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PAKISTAN: How Ghulam Sarwar Khan got off the hook in fake degree case

ISLAMABAD: When the court case over the alleged fake degree of Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan was ripe for trial, the Punjab Anti-Corruption Establishment (ACE) took a surprising U-turn in favour of the minister and aided his acquittal by dropping the FIR earlier lodged against him and submitting a cancellation report in the trial court.

On January 10, 2019, the LHC had withdrawn the stay order of 2017 in favour of Khan and had directed the parties to advance their final argument on March 11, 2019. On January 29, 2019, the trial court, while adjourning the case, remarked that in case the accused failed to appear on the next date of hearing (February 28), the court would issue his arrest warrants.

But on February 14, before the next hearings of both the LHC and the trial court, the then DG ACE, Hussain Asghar, ordered the minister’s fake degree case to be investigated afresh. The new inquiry officer, Muhammad Nasir Chattha, recommended dropping the case.

The DG ACE approved the recommendations of the inquiry officer with the following note: “The officer order dated December 5, 2012, passed by Chairman Board of Technical Education Lahore, which cancelled the diploma of Mr. Ghulam Sarwar Khan, has been set aside by the LHC, Lahore on December 4, 2013. Furthermore, initiation of proceedings after 34 years and finalisation after 44 years without any documentary proof is an exercise in futility. Report approved. Submit cancellation report in court.”

Without any delay, the cancellation report of the ACE’s earlier FIR against the minister was submitted to the trial court, which on April 11, 2019 acquitted the accused, agreeing with the cancellation report of the ACE.

Khan was federal minister for petroleum at the time the cancellation of the case report was submitted. In all forums — including the trial court, election tribunal, high court and apex court — the ACE had vehemently agitated that the diploma obtained by Khan was a forged document.

The earlier inquiry reports as well as the final challan in court held him guilty. But there was a sudden and mysterious change of heart.

A report dated 16.08.2017 by the Punjab Forensic Science Agency, confirming the forgeries, was surprisingly not discussed by the trial court or the DG ACE while approving the cancellation report.

It is on record that Khan had himself confessed that the diploma (number 7830) submitted by him before the returning officer, Lahore High Court and the Islamia University, Bahawalpur, was ‘erroneous’.

Khan had filed a dubious diploma in the high court as well as before the returning officer in the 2002 general elections. It was only after a Ghulam Sarwar Khan s/o Abdul Hameed surfaced that the minister had to change his mind and instead obtain another diploma under roll number 8537. The minister’s actual father’s name incidentally is not Abdul Hameed.

The following is the background of the case:

On September 1, 2001, an NOC was issued by the Punjab Board of Technical Education (PBTE) in favor of Ghulam Sarwar Khan in respect of a diploma, bearing Roll No. 7830, for the year 1974, showing him as a student of the Polytechnic College, Lyallpur. He was issued a diploma bearing serial number 004597. Ghulam Sarwar Khan was, however, never a student of the Polytechnic College, Lyallpur.

On September 5, 2001, another NOC with the same particulars was issued, with the addition of registration number GPI/LY/71-563. It was mentioned that Khan had passed the diploma from the Government Polytechnic Institute.

— the News