SC gives ‘last chance’ to 189 ex-lawmakers

SC gives ‘last chance’ to 189 ex-lawmakers

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Monday gave last opportunity to 189 former parliamentarians to verify their educational degrees until April 5 and save themselves from disqualification from the forthcoming general elections.

A three-member bench of the apex court, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, hearing parliamentarians’ fake degree case on Monday directed the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to take stern action against those former parliamentarians who had given wrong statements regarding their educational credentials and failed to get their degrees verified within the stipulated time.

The bench categorically said that the ECP is competent to declare disqualified those parliamentarians who failed to verify their degrees in view of the Article 62 constitution. It has also asked the Higher Education Commission (HEC) to submit a report to the ECP after completing verification process of 189 former parliamentarians’ degree till April 5, and later on the commission would submit a report in the court.

It also asked the commission to conduct ruthless scrutiny of nomination papers, saying an illiterate person can contest the election, but one who deceived the authorities through false statements would become ineligible in the forthcoming general election. At the outset of the hearing, in pursuance of the court order, the ECP secretary submitted a report pertaining to the fake degrees and apprised the bench that the parliamentarians were repeatedly asked to get their degrees verified.

It disclosed that the commission had clearly warned the 189 parliamentarians through a letter on February 7, 2013, stating if they failed to verify their degrees then their educational certificates would be declared fake. The ECP secretary said that FIRs were lodged against 21 lawmakers who held fake degrees and that the names of lawmakers holding fake degrees were being uploaded on the ECP website. He also requested the bench to give three days to 189 parliamentarians regarding the verification of degrees.

On the occasion, HEC chairman told the bench that the process of verifying degrees had been underway since 2010, and the ECP had sent photocopies of 60-70 percent of parliamentarians’ degrees for verification. He further told the bench that educational degrees of 189 parliamentarians were still incomplete.He accused the ECP of failing to take action despite knowing the fact that 54 lawmakers had possessed fake degrees.

Upon this, the bench observed that action should be taken against those 54 parliamentarians who had fake degrees and contested elections in 2008. During the proceedings, Akram Sheikh, the counsel for Chaudhry Nisar – former opposition leader of the Lower House, contended that his client has submitted photocopies of all his degrees to the HEC office and said the HEC chairman was being stubborn in the matter. The court, in its short order, asked Chaudhry Nisar to approach HEC regarding the verification of degrees. – DailyTimes