Thursday, 7 May 2009

Return of integrity in Pakistani politics: a ray of hope

History is being made in Pakistan this week by resignation of a member of National Assembly who was allegedly involved in cheating to get himself a Higher Secondary School Certificate qualification. According to latest media reports Haji Pervez, a Member of National Assembly (MNA) who had registered himself to take exams for HSSC qualification sent his young nephew to sit in the exams in his place. Fortunately the exams centre was raided by an inspection team who caught the proxy red handed. Apparently a group of political workers who were gathered outside the exams centre tried to coerce the inspection team into letting the culprit go but didn't succeed. Usual tactics of threatening the head of inspection team afterwards followed and did not succeed due to immediate media interest.

For the last week all eyes have been on leadership of Pakistan Muslim League PML(N), second largest political party in Pakistan which is also governing the province of Punjab, to take action against this MNA to prove the party's credentials as one that believes in fairness and justice. The party leadership has taken tough stance against the MNA and a committee of his peers in the National Assembly found him guilty of misconduct. Party leader Mian Nawaz Sharif asked the MNA to resign from his seat in the assembly.

The cheating episode had become a test case for political party's repute and it was under pressure to show no leniency even if the evidence was not strong enough to be upheld in a court of law. It is worth remembering that PML(N) has earlier taken a similar tough stance in case of the ex Chief Justice of Pakistan Abdul Hamee Dogar demanding his resignation when it was found that his daughter was given undue favour in her HSSC exams. Though there was no concrete evidence of Chief Justice's direct involvement in the influencing of examination board he was unsuccessfully pressurised to resign on moral grounds. PML(N) took a similar stance demanding resignation from Chief Justice Islamabad High Court Justice Bilal Khan on the basis of statements by a Mafia Don implicating the judge in Mafia activities - this case is still under review by the Judicial Review Commission.

Reaction of leadership of various political parties in response to similar scandals in recent past of fake degrees acquired by Babar Awan, a federal minister in People's Party government, Dr Amir Liaquat Hussain, a federal minister under Musharraf government, and a few others has left the people of Pakistan thinking whether the political leadership at any level will ever show any itegrity when dealing with corruption from within. This weeks action by one political party against one of its own is sign perhaps that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

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