Pakistan’s Watergate?: Supreme Court Gives Verdict on Parliamentarians with Fake Degree

Posted on June 24, 2010
Filed Under >Adil Najam, Education, Law & Justice
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Adil Najam

Famous Chicago mobster Al Capone was nabbed not for his greatest sins but for tax evasion. U.S. President Richard Nixon was eventually removed from office because a minor political burglary at a Democratic Party office at the Watergate building led to a national conversation that unearthed far more disturbing trends in Nixon’s attitude towards governance, and his own respect for the law.

The issue of ‘fake degrees’ may be on its way to become Pakistan’s equivalent of a similar tendency: an offense than many Pakistanis would consider relatively “small” in light of larger abuses of the law that they see everyday, is being used by society – and now by the Supreme Court – as a means to expose and punish a deep-rooted tendency amongst those who seek and claim power to lie to and cheat those who they are meant to serve.

If it is indeed so – and one hopes it is – then that is a good thing. We at ATP have been clear and consistent in our stand on abuse of education – whether it is via plagiarism, via abuse of rules, or via fake degrees. There are those who argue that these are minor offenses in comparison to many others. They may be so. But they are also symptomatic of a larger rot – lying, and lying unashamedly, often to the very people one is supposed to serve. If this is a way that some examples can be set and that a larger message can be sent that such lying will not be tolerated, then we say it is a good thing. In its decision today, the Supreme Court of Pakistan and Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry seems to think the same.

As a public issue this issue has the virtue of being something that most people can instinctively understand and relate to. If I had to study and work for my degree, why should some slick politician not have to? It also has the virtue of being a matter of principle rather than of politics. Politicians in all parties seem to be lying about their education. Hence, accusations of political scapegoating are less likely to stick.

One hopes, of course, that the larger message about lying is one that is also being conveyed and received here. Indeed, as the Chief Justice was particularly incensed – as he should have been – because the politician in question was  making “a false statement on oath and by using bogus, fake and forged documents polluting the piety of [the parliament].” The Chief Justice called this a “callous contempt for the basic norms of honesty, integrity and even for his own oath.”

For all these reasons, the decision from the Supreme Court is worth noting, and maybe even celebrating. This news report from Dawn details why:

The Supreme Court ordered the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Thursday to initiate action against legislators accused of having used fake degrees to contest the election. Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry issued the order after writing a detailed judgment to justify rejection of an appeal of Rizwan Gill, PML-N’s former member of the Punjab Assembly from PP-34 (Sargodha VII), for possessing fake bachelor’s degree.

The commission is required to depute an officer to supervise the entire exercise, while sessions judges who will conduct these trials will conclude the probe in three months in consonance with the spirit of elections laws. The ECP has taken the position that it cannot act against lawmakers unless the Senate chairman or speakers of the National Assembly or provincial assemblies send references against them. It has pointed out that under an amendment to Article 62 of the Constitution, a person cannot be disqualified for being corrupt unless a court declares him to be so.

“No criminal could ever be heard, in any civilised society, to avoid punishment on the ground that some others, similarly placed had, on some earlier occasions escaped punishment,” the verdict said. “Likewise, no individual, except the ones constitutionally and legally authorised for the purpose, could be allowed in a civilised society to declare which law of the land was good and which one was bad and then feel authorised to defeat the same through unlawful and even criminal acts,” the judgment said, adding that such attempts, if not nipped in the bud, could lead a society to the dark depths of destruction.

The judgment said: “Every law of the land, so long as it exists on the statute books, has to be respected and must be followed. The same should also serve as an answer to some reservations expressed about disqualification of a person from becoming a member of a legislative institution if he did not practice the obligatory duties. “Suffice it, however, to add that identifying persons who could or could not become members of legislative institutions was a policy matter, but so long as such-like disqualifications were not omitted from the Constitution or the law, the courts were bound to honour and enforce the same and not so doing could amount to a grave dereliction of duty.”

In his verdict, the chief justice also mentioned what he called a revealing incident when Rizwan Gill, who had secured 72 per cent marks in a subject called IPS, was asked to define what it stood for. A long silence was the answer offered by Mr Gill who himself had come to the podium to address the court. On court’s insistence and after a deep thought, his reply was “Health and Physical Education”. The detailed marks certificate produced on record by Mr Gill himself mentioned the IPS as “Islamic Studies/Ethics and Pakistan Studies”.

“This answer of the appellant, said it all,” the verdict said. The judgment said: “The parliament of any country is one of its noblest, honourable and important institutions making not only policies and laws for the nation, but in fact shaping and carving its very destiny. “And here is a man who being constitutionally and legally debarred from being its member, managed to sneak into it by making a false statement on oath and by using bogus, fake and forged documents polluting the piety of this pious body. His said conduct demonstrates not only his callous contempt for the basic norms of honesty, integrity and even for his own oath but also undermines the sanctity, the dignity and the majesty of the said august house. Shouldn’t it then be incumbent upon the ECP in discharge of its constitutional obligations to guard against corrupt practices, to launch prosecution of persons who stood accused of the commission of the same. The punishment and consequent disqualification of such-like persons would not be an act undermining the dignity and the majesty of the houses of legislature, but an act in aid of enhancing the same.”

29 responses to “Pakistan’s Watergate?: Supreme Court Gives Verdict on Parliamentarians with Fake Degree”

  1. Watan Aziz says:

    In United States, the total number of active federal judges is constantly in flux, for two reasons. First, judges retire or die, and a lapse of time usually occurs before new judges are appointed to fill those positions. Second, from time to time Congress will increase (or, less frequently, decrease) the number of federal judgeships in a particular judicial district, usually in response to shifting population numbers or a changing workload in that district.

    As of January 2009, a total of 3,168 individuals had been appointed to federal judgeships, including 2,645 district court judges, 687 courts of appeals judges, 50 judges to the now-extinct circuit courts, and the 110 Supreme Court justices. This adds up to 3,492 total appointments; a substantial number of appellate judges (including Supreme Court justices) had previously served on the lower court bench.

    There are currently 875 authorized Article III judgeships: nine on the Supreme Court, 179 on the courts of appeals, 9 on the court of international trade and 678 for the district courts. Although the number of Supreme Court Justices has remained the same for well over a century, the number of court of appeals judges has more than doubled since 1950, and the number of district court judges has increased more than three times in that period.

    In addition to this, there are Non-Article III judges. Unlike the judges of Article III courts, non-Article III judges are appointed for specified terms of office. Examples include United States magistrate judges and judges of the United States bankruptcy courts, United States Tax Court, United States Court of Federal Claims, and United States territorial courts. And if I am right, immigration judges are also considered Federal judges and non-Article III judges.

    I do not know the number of the the Non-Article III judges.

    As of January 2008, federal district judges were paid $169,300 a year, circuit judges $179,500, Associate Justices of the Supreme Court $208,100 and the Chief Justice of the United States $217,400. All were permitted to earn a maximum of an additional $21,000 a year for teaching.

    (The above italicized text is from wiki.)

    And Pakistan has only 17!

    The entire court system is upside down. I has been broken since day 1. It needs fixing.

    Sultan Musharaf promised it in one of his initial proclamations. And then did what other usurpers did; systematically tried to destroy the judiciary.

    The Parliament has the powers to fix it. The 18th amendment was a lot of dance from show and no action. The common man continues to be denied of justice and equity.

    The powerful in Pakistan do not want judiciary to be fixed for a simple reason; they cannot face the law. As bad as the laws are, if implemented, the powerful will be in jails. And Pakistan does not have enough jails for these crooks!

  2. Himayun Mirza says:

    Whenever there has been an army takeover in Pakistan against the constitution (high treason) Pakistani Supreme Court has justified that. In fact several CJ of SC have become the “law minister or attorney general” of the unlawful army government. This includes the current CJ of the SC who gave the credibility to Mush’s takeover.

    The condition of a degree was an unlawful condition of an unlawful government which has been done away with the departure of Mush. However, that unlawful condition is ruthlessly used by the SC to change the verdict of the people and to destabilize the democratic setup. Right now the only way left for the army is to once again use the SC to take power once again, and they are doing that successfully.

    Any civilian secular democratically elected government would want the Pakistan army to move against the terrorists who have been nurtured by the ISI. That is the biggest crime of the current democratic setup.

    This same CJ of SC was thrown in jail by Mush who committed multiple acts of high treason. But this brave and fair man is too busy in trying the petty crimes and not high treason against the country and its constitution. If there is an iota of fairness and justice then the petty cases should be tried in the high courts and the constitutional matters in the SC. While the richest country in the world and the oldest democracy has only 9 judges in the SC, the poor Pakistan has a bench of 17 judges hearing cases.

    In the US, only president can and does nominate all judges with the approval of senate, CJ of Pakistan wants to appoint people of his own choice. At all cost these same people who were behaving like rats when Mush took over (they became accessories and abettor) are roaring like lions against the people’s verdict.

    These same judges did not decide decades old cases of corruption against politicians are now opening them up like they were filed yesterday and the judges are waking up today and have nothing else to do. There are millions of cases and appeals pending but the largest benches in the world have nothing else to do!

    HM

  3. AHsn says:

    (Coming back to the question raised by you:

    ““What was the judgement of the people?”

    Which judgment of the people you meant, you did not clarify:)

    He was sentenced to death by drinking a mixture containing poison.

    The present Constitution of Pakistan is the work of the politicians and the ruling establishment with the help of highly educated experts in the domain of Law and Order.

    There is no participation from and of the people. It had never been approved by the people through a popular vote or by referendum.

    The Constitution of Pakistan is (of, for , by) the rulers and NOT the people.

    Cheers.

  4. T.S. Bokhari says:

    @AHsan

    Sorry I could not read your Urdu. As, however, I could gather from your English you perhaps meant:

    “Yih tawaham ka kaarkhaana he
    Yaan woh hi he jo ehtibaar kia”

    (Mir Taqi Mir)

    Coming back to the question raised by you:

    ““What was the judgement of the people?”

    Which judgment of the people you meant, you did not clarify:

    As we see,there is one judgment of the people representing the will of the entire nation – the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and the laws made thereunder and the other one given by the Dasti supporters in one ward (halqa) of the NA.

    And then the Quranic injunction “Amar bil maaroof and nahil anil munkir”.

    Dasti’s fake degree was a minor crime, but despite that moral and legal crime his support by the Prime Minister, the PPP, and voters of the ward has raised some fundamental questions which are begging for answer that cannot be parried.

  5. AHsn says:

    Sorry, the first line should be:

    تجسّس سے دیکھو خیالوں میں اپنے

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