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February 10, 2018

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Axact scandal: CJP orders speedy trial of appeals by SHC, IHC

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court directed the Sindh High Court and the Islamabad High Court hearing the Axact fake degree cases to wrap up the appeals against the acquittal of suspects in a matter of weeks.

As the two-member bench resumed hearing of its suo motu notice on Friday concerning the Axact fake degree scandal, Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar ordered the name of Axact chief Shoaib Shaikh and six other accused be placed on the Exit Control List. However, the order was withdrawn on the request of journalists of the Bol Network and assurances of the accused that he will stay in Pakistan.

The chief justice directed the Islamabad High Court to decide on the government's appeal against the suspects' acquittal in three weeks. Similarly, the Sindh High Court was also directed to form a two-member bench next week and decide the appeal within 15 days. The apex court also directed the trial court in Karachi to decide the prosecution's plea seeking cancellation of the suspects’ bail in two weeks.

During the hearing, ex-employees of Bol Network, present in the courtroom, complained that they had not been paid salaries since 2015. They informed the court that there are around 40 affected people in Rawalpindi and Islamabad and many others across the country.

The Pakistan Broadcasters Association also filed an application with the court highlighting irregularities in Axact businesses and its linkages with the Labbaik Media House that operates Bol. The court issued a notice to Shoaib Shaikh asking him to submit his reply to the application by the PBA. The channel's former employees were also asked to submit an application. The chief justice said the court will decide the case after looking into facts.

Earlier, DG Federal Investigation Agency Bashir Memon informed the apex court that Axact was registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan in July 2006 and the company dealt in software export. He further informed the court that Axact operated 330 universities which only existed on the Internet. The court was told that 70 per cent of Axact’s revenue was from the online universities. He disclosed that a degree from Axact cost $5,000 and could be given within an hour.

The bench learnt to its surprise that Axact had its own platform for accreditation as well. Memon informed the bench that the accused were exonerated in the fraud case and an appeal in this regard was pending with the IHC. The IHC registrar informed the bench that the appeal had been fixed for February 22. The chief justice then directed inclusion of Justice Miangul Hasan Aurangzeb to the one-member bench of Justice Athar Minallah to hear the case.

The chief justice inquired into the identity of the Islamabad trial court judge and observed that there are rumours that he had been bribed by the accused. The IHC registrar informed the bench that the judge was Additional District and Sessions Judge Pervez-ul-Qadir Memon.

Meanwhile, the chief justice expressed displeasure at the failure of the Peshawar High Court registrar to show up in the court and issued him a notice to appear on Monday. The chief justice remarked that he will not let the nation be embarrassed like this.

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