The caretaker cabinet decides to re-conduct MDCAT across KP
The caretaker government declared the results of MDCAT 2023 compromised. In a special cabinet meeting called this Thursday, it was announced that the test will be re-conduced across KP.
On September 10, after receiving a tip about well-organised cheating in the Medical and Dental Colleges Admission Test (MDCAT), the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa police raided the examination halls and caught students cheating through Bluetooth devices. The earplugs for these devices were miniscule and therefore, covert and difficult to spot by the examiners who were present. After that, the news of the MDCAT Bluetooth cheating scandal went viral on social and mainstream media.
Educational Testing and Evaluation Agency (ETEA), Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa declared MDCAT an exclusive testing service for recruitment in the public sector institutions. ETEA is also responsible for conducting MDCAT in Peshawar and different districts of the province.
Before the test commenced, the police and other law enforcement agencies received information that the MDCAT test was widely compromised. In the tip, they were that examination papers were being leaked through cellular devices and that a large number of students were involved in cheating through Bluetooth devices in examination centres across the province.
The police immediately took action and during the test, they raided the examination centres. In one examination centre, the police arrested 74 students, accused of cheating through electronic devices. The police registered cases against the accused students and presented them before the court.
When the news spread, the provincial government constituted a joint investigation team (JIT) to launch a probe into the cheating scam.
The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Police, while tracing a network of the suspects involved in the cheating scandal, arrested at least five suspects including the mastermind. Dozens of devices, microphones, mobile phones and smart watches were recovered from the possession of the accused.
The JIT submitted its final report to the Chief Secretary of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The report found that the main character Zafar Mahmood Khatak belongs to Karak and has a network in Peshawar and other districts in KP. Other accomplices of the network were arrested from Dargai Malakand, Mardan and South Waziristan districts.
The accused were mostly educated, well-qualified individuals equipped with the latest technology. According to the report, this network has been involved in cheating since 2016. They were caught in the past and cases were also registered against them.
The accused received millions of rupees from candidates to help them pass the MDCAT. “We have identified 400 people in the scandal. They have taken three million rupees per student. The total number of people involved in the cheating is expected to be 800. They have committed corruption of two billion,” KP caretaker minister for Information, Culture and Tourism, Barrister Feroz Jamal Kakakhel told the media, earlier.
At least 46439 candidates registered for the MDCAT 2023 test in KP, of which 45640 appeared in the 43 examination centres across the province.
At least 799 were absent, 219 cases were reported for unfair means (UFM) and papers were cancelled. Uzra Riaz obtained 198 marks out of 200 and was declared the topper. At least 110 candidates received 190 marks or above and 1094 candidates got 180 to 189 marks.
After the cheating scandal, questions have been raised about the performance of ETEA. The candidates who qualified test and those who obtained low marks also took the matter to the Peshawar High Court (PHC).
Several of the candidates also sent applications to the high court’s Human Rights Cell, seeking the test’s cancellation over massive irregularities. Those applications were converted into petitions by the court.
Similarly, several of the candidates, who achieved high marks in the test, filed petitions, requesting the court not to cancel the test.
A PHC bench consisting of Justice Abdul Shakur and Justice Syed Arshad Ali is hearing the case. On Wednesday during the hearing KP Advocate General Amir Javed informed the court that a cabinet meeting had been called on Thursday. The court decided to adjourn the hearing till after the cabinet meeting.
.On Wednesday, many of the candidates who appeared in the MDCAT examination this year staged a protest in front of Peshawar Press Club. These students demanded that the authorities decide against re-conducting the test.
“We studied and have cleared the MDCAT. Now those candidates who were not qualified are demanding to re-conduct the test which is unfair to those candidates who passed the test,” said Masud Shah, an aspiring medical student. “We are demanding from the provincial government to not re-conduct the test,” he added
According to another student, Muhammad Waqas, he got 193 marks in the disputed exams and scored a seat in the medical college. “But when it was announced that the government would re-conduct the test, I came here and joined the protest,” said Waqas.
Abbas Sangeen, a Peshawar High Court advocate is representing a group of students. For the last four years, he has been dealing with ETEA-related cases in court. According to him, cheating is a bailable offence.
The writer is a freelance multimedia journalist. He tweets @daudpasaney