Reforming Electoral processes
March 27, 2019
Reluctant to reform
March 27, 2019

 Reforming  HEC and ECP  

At first sight there seems little in common between  the Higher Education Commission (HEC) and the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP),  except for the two vitamin sounding initials E and C.  But that is just the tip of a series of  similarities that characterize these two  great institutional showpieces.   Both have important mandates that can seriously impact upon the political or academic standards in Pakistan.   Both  chose to take short cuts to glory.   Both suffer from  megalomaniac tendencies of  big numbers, big talks and big plans.   Both opted for  quantity over  quality in everything that they undertook.  Both are in need of immediate and drastic reforms.  The commonalities are endless.  While HEC focused  on pushing the number of universities and  the number of PhDs , the Election Commission was busy assembling a voting list with 37.2 million bogus entries.   For ECP, it was more important to demonstrate a large  figure of   82 million registered voters, even if half of them were fake.  ‘Big is beautiful’  seems to be the common philosophy driving  both these institutions.


In a game of numbers, the HEC went overboard and made compromises in its ‘quality control’ over scrutiny of  universities, the competence of Vice Chancellors, the rampant plagiarism in  PhD theses and  the use of  fake journals to publish the research  articles .    By introducing financial rewards and promotions  based on the number of papers, HEC encouraged  a culture of greed in publications leading  to hasty output of  low quality research material –  of little practical use to the challenges of a developing country.   Not taking steps to scrutinize the  ranking of  journals, resulted in HEC’s PhD approved  supervisors getting scores of their  articles  published in many fake journals.  The  inadequate  controls to check  plagiarism in articles  and  to differentiate between real and fake  journals has led to a massive race for  publication of sub-standard material  in dubious journals.  A  few ‘cut and paste’ articles in a Nairobi  based journal, edited by some Faisalabad based  unknown professors could  be enough to earn not just  an easy  promotion but also a financial reward  for subsequent  celebrations.  It is important to look at  two    articles by Isa Daudpota (“Publishing scam” and “Management Sciences Publishing Racket” ) that recently  appeared in a Pakistani newspaper  to fully understand  the dubious nature and extent of these practices.  It is vital that the HEC takes effective measures to curb these shortcuts, and shifts its focus from the number of universities and PhDs to developing academics that can  inspire  critical thinking and ethical values.


Not to be left behind, the  Election Commission, in a hurry to come out with a grand voter list,   failed to scrutinize the list  and thus  facilitated the construction of a bogus parliament  that was based on 37.2 million invalid votes.  Not the least  remorseful of this  criminal neglect, the ECP   waited for  the Supreme Court’s  orders to expunge the  37.2 million bogus entries.  Conditioned by years of apathy,  ECP  continues to offer excuses as to why it cannot update  the voters list.   Only if the ECP had taken a few lessons in critical thinking, it could  have taken the help of NADRA to accomplish this task in a  matter of days instead of dragging its feet for months.

Pakistan became a unique democracy when an estimated 300 individuals defrauded the system and entered the parliament with fake degrees and dual nationalities.  More than the public and the media , this fact was well known to  both ECP and HEC.  Both however  failed to do what they ought to have done for verification of credentials or taking actions to unseat these dubious individuals.   An offense of this nature, in any other civilized country   could not only make these individuals  lose their seats but also entitle a few months of free meals in a  prison.  Even when   cases like that of Babar Awan having a distant-learning fake PhD degree from a certain fraud  Monticello University  were reported by the press and confirmed by  the United States Educational Foundation,  both ECP and HEC  decided to look the other way. The ECP intentionally violated its own rules when it failed to see anything wrong with re-election of candidates like Jamshed Dasti whose fake degree had been confirmed only a few days earlier.  Not to be left behind, competitor HEC  shelved  all  ‘qualms of  quality’ when it did not question the  Karachi University’s  lack of discretion in awarding a PhD degree  to an undeserving interior minister solely for the purposes of political appeasement.

With the election fever in the air, one hears of demands and promises of all shades.  Reforming the ECP and HEC  however does not appear to be a high priority agenda for either citizens or political parties.   These two institutions desperately await reforms, autonomy and leadership by people of high caliber and integrity.  It is also time to address the critical issue of how these important institutions are held accountable when they fail to deliver on what is dictated by their mandate.


Naeem Sadiq


The News  5th Jan 2012