While the Higher Education Commission (HEC) has admitted in the Peshawar High Court that it has inadvertently verified degree of the Lahore NAB DG, Saleem Shahzad, the FIA has probed several other cases where the regulatory bodies verified fake degrees of powerful officials.
In January this year, a former HEC deputy director of the attestation department has been arrested by the FIA for attesting the fake degree of a powerful FIA officer.
According to FIR No 01/2018 of FIA ACC, Islamabad, Quetta FIA Deputy Director Noman Ashraf Bodla got employment in the premier investigation agency in 2006 on the basis of a fake degree from an unrecognised university (Newports Institute of Communication & Economics also known as NICE, Karachi). The university did not meet legal criteria set by the regulatory body but the deputy director of HEC attestation Abid Hussain illegally attested his degree by misusing his authority. The FIA arrested its own deputy director as well as former HEC top official on January 2, 2018 and arrested both of them. The case is being probed by FIA’s Inspector Kashif Riaz Awan. Talking to The News, Kashif said the accused are currently on bail, but the investigations are still going on against HEC official and FIA’s own staff.
According to a story by Ahmad Noorani published in The News on March 4, 2015, FIA probed several cases where the premier education body in Pakistan— has been found verifying known fake degrees of powerful government officers. It was established with evidence that the commission has also been re-verifying the “genuineness” of these fake degrees to the media when the commission was contacted to confirm or ascertain their authenticity.
Earlier, there were allegations of fake degrees or about universities issuing bogus degrees, but now it has been divulged that one can even get a fake or bogus degree verified from the country’s apex education commission if one has skills, power and money, or all. Verification of educational degrees became an issue or scandal when it was about parliamentarians, but when it came to the verification of degrees of bureaucrats or baboos, things were settled magically and a “change in policy” was made which sorted out all the problems that sons and daughters, nephews and nieces of powerful and mighty, illegally appointed on top government position, would have faced. Under the changed policy instead of officials getting their degrees attested through their respective departments, they were allowed to personally get their degrees verified by HEC.
However, responding to this specific point, HEC Media Director Aayesha Ikram said it was wrong to say that any problem was created because of this “change in policy”. “Many people feel uncomfortable while submitting their degrees to their organisations because of fear to lose them. The HEC simply facilitated them to come in person by holding their documents with them and get them verified,” Aayesha added. However, it was not explained how this philosophy of the HEC will work when departments will contact it for re-verification.
However, fake verification, attestation and equivalence by the HEC to powerful government officers was something terribly disturbing. The News sent the data of attestation-ticket-numbers and date-of-attestation of some such dubious cases to the HEC on April 8, 2014 and sought response about the identity of persons whom these degrees, attested by the HEC, belonged to. The HEC replied on April 11, 2014, denying sharing information and instead sought the identity of the persons who got these degrees verified. The HEC asked what The News was inquiring from them. Degrees mentioned were fake and wrongly verified by the HEC and result gazettes of the universities whose degrees were submitted were showing different information on corresponding year of examination.
After few months, when the “new policy” was enforced, employees possessing such degrees were asked to get them verified, and surprisingly the HEC verified the said fake degrees as genuine. The News reported a story based on initial information on July 23, 2014. The HEC was not ready to admit the verification of fake degrees by its employees despite the fact that proofs and dates were being shared with it. The HEC’s own senior officers were acknowledging manipulated wrong verification of degrees in informal discussions. However, when the FIA started probing such cases and universities concerned refused to own such fake degrees, the HEC acknowledged, in some case, that it had verified fake degrees.
The following are four questions of The News sent to the HEC in 2015, HEC’s official replies to these questions and “illustration of case”. The HEC, while verifying a degree, issues a unique ticket number which is of different denominations. This will elaborate how officials submitted fake degrees, submitted the HEC-attested fake degrees, and how the HEC attested or verified them and even confirmed the same to the media.
Question number 1 relates to a dubious case of degrees and the rest of all are fake degrees, admitted as fake by universities concerned and now finally by the HEC after FIA probe enters into final stages. The FIA knows about the fake status of these degrees, but because of government pressure it hesitates to initiate proceedings against the holders of fake degrees and its high-ups who verified them.
Q-1: HEC Letter No.8-50/HEC/A&A/2013/692 dated April 29, 2013, written by Syed Asim Hussain, Assistant Director for Director General (A&A). The HEC verified a PhD degree of a Chinese university . . .As the HEC under its SOPs requires and maintains record of all lower degrees while verifying any higher degree, please share years of passing of lower classes by the holder of this PhD degree.
The HEC’s brief response: Passed intermediate in 1977 and passed BSc Honours in 1979. Illustration: Initially, the HEC has denied proving this information and confirmed that all record is examined and that it is fine. However, now when the HEC shared the data with The News and the HEC’s attention was diverted to the point that BSc (Honours) is a four years degree and could not be completed in two years, the officials admitted that the case is “dubious” and needs in-depth scrutiny.
Q-2: The HEC verified a degree under serial number 443635 dated June 15, 2011. Whether the HEC is sure that all the degrees maintained by this individual are original and not fake? Please provide the name of the degree, year of examination, date of issuance of degree by the university, name of university which issued this degree and the name of person who holds this degree.
The HEC’s response: As per HEC degree attestation system, the HEC Attestation Ticket No443635 having 500 denomination was allocated to the Original BCom Transcript issued in respect of Ms Farzana Kousar by the University of the Punjab, Lahore and was verified as genuine.
Furthermore, the HEC Attestation Ticket No 443635 having 300 denomination was allocated to the photocopy of BA degree issued in respect of Mr Muhammad Matiullah by University of the Punjab, Lahore and was verified as genuine.
Illustration of Q-2: This degree was submitted by one “Snan Khilgi” in a department of federal information ministry. The degree was verified by the HEC under ticket number and date mentioned above in the question.
The data provided by the HEC is of original tickets whose record is also maintained by the HEC, and it doesn’t match with the official record of the Government of Pakistan. Only the FIA or NAB can ascertain who faked documents; the official at his own or he did so in connivance with the HEC. But, as a matter of record, the HEC has officially declared this case as OK and correct last year and its response in this regard was published to The News on July 29, 2014.
Another important aspect of the case is that during a discussion with The News on February 20, 2015, at the HEC attestation office in Islamabad, the HEC officials admitted that this person Snan Khilgi came to them for multiple times with different degrees, but those were not verified being “not genuine”.
“However, finally he came with a degree of Al-Khair University which the HEC had to verify as it recognises that university,” the HEC official said in the presence of director general Attestations and director Media.
When The News asked why the HEC entertained him when once his degree was proved fake and why no action was taken against him for presenting a fake degree and the university which finally “issued” a “genuine” degree. The answer was that the HEC SOPs don’t allow it to initiate any legal action against the individual who presents or submits a fake degree except confiscating the degree. It was said that if he again came with another fake degree, the HEC would be unable to take action because of same SOPs.
“Yes, if during any attempt he came up with a degree which according to the HEC SOPs and degree format provided by the university seemed OK, the HEC will verify the degree without taking into account all past instances of provision of fake degree by the same person,” the HEC officials said.
They admitted that despite knowing that a university was issuing a questionable degree, the HEC could not refuse to verify the degree as it recognises those universities. Asked why the HEC recognises such fake universities, the officials responded that they had in fact rejected such institutions and initiated action against such degree awarding institutions, but such organisations got stay orders from superior courts and were running and distributing fake degrees. The HEC is left with no choice but to verify such degrees.
Q-3: According to official record, the HEC verified a degree under serial number 417311 dated June 28, 2011. Please share the details of the degree and degree holder as required in above question-2.
The HEC response: As per the HEC degree attestation system, Ticket No417311 having 500 denomination was allocated to the Original MA degree issued in-respect of Mr Muhammad Afzal by University of the Punjab, Lahore, and was verified as genuine.
Furthermore, the HEC Attestation Ticket No417311 having 300 denomination was allocated to the photocopy of BA degree issued in respect of Ms Farayha Hassan by the University of Karachi and was verified as genuine.
Illustration of Q-3 and further HEC version on the point: This degree is possessed and submitted by one Kanwal Iftikhar, a senior government official in an information ministry department. Apparently, the degree is a BSc degree of the Punjab University of examination held in June 1994 bearing Roll No 032049, Registration No 92-isw-141 and shows that the student studied at Government College for Women, F-6/2, Islamabad. It was verified by the HEC against ticket number and on the date mentioned above. However, the Punjab University confirmed to The News that the information available with it against above roll number and registration number was different and thus the degree was fake.
This degree, already attested by the HEC in June 2011, was again submitted to the HEC in June 2014 along with a master’s degree (EMBA) issued by one Preston University to the same person. Under its SOPs, the HEC was bound to check all lower degrees while verifying any higher degree and most importantly, it, even, had the result gazettes of these universities for these years. However, the HEC verified these degrees on June 19, 2014. This was second attestation of fake degrees by the commission. However, the HEC officials say June 2011 verification was fake and never done by the commission and in June 2014, it “mistakenly” verified the degrees without checking the record.
They also admit that no legal action has been initiated against the university which issued a fake master’s degree to this person as the HEC SOPs don’t allow this and there are also court issues.
Q-4: The HEC verified a master’s degree bearing HEC attestation Ticket NO846302 dated June 19, 2014. Please provide The News with the exact dates of passing of lower degrees by the applicant, the name of the degrees and institution that awarded those degrees.
HEC response: As per the HEC degree attestation system, Ticket No846302 having 800 denomination was allocated to the Original EMBA degree issued in respect of Ms Kanwal Iftikhar by Preston Institute of Management Sciences and Technology, Karachi. She submitted a fake/forged BA degree of University of the Punjab, Lahore. Hence her EMBA degree was confiscated.
Illustration to Q-4: The HEC response to this question is twisted and contrary to facts. Documents available with The News prove beyond any doubt that the HEC verified both the master’s EMBA and BSc degrees of Ms Kanwal Iftikhar and returned them which were subsequently submitted to the record of relevant government department.
As everything was fake and relevant universities’ officials were confirming the same, the issue was again taken up with the HEC, and FIA also probed the issue. It only happened on February 12, 2015, when the HEC through its letter No-5-3/HEC/A&A/2015/443 written by Azizullah Khan Assistant Director (A&A) and signed Hazrat Bilal Direct (A&A) admitted that it wrongly attested BSc and master’s degrees of Ms Kanwal Iftikhar and that it cancels all its previous attestations and verifications and confiscates degrees.