Today’s issue of The News has an extraordinary story written by the country’s leading investigative reporter Ansar Abassi that claims that the daughter of the sitting Chief Justice Abdul Hameed Dogar has been unfairly granted extra marks in her intermediate (F.Sc.) examinations through an illegal grading process. Enough extra marks to make her eligible for admission into a medical college.
I must say I am stumped by the story. There are few things that anger me more than blatant abuse of the education system. But there are also some aspects of the story that leave me wondering (if you are going to use corrupt means to get extra marks, why restrict it to just 21 marks? And, unless things have changed dramatically, neither 640 nor 661 marks in F.Sc. gets you into a medical college, at least not on merit). But, clearly, the story is something that Ansar Abassi has researched and The News is putting its reputation on the line for.
I may not even have posted the story had it not been for an editorial comment that was added by The News Editorial Board which is even more dramatic than the story itself. Whatever it says about the story, the note says much more about the state of uncertainty, unease, and lack of trust in institutions that define today’s Pakistan. Maybe it is best to read the note before the story:
WHEN the Editorial Board of the Jang Group decided after long and very intense discussions that we should publish the story of the special daughter, it was a difficult decision as there was immense pressure coming from all sides, including the movers and shakers of the God-gifted Republic of Pakistan and even some elements within our own house. That the people, at all levels, got involved in an otherwise straight story exposing blatant misuse of authority and position, was surprising. It was argued at senior and powerful levels that this story should not be published because it involved the career of a daughter, a young student who was trying to improve her chances of making her life more meaningful and productive. It was hammered on us that publication of one such case would not change the destiny or the prevalent system in the country. We were repeatedly reminded that authority is always used in the developing and the Third World countries in a similar manner and not much would change with this one episode, even if it is splashed on the pages of the print media. Attempts were made to emotionally blackmail us as it would ruin the life and career of a young and innocent lady.
We considered all these arguments before we decided to go ahead with the story. Our Editorial Board did not agree with most of these arguments, except the one that such misuse of authority is common in Banana Republics. We weighed the pros and cons and when it was clear to us that by unduly favouring the career of one young Pakistani, we would, by design, be ruining the careers of thousands of other similarly placed young boys and girls, not linked to powerful and mighty high-ups in our political or judicial systems, the verdict was unanimous: we must do our best to stop this injustice, we must throw the first stone and we must show the mirror to those who sit in judgment, deciding life and death matters every day, but when it comes to the future and careers of their own kith and kin, they behave like men of straw.
We believe that this one case of extraordinary favour to the special daughter of a top judicial person will make the rest of us feel belittled and slighted. We believe that the injustice done to hundreds and thousands of others who could not get such special treatment will be undone. We believe that someone somewhere will feel the guilt and come clean with the nation. We hope someone somewhere will resign and reinforce our belief that we can become a nation of honest people where justice can prevail. We hope all our daughters will become special.
Now for the story from Ansar Abassi:
ISLAMABAD: In what could become a mass denial of rights of thousands of students throughout the country, the Federal Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education (FBISE) Islamabad has illegally awarded extra marks and upgraded the examination results of the daughter of the countryâ€™s top judge.
In indecent haste and under direct written orders of the chairman FBISE, relaxing and violating all rules and even some judgments of the Supreme Court, the FSc result of student Farah Hameed Dogar was jacked up from 640 marks in Grade â€˜Câ€™ to 661 marks in Grade â€˜Bâ€™, thus making her eligible to apply for admission into any medical college in the country.
Documentary evidence available with The News, background interviews and on the record discussions with concerned officials of the FBISE establish that the Islamabad Board went out of its way in the case of Farah Hameed Dogar by fast forwarding the entire process of re-checking, re-assessing and even re-marking her examination papers to her advantage and superceding thousands of other candidates who had obtained marks between 642 and 660.
Sources close to the Chief Justice of Pakistan, Justice Abdul Hameed Dogar, however, insisted that no influence was used by the chief justice in his daughterâ€™s case and if the Board had taken some action, they must have done it under the rules or under powers vested with the Boardâ€™s chairman.
Documents show the chairman FBISE did all this in â€œrelaxation of rulesâ€ but previous Supreme Court verdicts given in October 1995, January 1996 and November 2001, specifically prohibit such tampering with the examination system to benefit any candidate, however mighty or well placed. This cannot be allowed as the process of examination could not be sacrificed at the altar of expediency, the SC had noted in its judgment.
Experts of the system insist that the rules do not allow the chairman or any other authority to re-assess, re-examine or re-mark the already marked papers to increase the obtained marks. In fact according to a notification of the FBISE dated July 24, 2007 the candidates who wanted to improve their marks and grades had to retake the exams, in full or in part. Under this notification students were notified that the facility of improving grade/marks had been extended to the candidates by allowing them to appear in up to two subjects/papers of their choice and at the same time retaining the earlier policy of keeping the option open for the candidates to appear in Part-I or Part-II or in both the parts/entire examination within one year of passing relevant examination.
Interestingly, the candidate Farah Hameed Dogar, who had appeared in the FSc (pre-medical) final exam from the Islamabad College for Girls F-6/2, had applied for the â€œre-checkingâ€ of certain papers as allowed under the rules. Her papers were re-checked and only one mark was added to her total increasing it from 640 to 641.
But later the chairman ordered that her papers be re-assessed for which four examiners, who had checked her papers, were summoned and asked to do the marking all over again. This exercise gave her an extra 21 marks, placing her in Grade â€˜Bâ€™ instead of â€˜Câ€™. Grade â€˜Bâ€™, which starts with 60 per cent marks, is the pre-requisite to apply for an entry test in any medical college of Pakistan.
The official gazette of Higher Secondary School Certificate Part-II Examination Annual 2008 dated August 4, 2008, on page 350 clearly shows that Farah Hameed Dogar, Roll number 545207, the daughter of Mr Abdul Hameed Dogar, the Chief Justice of Pakistan, securing 640 marks in Grade C. On 20th August, the candidate formally applied for â€œre-checkingâ€ of four papers including English II, Urdu II, Pakistan Studies II and Physics II after depositing the mandatory Rs1,200 fee at the rate of Rs300 per paper. On August 29, she moved another application before FBISE for re-checking to add the subjects of Chemistry and Biology also. The bank receipt of Rs600 and result card (mark sheet) was also submitted along with the second application.
The application form on its back clearly mentions: â€œThe answer book for a candidate in any examination shall not be re-assessed under any circumstances.â€ In case of re-checking, it adds: â€œThe re-checking does not mean re-assessment or re-evaluation of the answer book.â€
These instructions also clarify that the re-checking would only ensure that; a) there is no mistake in the grand total on the title page of the answer book; b) the total of various parts of a question has been correctly made at the end of each question; c) all totals have been correctly brought forward on the title page of the answer book; d) no portion of any answer has been left un-marked; e) total marks in the answer book tally with the marks sheet; and f) the hand writing of the candidate tally in the question/answer book.
On the very day when Farah Hameed Dogar submitted her application before the FBISE, the then chairman, Commodore (retd) Muhammad Sharif Shamshad wrote on the application form in his own handwriting: â€œI would like to see her answer books myself also.â€ His remarks on the file show he was personally interested in the case.
However, when contacted on Friday last and asked why he had taken such personal interest, the FBISE chairman could not remember the case at all. â€œI am telling you the truth,â€ he told The News. When pressed again and reminded that he made special remarks on the file displaying his keen interest, the retired commodore insisted that he could not re-collect if he had asked for re-assessment of examination papers in any case.
Normally the cases of re-checking, which are filed with the Board in thousands, are dealt by the concerned secrecy wing of the FBISE. Keeping in view that 30 Intermediate Boards conduct this exam at the same time throughout the country, addition of 21 marks means roughly one hundred thousand students may have been superceded by this one act.
But in the case of the CJâ€™s daughter, her six papers, as provided under the FBISE rules, were presented before a Re-checking Committee, which on August 30 recommended an increase of only one mark (01) to be added in the subject of Biology as the counting was originally not done correctly. In the case of Physics, Pakistan Studies, Chemistry, Urdu and English, the Committee noted â€˜CFCâ€™ (Checked and Found Correct) against each paper.
Then began the use of extraordinary authority. On September 10, 2008 Chairman of the Board, Commodore Shamshad wrote on the file: â€œPl. have the answer books of this candidate re-assessed.â€ This was a clear violation of the FBISE rules but following the chairmanâ€™s written orders, the concerned officials complied and it was noted on the file: â€œSpecial arrangement may please be made, as directed by the chairman.â€
The fast forward process set in. Examiners who had originally checked her papers were summoned and asked to re-mark the papers. The examiner of Biology wrote: â€œRe-checked and marks awarded are strictly according to the (original) marking scheme. However, in Q No 4, 01 mark has been increased due to error in total, which is now 12 out of 13. So the total marks are now 70 (seventy only).â€
The examiner of Pak-Studies wrote: â€œRechecked and marks awarded are found up to the mark and found according to the marking scheme. No more mark can be awarded.â€The examiner of Chemistry wrote: â€œPaper rechecked and marks awarded are up to the mark and no more marks can be awarded.â€
However, the documents reveal, that on September 13, the examiner of English paper Munir Hussain Anjum of F G College for Men, H-9 Islamabad, reassessed the paper and increased the marks from the previous 58 to 67; the examiner of Urdu paper Dr Ale-Azhaur Aanis of F G Sir Syed College Rawalpindi reassessed the paper and increased the marks from the previous 62 to 67; and the examiner of Physics paper Ejaz Ahmad in his re-assessment increased the marks from the previous 32 to the pre sent 38.
After this extraordinary addition of numbers after re-marking, the file moved upward from one desk to the higher desk and reached the chairmanâ€™s office for approval. The recommendation for the chairman was: â€œDue to above change, marks have been enhanced and result position will be of 661 marks instead of previous 640 marks. The case is forwarded for consideration marks and having approval of enhancement of marks from 640 to 661 in relaxation of existing rules (Vol-II) as directed, please.â€
On September 15, 2008 the chairman signed his approval following which the revised mark sheet was issued to the candidate the same day on the instructions of the chairman.It was surprising that after all this effort, when the chairman was contacted by The News on Friday, he could not recollect anything.
The then controller Manzoor Ahmad, working under chairman Shamshad, who is still serving in the FBISE, when approached confirmed that the chairman had ordered the re-assessment of Farah Hameed Dogarâ€™s papers. Ahmad confirmed that the rules do not allow any such re-assessment but he insisted that the orders of the competent authority were followed.
Acting Director Javed Iqbal Dogar, who according to a source, played an important role in facilitating the case, too denied that he knew anything about the case.
Though Mr Dogar claimed he had nothing to do with the case, a very reliable source said that he had been the conduit between some judicial high-ups and the then chairman of FBISE and took him to some important places in Islamabad.
The then deputy controller Tariq Pervaiz when approached also confirmed that there is no provision for re-assessment but said that it was done in the case of Farah Hameed Dogar on the orders of the chairman FBISE.
The concerned assistant controller Chaudhry Akhtar was reluctant to talk to this correspondent.Amongst the examiners, who enhanced Farahâ€™s marks, Dr Ale Azhaur Aanis admitted that he did re-assess the Urdu paper after he was told to do so by the Board. He said that the chairman had passed an order in writing in this respect.
The other examiner Ejaz Ahmad of Physics when contacted said he does not remember any such case. The third examiner Munir Hussain Anjum was inaccessible.
The current chairperson of the FBISE, Miss Shaheen Khan, was too shy to talk to this correspondent.
As I said, I am stumped by the story. What should we make of this. Not only in terms of Justice Dogar, but in terms of us as a society?