Federal Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood on Friday accused PML-N lawmakers of doing politics on the issue of examinations for matric and intermediate students "to gain cheap popularity".
In a series of tweets, the minister lashed out at senior PML-N leaders Khawaja Saad Rafique and Ahsan Iqbal, who have been calling on the government to delay the exams in order to give students more time to prepare.
"No surprise that N league, which is breaking apart, is playing politics with students to gain cheap popularity. People like Ahsan Iqbal and Saad Rafique know that exams have already happened in Balochistan and Sindh, therefore other students cannot be treated differently," he wrote.
He said the two PML-N MNAs were also aware that the decision to conduct exams was "taken unanimously by all federating units including [PML-N] government in AJK, and PPP in Sindh".
The minister reiterated that students could not be promoted on the basis of previous exams as there were no exams last year, when the coronavirus pandemic made its way to Pakistan.
"Saad Rafiq/Ahsan Iqbal should know if they claim to be educated that exams are the best measure of students' ability and class 12 [is] important as they have to go to universities and professional colleges," he said, asking: "Why should hardworking students be discriminated against?"
Asking the PML-N lawmakers to "stop cheap politics", he reminded them that after the 18th Amendment, only one educational board out of the total 30 i.e. the federal board, was under the federal government.
"Yet they were pretending that one order from [the] federal minister can stop exams across the country. Again just a failed attempt at cheap politics," he said.
Students in various parts of the country have been protesting against the government’s decision to take their examinations on a short notice and hashtags such as #Noexamswithoutstudy attracted tens of thousands of tweets in recent days.
Apparently unmoved by the demands, Mahmood said today: "Exams are starting tomorrow in the remaining provinces and federating units. Wish all students taking exams from tomorrow the very best. Inshallah all will do well."
He said the students who were asking for more time "can always appear in supplementary exams taken 2/3 months [later] by all boards. Why should these exams be postponed and students who have been studying be penalised?"
Responding to this statement, PML-N's Rafique told the minister that only those students could appear in the supplementary exams who had failed the annual exams or wanted to improve their marks.
"Fresh students cannot sit in these [exams]. I think the minister is not even aware of this," he wrote.
Earlier today, while speaking to reporters in the parliament, Rafique said the government could not "morally" conduct exams for courses whose syllabus had not been completed.
He said the government should delay the exams by six or eight weeks, adding that if the exams went ahead, many students would fail and "go into depression".
The PML-N MNA alleged that the government had not consulted faculty or parents before taking the decision to conduct the exams, and demanded that the students detained during recent protests against exams be released.
On Thursday, PML-N lawmakers had raised the issue of ongoing protests by students against exams on the opening day of the new session of the National Assembly and asked the government to delay the examinations.
But the government immediately rejected the opposition’s proposal, saying it was not possible as exams were about to commence in a day or two and that students in Balochistan had already appeared in examinations whereas in Sindh the exams were about to be over.
Moreover, Parliamentary Secretary for Higher Education and Professional Training Wajiha Qamar, who was responding to the calling-attention notice of the PML-N members on the subject in the absence of the education minister, said the students had gotten sufficient time for exam preparation and they had been further facilitated by respective boards through reduction in syllabus and the number of subjects.
The parliamentary secretary further said that roll number slips had already been issued to the students. She added that the decision to hold the exams had been taken by all the provincial ministers for education in consultation with the boards, the Higher Education Commission, universities and the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC). She told the lower house that colleges and universities had agreed to delay their admission process to save the academic year of the students.
Upon constant and forceful insistence by the PML-N members, Speaker Asad Qaiser finally made an intervention and said that he would himself take up the matter with Mahmood on Friday (today).