Reading about Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry’s statements about the ‘fake degree’ controversy, I could not help but think this is just more proof of that existence of some ‘New Feudals’ who believe the country belongs to them only.
When I read that the Chief Justice stated that the ongoing investigation into where everyone’s degree was issued would restore “prestige and dignity” to parliament, I nearly spit my food all over myself. Restore prestige and dignity? Excuse me “MY LORD”, but I find my parliament to have a lot of PRESTIGE AND DIGNITY, and I take great exception at your claim that it does not!
But isn’t his statement really quite telling? Doesn’t it expose his own prejudice and elitism? “Prestige and Dignity”. We all know what he means. Only a certain class (dare we say caste?) of people are deserving to fill the halls of the National Assembly?
Sana Ali is correct in her post: People did not vote for their MNA because of who issued a degree, they voted for them because that is the person they decided would best represent their interests.
Do we vote for or against people based on the schools they attended or what they have made of their education? Of course not. It would be much more scandalous if leaders had won their positions of power through fraud or cheating. But to say someone does not deserve to represent people because s/he didn’t attend a prestigious school is absurd. Having a degree from a well-known educational institution implies one comes from a family or background that was able to accommodate the financial burdens. Most Pakistanis are poor; the notion of having so much money to spare -enough to fund a comfortable lifestyle and education – is a dream. The countless stories of young children forced to work to help their parents are a testament to the generational poverty that exists in our country. Pakistan’s middle class would face difficulties, as well. Are these people barred from running for office? Are these people not fit to participate in society? If voters feel the MPs have cheated, they will vote them out. Let the awam respond to the fake degrees and make a statement through the ballot box. Let there be a referendum, a statement by the people on the issue of fake degrees. That is, after all, how a democracy should work.
This “crisis” is feudalism in another suit. For years, the elite aristocracy ruled the land, making rules and regulations in it’s favor and depriving the poor of social mobility. The fake degree crisis is another attempt to maintain that status quo. That our leaders lied about their degrees is of course wrong, but the idea that one NEEDS a degree to serve Pakistan is the bigger injustice.
Perhaps Mr Iftikhar Chaudhry and Mr Ansar Abbasi and others of the ‘New Feudals’ believe that only people with a certain “prestige” should be allowed to join the government, and the rest of us should stop complaining and get back to work driving their cars, cleaning their homes, and picking their tea.
It makes sense that this same New Feudal elitism is driving the miserable crusade against the 18th Amendment as well. It was baffling to so many how the representatives elected by the people could pass an amendment that increases democracy, only to have it challenged “suo moto” by the court. But remember that it’s not all of the 18th Amendment that the court and their Feudal serfs reject. Rather it is only the sections that threaten their own elitism, their own ability to exclude certain people from their court and ensure that it is only filled with other supporters of their own New Feudalism.
The News, being a fairly illiberal newspaper and the home of such New Feudals as Ansar Abbasi, Shaheen Sehbai, etc. praises the Chief Justice’s statements. This is no suprirse. The New Feudals think that the question of where people got a degree is important because they see the controversy as an opportunity to “redeem ourselves in our own eyes as well as the eyes of others”.
Notice that they don’t mention anything about properly representing the people? They don’t mention serving the interests of the common people who are facing food and energy crisis, who are threatened every day by religious extremists and poverty. Instead they talk as if there are some MNAs who are wearing last year’s fashions and causing embarrassment in their exclusive clubs. They believe this is ‘undignified’ for common people to walk the halls of government unless they are peons fetching them tea.
You have to wonder, when Iftikhar Chaudhry says “It’s our parliament” – who is the “our” that he is talking about? Is it the people of Pakistan – all 150 millions – including those who do not have “presitgious degrees”? People who wear lungi instead of Italian suit pants? People who do not have drivers and an army of nokarein cleaning up after them. Or does “His Lordship” the Chief Justice believe that parliament belongs only to those with London educations and powdered wigs?
In 1508 a man named Baldassare Castiglione published a book called The Book of the Courtier that explained how to act like a perfect “gentleman of the court”. This resulted in quite a scandal in Europe as it resulted in common people “faking” their position in society. The “real” peers were unable to tell who was a peer and who was “fake”. It seems that the Chief Justice has forgotten that he is the head of a Court of Law, not a ‘Royal Court’.
The behaviour of our own New Feudals belongs in the 16th century, not modern Pakistan. This is a democracy. We will govern ourselves.
Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry in his “Court” portrait.