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Verdict on graduates

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Verdict on graduates
« on: April 20, 2008, 10:15:25 PM »
Verdict on graduates

Sunday, April 20, 2008

A seven-judge Supreme Court bench is expected to give a verdict within days on whether the controversial clause laying down the possession of a graduation degree as a condition for legislators should be retained. The provision was put in place through an executive order which in 2002 was inserted into the Representation of People Act of 1976. Under this addition, any person must hold at least a degree of graduation or an equivalent qualification to be a member of the legislature. The question of whether 'sanads' issued by madressahs constitute an equivalent qualification is still pending before the court.

The attorney general of Pakistan told the court, hearing a petition against the graduation condition moved by two citizens, that the legislation was 'discriminatory' in nature and prevented 97 per cent of citizens from taking places in assemblies. According to figures presented by the AG, only 1.4 per cent of Pakistan's 160 million people hold graduation degrees. It was pointed out that no such bar on legislators was placed in India, although seats were reserved for those with higher educational qualifications. In his remarks, Justice Faqir Muhammad Khokar noted that the legislation was 'hostile discrimination'.

Aslam Khaki, an Islamic jurist who was impleaded by the court as a party in the case, stated he favoured the retention of the clause, since, as a citizen, he had the right to be represented by qualified persons.

In the current situation, the verdict in the case will also decide several other key issues. Foremost among them is the matter of whether Asif Ali Zardari can contest an NA seat. A decision that keeps the graduation clause in place, either indefinitely or for the current assembly term, would act to, in all likelihood, keep Zardari out of the assembly. While the PPP co-chairperson has consistently stated he has no desire to become PM, speculation continues that he may eventually choose to move into the key decision-making slot himself.

Beyond this is the fact that the graduation condition is quite obviously ludicrous. There is no evidence that it has, in any way, brought about an improvement in the quality of debate within assemblies over the past five years or any display of greater maturity or sagacity within the house. Indeed, some seasoned parliamentary observers have noted the overall standard set by the 'graduate' legislators was lower than in the past. Some contenders, such as Ghinwa Bhutto, were of course forced by the graduation condition to resume educational efforts and sit exams at a later stage in their lives. Study is, of course, always useful in one way or the other. However, there is no reason to believe that, simply by clearing BA exams in their chosen subjects such individuals would make better legislators than in their non-graduate past.

Education, intelligence and ability are not linked. Particularly in Pakistan, access to higher learning is largely a matter of opportunity rather than of merit. As we all know, such opportunities are most often tied in to wealth and social standing. In this sense, the graduation clause only adds further to the burden of discrimination already borne by the poor. As the AG has said, it creates a new class of rulers and an 'elite democracy'. After all, the impoverished peasant from Khairpur or Bahawalpur or elsewhere probably has a far better idea of what he and thousands others like him need than the average graduate from a city college. The peasant in many cases would also have a clear cut idea of how his issues can be resolved, even if he can't spout economic jargon or quote philosophical prose. It is his voice that most needs to be heard for it most truly represents the urges and desires of the people of Pakistan -- who through their use of electoral ballots have already made it clear they have very definite ideas about the path they wish to see their country embark on.

(From daily The news... http://www.thenews.com.pk/)