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Supreme Court orders prompt decision on Axact cases

Axact

News Analysis |

Supreme Court (SC) of Pakistan on Friday ordered the Islamabad High Court (IHC) and Sindh High Court (SHC) to decide on Axact cases within two & three weeks respectively.

In a surprising change of mind today, the SC first issued the orders to put the names of Axact CEO Shoaib Shaikh and other accused in the bogus degrees case on the Exit Control List (ECL) but later canceled the orders. After the reversal in its decision, the SC ordered the Axact owner to submit his written reply in the case.

During the court proceedings, director news and senior anchorperson, Sami Ibrahim, intervened in the matter. After listening to the arguments of the journalist, the court ordered Shaikh, who also owns Bol News, to submit a written guarantee that he would remain in the country and will not leave it. Moreover, he was also asked to hand over his passport to the high court.

Thousands of bogus degrees and other material was recovered by the FIA. Despite, so many apparent proofs, the fate of the case in courts has been appalling as prosecutors struggled to convict the culprits.

On January 19th, Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar had taken suo motu notice of the Axact fake degree scandal after reputed international publications issued investigative reports regarding the issuance of fake degrees to UK and Canadian nationals.

BBC Radio 4 had reported that thousands of UK nationals have bought fake degrees from a multi-million pound “diploma mill” in Pakistan. An even more in-depth investigation was done by Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) in a program that explained the real business of Axact behind the IT-firm banner.

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In response to these reports, national broadcasters also republished old stories and reignited the forgotten issue after the bails were granted to the main accused in this high profile case. The backlash prompted CJP Mian Saqib Nisar and he decided to punish the culprits and said, “Our heads are bowed in shame because of this scandal.”

Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) director general Bashir Memon told the court today that Axact operated 330 fake universities but they only existed on a webpage and had no campuses. Moreover, 70% of Axact’s revenue was from online universities making it the so-called biggest IT-firm in the world.

After the much-publicized revelations of the New York Times in exposing the murky face of Axact’s business operations and subsequent closure of Axact, the swift possibility of justice in the case was revealed.

Significantly, the tainted firm had no affiliation with any universities and it offered a fake degree within an hour of the payment of Rs. 500,000, Memon said.

The court was also told that no laws were followed for accreditation and it only used its webpages to provide fake degrees. DG FIA elaborated that Axact would issue the degree merely on experience. To which CJP asked, will it be possible for him to receive a PhD on the basis of his experience in law? To which Memon replied, the CJP could be issued degrees in English and Law based on his experience.

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During today’s discussions, CJP was informed that the accused were acquitted by the IHC. CJP passed a directive that high court must take action against cases related to Axact to wrap up appeals against the suspects within two weeks.

CJP Mian Saqib Nisar had taken suo motu notice of the Axact fake degree scandal after reputed international publications issued investigative reports regarding the issuance of fake degrees to UK and Canadian nationals.

The apex court ordered both the IHC and the Sindh High Court (SHC) to decide the pending Axact cases on priority basis. With reference to the ongoing case in IHC, CJ added Justice Gul Hassan to the existing one-member bench and asked it to come up with a decision within three weeks. Meanwhile, SHC was directed to constitute a bench within a week and to announce the verdict within two weeks.

After the much-publicized revelations of the New York Times in exposing the murky face of Axact’s business operations and subsequent closure of Axact, the swift possibility of justice in the case was revealed.

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Thousands of bogus degrees and other material was recovered by the FIA. Despite, so many apparent proofs, the fate of the case in courts has been appalling as prosecutors struggled to convict the culprits. This initiative of CJP looks promising, but knowing Pakistan’s judicial system, it’s difficult to keep expectations too high.

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