ISLAMABAD: Despite complete support of the Supreme Court and the media, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) seems to have been browbeaten by the power of parliament as it has extended, to the advantage of defiant MPs, the 15-day deadline for verification of degrees to an ‘indefinite period’.
Taking a new turn, the ECP on Saturday announced that the 15-day deadline would start on the receipt of the February 7 ECP letter to the 249 MPs who despite a 2010 direction of the Supreme Court had not yet provided their required educational degrees to the HEC for verification. It’s a win-win situation for those MPs who would not receive the ECP letter (or would pretend to not having received it).
The Fakhro Bhai-led ECP took unique U-turns after getting validation from the Supreme Court on almost daily basis.
Initially, when the ECP letter was received by parliamentarians, Leader of the Opposition Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan launched a naked attack on the ECP claiming that the letter demanding degrees from parliamentarians was humiliating and that he would never submit his degrees.
Fakhro Bhai, who already was hesitating on the question of delimitation of constituencies in Karachi after the pressure of a political party, immediately felt a new pressure after Chaudhry Nisar Ali’s speech and called him to defuse the tension instead of taking a principled stance on the question of fake degrees.
When the media reported that the ECP had made a compromise on fake degree holders after Chaudhry Nisar’s support for them, it immediately issued a press release claiming that the ECP had not changed its position on verification of fake degrees and the Supreme Court judgment would be implemented in letter and spirit.
This claim by the ECP was made on February 22, 2013 which was the last day of the deadline given by the commission to MPs holding questionable degrees to get their degrees verified by the HEC.
The ECP again took a U-turn on February 23 and its Additional Secretary Afzal Khan said the deadline for verification of academic degrees had not expired.
Afzal Khan said the parliamentarians could send their degrees to the HEC in 15 days after receiving a letter from the ECP. Not only this, he also welcomed the formation of parliamentary committee that would hold talks with the commission on the degrees’ verification issue.
It is worth mentioning here that the ECP ensured that no clear-cut deadline had been given to MPs and it was kept open-ended. It was clear that the ECP seemed to be hesitant to take a clear-cut stance on cheaters and fraudsters in parliament and it simply remains glued to its past practices of bowing to powerful politicians.
A vast majority of these 249 MPs holding questionable degrees did not get their degrees verified in the 15-day deadline and yet 223 MPs have to get their degrees verified. However, these MPs with questionable degrees are hiding behind the powerful Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan.
One thing is clear that now there is no deadline whatsoever for the parliamentarians to get their degrees verified and all this has again raised many questions about the credibility of the ECP to conduct the next elections fairly, transparently and most importantly, ‘freely’ without accepting any pressure from the political parties and leaders.
It is also a challenge to Fakhro Bhai, as it could force him to quit if he was unable to sustain the pressure.