 elections, it seems they are trying to remain politically relevant and “capitalize on the emergence of the malcontents at the expense of the PML-N,” noted Dawn’s editorial. But at what cost? Their political provocations have indirectly led to the deaths of innocent people in Abbottabad, and the spread of mobs throughout Hazara. If the party claims to truly represent the interests of the people, it should address the issues that go beyond names and frilly hyphenated labels — the power shortages, the rising food prices, and the unemployment. Even if the 18th Amendment sails through the Senate and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa remains intact, political parties must avoid language that will destabilize the province further. At this rate, a province by any other name would not smell as sweet.

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Jamshed Dasti: Are YOU Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?

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 recitedAl-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.

The contribution is the sole opinion of the author and does not necessarily represent the opinion of CHUP. If you would like to contribute a piece to CHUP, please email Kalsoom at changinguppakistan[at]gmail[dot]com. Pieces should be no longer than 800 words please. For past contributions, click here.

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Media outlets reported that Pakistani police launched a crackdown on Wednesday, arresting dozens of opposition activists and lawyers and forbidding demonstrations on the eve of the Long March. According to Dawn newspaper, “Thirty five political activists and lawyers were arrested in Islamabad during raids launched overnight and continuing beyond daybreak.” [News agencies did differ on the numbers of those arrested, with the NY Times reporting that an “estimated 300” activists were detained.]

Those rounded up include members of Nawaz Sharif’s opposition party PML-N. A senior police official told the AFP, “The government has provided lists of people to police and raids are being made to arrest them.” Other police sources told news agencies that a top PML-N figure, Raja Zafarul Haq, was placed under house arrest last night, and Dawn added, “Police dressed in civilian clothes attempted to arrest lawyers’ movement leader Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan from his residence early Wednesday morning but he was not present at the time.” The news agency noted, “Many lawyers and MPs have gone into hiding to avoid detention, and were unreachable by telephone at their homes and offices. Police also searched in vain for cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan, who lives just outside the capital.” [Image from the AP] (more…)

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