by: Riazul Haq
If you need a one-year diploma in mass communications (Mass-Comm), executive business administration (EBA) or any other field, you can get it in eight weeks.
This is what an advertisement by Skill Development Council’s (SDC), Lahore office states, having logos of the government, the World Bank and International Labour Organisation (ILO).
The council is issuing professional degrees without the consent of the Ministry of Education, Training and Standards in Higher Education.
SDC is an autonomous organisation functioning under the National Training Board (NTB) in a public-private partnership with an objective to design and develop training courses in accordance with emerging needs with the involvement of experts from relevant industries.
It has now been confirmed that the council is issuing fake degrees from its Lahore office where its chairman enjoys a “monopoly over everything”.
Sources in the ministry revealed that SDC Director Hasnain Seerat Mehdi has millions in his personal account for the last 16 years.
The murky business of money and shortcut diplomas besides other issues of the council also came under discussion at the Senate committee on education last month.
NTB Director General Shoaib Khan had apprised the committee that the chairperson was removed from the post and replaced by Khalid Rahman but he was never allowed to hold the office.
In 2010, Punjab’s provincial ombudsperson was sent several complaints about a number of courses for which “degrees are issued even before the specified time”.
The complaints were forwarded by the ombudsperson to the then ministry of education.
According to documents, in 2011, then secretary education Qamar Zaman Chaudhry had sent two letters to the Punjab governor for action against the officials but the orders to ‘seal’ the office could not be implemented.
Background talks with ministry officials reveal that the chairman was being protected by some ministry officials. “Surely, if a man is not allowing anybody to take charge, he must be in cahoots with high-ups of the federal and provincial government,” said a senior official at the ministry.
Even NTB has asked for necessary action to be taken but of no use, said Khan. Recently, two officers of the ministry were issued contempt notices from courts in Lahore when they entered Mehdi’s office and asked him to produce his appointment letter.
The ministry has no record of appointing him as chairman which questions the legality and procedure of appointment of SDC chairpersons.
Interestingly, the head of SDC, Karachi, has been at holding this post for the last 18 years while the Peshawar chief has been at the helm of affairs for 15 years. The SDC Quetta office is non-functional.
“A fact-finding committee has been constituted to look into the matter of the chairman which is a serious concern, as well as the irregularities,” the minister for education, training and higher education had told the Senate body chairperson Abdul Nabi Bangash at the last meeting.
Currently, the ministry is preparing an overhaul of SDCs, action against the Lahore office and solving the issuance of diplomas other than those recommended by the government, informed an official.
This article was written by Riazul Haq and originally published on tribune