New Age Islam
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Islamic Society ( 15 Jul 2010, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Pakistan’s fake degree scandal: It’s not just about degrees

By Niilofur Farrukh

14 Jul, 2010

A LIE when caught can be played out in two ways. Either the liar adopts a belligerent stance and continues to lie to justify the crime and with it descend deeper into the sewer of deception.

To further this process sometimes help is sought by the liar in deflecting from the seriousness of the sham and politically driven people often become a party to the cover-up.

The other way to go is to repent and offer a sincere public apology, however humiliating. There is a greater chance that after serving a sentence the offender may be forgiven. A show of remorse followed by long-term ethical behaviour has been known to improve stature, for the world respects leaders who rise above their human failings. The path chosen often reflects the mindset of the individual and the values of the community in which he or she has been socialised.

People who are instilled with the value of education perceive structured knowledge as their lifeline. Their families usually take pride in investing financially and emotionally in the best education they can afford. Such persons have a strong conviction in a life-long learning for personal and professional growth. For them it would be sacrilegious to get a valueless testament of education.

For Pakistanis with a feudal or tribal mindset, who believe power can be retained by maintaining the status quo and controlling people through archaic rules, an education that teaches questioning is irrelevant. Education is a mere ritual for their scions as they have seldom, if ever, used their education to bring the benefits of progressive thinking to their people and have almost never challenged their own false sense of entitlement. While they pay lip service to human rights at international forums, at home they demand unquestioning servility from their oppressed tribesmen.

Politicians from tribal or feudal backgrounds have repeatedly shown with their actions, and even voiced, their support for parallel justice systems like the jirgas which continue to pass verdicts despite being outlawed in Sindh and elsewhere. This system is so ‘rigged’ against the poor that it has yet to give a verdict condemning powerful land-grabbers, rapists and murderers.

So to expect such persons to endorse a value system based on the principles of equality, justice and rule of law would be a tall order. When education is in conflict with a retrogressive world view, how can a degree be more than a piece of paper that, if needed, can perhaps be bought to further feudal goals in the corridors of power.

The situation becomes more problematic when politicians who are in favour of Sharia rule, and are drawn from a section of Pakistani society that receives rigorous religious training from childhood onwards, enter parliament on the basis of a false degree. The nation is then keen to know why religious parties who claim to be the standard-bearers of morality and ethics have failed to meet the high standards of the Sharia law they frequently quote. How can they expect to have any legitimacy in the eyes of the people when Islam demands the highest moral character of its lawmakers, jurists and leaders with zero tolerance for fraudulent practices?

The degree debacle in parliament has shocked us by reminding the nation of Pakistan’s rotting public examination system and high threshold of tolerance for criminal behaviour.

In today’s examination centres invigilators and examiners are terrorised with weapons and muscle, and hard-working and honest students are short-changed by influential cheats. Some parents are found to be a party to this fraud as was shown on a TV news report of a raid on Karachi examination centres during matriculation exams. A media scandal broke loose when a politician was caught in Rawalpindi for sending his cousin to replace him in the examination hall. Such widespread malpractices have spawned a cottage industry of fake degrees, surrogate candidates and cheating facilitators.

A civil society that believes in an enlightened and socially relevant education for putting us on the track of development through professional expertise and social awareness can begin with a demand for changes in party manifestos. These changes should clearly state that convicted persons will be illegible for a party ticket and that the responsibility of verification regarding all matters related to the candidate will rest with his or her political party. In this scenario, a candidate who has proffered fraudulent information can be ousted from office before the matter reaches the Election Commission and humiliates the party in question.

Every party’s social agenda must be headed by reforms that prioritise the implementation of the universal human rights charter and modern education, all within the first 100 days of any elected government’s rule.

Source: Dawn, Pakistan