THE Higher Education Commission (HEC) offers degree attestation services through a designated private courier company to almost 99 per cent of the population that does not live in Islamabad. I recently used this option for my own graduate degree attestation, and now consider it my civic duty to detail my ordeal for anyone considering going down that route.

Irrespective of what diploma one wants to get attested, HEC requires all previous original diplomas to be sent for verification. With HEC being a trust- worthy institution­ — or so I believed — it did not take much reassurance for me to take this leap of faith. But, as it turned out, I was so horribly wrong on that count.

As I got to know later, the courier company sends the documents in thin plastic envelope, and it does not label any care instructions on it either.

I had requested that they should send my documents in a hard plastic envelope I had brought along, and they thankfully agreed.

Once this step was done, I awaited to receive confirmation of my documents reaching the destination. No such luck. In this comedy of errors, not only the courier company turned out to have a faulty tracking system (even today it shows the documents to be ‘in transit’), it turns out the HEC online portal also does not deem it important to inform applicants of the whereabouts of their documents. I had to call the courier company to confirm the location of my documents.

Meanwhile, HEC still carried on with its indifference. The frequently asked questions (FAQ) section on its website says that it takes 10 working days for attestation via courier. While in reality, on the 10th working day I was yet to know if the documents had reached the relevant hands.

Feeling impatient and legitimately worried, I filed an online complaint to request whatever assurance I could be provided. In return, in an apparent you-got-some-nerve move, the ticketing system offered me 10 further days to have the issue resolved.

At this point, Eid was around the corner, and, being a typical Pakistani, I left it to God to not let the proof of all my life’s hard work end up as a samosa plate for a street vendor.

Exactly four weeks after I had sent my documents, the miracle happened, and I received the much-awaited confirmation email that my documents had been received.

The online ticketing system, meanwhile, extended its own deadline to resolve the issue, and, knowing that this charade would never result in anything concrete, I considered it best to put my complaint out of its misery, and closed it myself.

Seven days later, a thin plastic envelope, like the one I had sent the documents in, without the additional protective cover, was at my doorsteps. My documents had visible creases on them, and someone had also deemed it wise to adorn them with plenty of staple holes.

At this point, the fight left in me only allowed me to write these lines. Anyone who is thinking about choosing this path of paid helplessness, please know that the ‘C’ in HEC actually stands for ‘callousness’. It really is.

Juwayriyah Qazi
Abbottabad

Published in Dawn, May 29th, 2023

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