ECP un­der fire

The Pak Banker - - 4EDITORIAL - Na­jam Sethi

THE ECP is un­der fire from all sides. Par­lia­men­tar­i­ans are an­gry be­cause their ma­tric­u­la­tion and grad­u­a­tion de­grees are be­ing chal­lenged by the ECP with a view to dis­qual­i­fy­ing them from the forth­com­ing elec­tions. Sec­tions of the me­dia are an­gry for the op­po­site rea­son - they ac­cuse the ECP of not mov­ing sum­mar­ily enough in this di­rec­tion. And then there are some 'ed­u­ca­tion­al­ists' of the Mushar­raf era who now in­sist on ruth­lessly cleans­ing the sys­tem even though they didn't ap­ply strin­gent stan­dards of scru­tiny to can­di­dates in their own time. I'm afraid I don't agree with them.

For starters, it is quite ab­surd to ar­gue that the ECP is tilted in favour of the government and op­po­si­tion par­ties, hence the four pro­vin­cial com­mis­sion­ers should be sacked and new ones nom­i­nated by the SC. One, there is no ev­i­dence that any or all of the com­mis­sion­ers are guilty as charged. Two, they were all ap­pointed via a con­sti­tu­tional con­sen­sus be­tween the Leader of the House and Leader of the Op­po­si­tion.

Third, there is no con­sti­tu­tional way the SC can sack or ap­point them, short of declar­ing their ap­point­ment il­le­gal on some tech­ni­cal grounds (which the SC hasn't done) and then weigh­ing in af­ter the government and op­po­si­tion lead­ers and par­lia­men­tary com­mit­tee are all dead­locked (the chances of that hap­pen­ing are akin to those of a snow­ball in hell). So what's the hul­la­baloo about? The con­sti­tu­tional route has been fol­lowed. Those who don't like it should have ag­i­tated be­fore the laws were amended. Now, on the eve of the elec­tions, if they don't want to be ac­cused of want­ing to de­lay the gen­eral elec­tions by hook or by crook, they should lump it.

Then there is the ar­gu­ment that the ECP should ask the HEC to as­cer­tain and knock out all fake de­gree hold­ers in the cur­rent par­lia­ment af­ter ver­i­fi­ca­tion from the VCs of the rec­og­nized univer­si­ties on its ros­ter. On the face of it, I don't have any is­sues with it. But there are two prob­lems that should be dealt with prop­erly in the in­ter­est of fair play. One, what if de­gree ver­i­fi­ca­tion from some VCs is not forth­com­ing at all or is in­or­di­nately de­layed? In this case, should the HEC take a uni­lat­eral and ar­bi­trary de­ci­sion against the can­di­date in ques­tion? Or should the HEC clear the case in the can­di­date's favour, sub­ject to any ev­i­dence to the con­trary in time to come? Two, what if some VCs are sus­pected of col­lud­ing with some par­lia­men­tar­i­ans to fur­nish false ev­i­dence? Should the HEC then de­mand ma­tric­u­la­tion and in­ter­me­di­ate exam cer­ti­fi­ca­tion also to ver­ify the de­gree?

I don't think this is a sat­is­fac­tory way out be­cause if any par­lia­men­tar­ian can suc­cess­fully col­lude with a top of­fi­cial like a VC he is even more likely to col­lude with of­fi­cials lower down to ob­tain the other re­quired cer­tifi­cates at mar­ginal cost.

Here is an email mes­sage that I re­ceived from one an­guished soul laid low by the bu­reau­cratic reg­i­ment at the HEC. It sheds light on the mis­placed em­pha­sis laid by the mo­ral bri­gade on the HEC to help in cleans­ing the dirty sta­bles of par­lia­ment.

"I'm an army of­fi­cer and do­ing M Phil in IR at NUML. I saw your last week's pro­gram on Geo in which you dis­cussed the is­sue of de­gree ver­i­fi­ca­tion by HEC and re­marked that if you were com­pelled to pro­vide all your de­grees to­day it would be dif­fi­cult for you since most have been mis­placed over the last four decades and it is not easy to get re­place­ment au­then­ti­cated copies. I sym­pa­thise with you.

Here is the prob­lem I am fac­ing at the HEC: In or­der to ob­tain ad­mis­sion for my M.Phil pro­gram, I had to sup­ply and ver­ify all my de­grees, Ma­tric from Balochis­tan Board Quetta in 1985, FA and BA from PMA and MA from Balochis­tan Univer­sity. It took me a long time to com­plete ver­i­fy­ing th­ese de­grees. Some were lost dur­ing so many post­ings and trans­fers. But af­ter a lot of run­ning to and fro, spend­ing a fair amount of money, I ac­com­plished the task and took the doc­u­ments to HEC. I got there at 08.09 am, stood in a line that stretched to the road out­side and at 10.04 am I en­tered the build­ing and was handed over re­ceipt # 64. The HEC of­fi­cial ob­served that the name of my fa­ther was listed as Khu­dai Nazar in my Ma­tric cer­tifi­cate and ob­jected be­cause it was listed as Khuda Nazar on the other doc­u­ments.

I ex­plained that any Pash­tun would un­der­stand that Khuda Nazar is spelt as Khu­dai Nazar, which is what had hap­pened in Quetta many years ago. Noth­ing do­ing, said the of­fi­cial. So I had to send the cer­tifi­cate back to Quetta for correction. But, given the 27-year gap, the of­fi­cial in Quetta replied that the record didn't ex­ist any more. So now I have to go to court, de­posit Rs 500/- pa. (27 years makes Rs 13,500) and hope I will get jus­tice. I pity any­one who has to go through such an ag­o­niz­ing process to get his de­gree ver­i­fied."

I have a sim­ple and ele­gant so­lu­tion. The ECP should in­clude a sec­tion in the can­di­date's ap­pli­ca­tion form that asks whether or not he/she has been a mem­ber of the last par­lia­ment. If the an­swer is no, then the ECP should not re­quire him/her to fur­nish any proof of grad­u­a­tion since none is so re­quired un­der the cur­rent law.

If the an­swer is yes, then the can­di­date may fur­nish proof of his BA or Equiv­a­lent or Higher De­gree only. This should be sent to the HEC for ver­i­fi­ca­tion within a week. If the HEC re­ceives a re­sponse from the con­cerned univer­sity in time, it should in­ti­mate the ECP ac­cord­ingly, re­gard­less of any sus­pi­cions re­lat­ing to the in­tegrity of the in­sti­tu­tion in ques­tion. If it doesn't for one rea­son or an­other, it should pro­vi­sion­ally give the green light pend­ing ver­i­fi­ca­tion, which pro­vi­sional ac­cep­tance record should re­main on the books of the ECP un­til the mat­ter is re­solved one way or the other, even af­ter the can­di­date has been elected to par­lia­ment.

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