AMONGST all the challenges that people in high office in Pakistan must contend with, the most irksome is perhaps the growing demand in recent years that rhetoric be underpinned by a degree proving academic credentials. Lawmakers, politicians, bureaucrats, university lecturers and college professors — all have had reason to cringe when a few from amongst their ranks have been exposed for not having the degree they claimed, or for presenting fake degrees when asked. As long as they are willing to resort to unscrupulousness, there may be some hope for such persons: it seems that a couple of thousand genuine, but blank — with space for names waiting to be filled in — degrees have gone missing and may well be up for sale to the highest bidder. On Saturday, Karachi University suffered the loss of around 2,000 documents relating to seven different departments when unknown persons cut through the roof of the institution’s official printing press, the Bureau of Compilation, Composition and Translation. According to the campus security adviser, the certificates were in the process of being printed and through the serial numbers it was discovered that at least two bundles were missing.

The university has taken fire-fighting measures; a case has been registered with the police, and university officials have been directed to blacklist the stolen serial numbers. Even if someone got hold of one and filled in the details, these certificates would not stand up to verification. Neither do they carry the university stamp. Does this incident reflect a general willingness of Pakistanis to resort to shortcuts and unsavoury practices? Or does it reflect a growing schism in the employment and education sectors, where more and more qualifications are required for jobs that are hotly competed for, and the education sector has simply not kept pace in terms of quality and quantity?

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