A Pandora’s box has opened up after the Supreme Court nudged two MNAs, PPP’s Jamshed Dasti and PML-Q’s Nazir Jatt to resign after their degrees were found fake. Several elected representatives now fear they may also fall into a similar predicament.

The Supreme Court last week let the two MPs facing charges of using fake degrees to hold public office, resign from the parliament, rather than face criminal charges with punitive and consequential damages including but not limited to debarment from such office in future.

Questions are also being raised about the future of several other dubious degree holders including the incumbent president, who is said to hold a graduation degree in Economics and Business Administration from “Pedinton School”, London, The News reported today.

This qualification of President Asif Ali Zardari was made public on the official website of the Pakistan People’s Party but was removed after the general election of 2008. The official wire service of Pakistan (APP) also mentioned his London degree when he was elected president.

Many tried to locate this UK school, but failed, said the paper. While no Internet search engine could come up with this institution, an official of the British Council said they were also unaware of the existence of any such school. There is, though, another school having some name resemblance with Pedinton, which is called Pedington School but it is located in Sydney (Australia) and is only from nursery to intermediate, the report in the newspaper says.

Interestingly, President Zardari’s sister Dr Azra Pechuho, instead of referring to Pedinton School, had told Umar Cheema, a reporter ofThe News, that Asif Ali Zardari had done his graduation from Saint Patrick’s College, Karachi. The college administration was, however, not in knowledge about Zardari’s graduation nor was his name placed on the list of distinguished alumni as appears in that of Petaro College’s alumni list.

A high-profile PPP minister has also been found holding a doctorate degree issued by a fake US university, University of Monticello, declared to be ‘fraud’ by an authentic US organisation and fined by a US court.

Although Federal Minister for Law and Justice Babar Awan says that his degree was valid, everybody else thinks it was fake and was wrongfully awarded by a university that was never accredited for such degree programmes and was shut down in 2000 on charges of fraud.

The United States Educational Foundation (USEF) in Pakistan confirmed that the said University was never allowed to offer degree programmes, including PhD and termed the university a fraud. This university was closed down in the year 2000 and was also fined $1.7 million for befooling innumerable international aspirants of different degree programmes.
The Higher Education Commission of Pakistan has also declared the University of Monticello as fake.

Another sitting MP of the Pakistan Muslim League-Q in the Punjab who has now joined the forward bloc is also alleged to be holding a fake degree. Mian Tariq Mehmood of Gujrat holds agraduation degree which, he claims, he passed in 2003 but the rest of his record is dubious.

Documents filed by him in the Lahore High Court, available with The News, state that Mian Tariq Mehmood, son of Mian Ghulam Rasul, was born on 05-05-1955 and appeared in matriculation exam in 1971 under roll number 17,834 from the Sargodha Board but could not pass the exam.

After Musharraf imposed the graduation degree condition for parliamentarians, Mian Tariq Mehmood got his daughter elected as an MPA and he himself got a graduation degree from the Punjab University in 2003 under roll number 23,172.

Interestingly, he used an intermediate result card of a person having the same name – Tariq Mehmood, son of Ghulam Rasul – for hisgraduation . The second Tariq Mehmood was born on 02-03-1978 and did his intermediate from the Gujranwala Board in 1995 under roll number 3,214. While in his admission form for his degree, Mian Tariq Mehmood MPA mentioned that he did his intermediate from the Gujranwala Board in 1995 under roll number 3,214. This case is being heard by the LHC and because of the shortage of judges it could not get a hearing.

Similarly, there are dozens of cases pending in the courts challenging the degrees of MPs, especially of those who are holding the degrees of religious institutions. One such degree holder, Haji Nasir of the PML-N was disqualified by the LHC for holding a fake degree of a religious school.

Two ministers of state in Musharraf’s cabinet were also caught buying fake degrees from internet-based universities. The degree of ex-senator Pari Gul Agha was also questioned by the media but no one challenged it and the lady walked away after completing her term and contributing her role in passing the infamous 17th Amendment.

Apart from the degrees, there is an MPA, who caused the biggest Hepatitis outbreak in the US history and was sued by over 100 victims in Nebraska, who were paid millions of dollars in out-of-court settlements. He even lost his medical licence in the State of New York but continued to be the minister of Health in the Punjab from 2002 to 2007.

Dr Tahir Ali Javed has now been elected as MPA from Narowal once again in 2008 polls and is in the forward bloc supporting the PML-N.