PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Public Service Commission has cancelled the “ability test” conducted for the BPS-17 assistant engineer and sub-divisional officer posts over cheating by candidates with the help of electronic devices and other methods and announced the test would be held afresh next month.

It also slapped a recruitment ban on 18 candidates for one to three years.

Recently, the province’s caretaker government cancelled the Medical and Dental Colleges Admission Test (MDCAT) conducted by the provincial Educational Testing and Evaluation Agency over the use of Bluetooth and other technological devices by candidates for cheating.

The KPPSC officials told Dawn on condition of anonymity that the PSC had conducted a test on June 24 for the appointment of assistant engineers and SDOs to the irrigation and communication and works departments with candidates totalling over 4,000.

They said after cancellation, the test would be held afresh on Dec 23 for all candidates except those disqualified over cheating.

The officials said the provincial PCS received complaints ahead of the test about the possible use of electronic gadgets by candidates for cheating.

They said such complaints were also “forwarded” to the Prime Minister’s Citizen Portal.

The officials said 18 candidates were caught using “unfair means, electronic devices and master cards” during body search.

They added that a “fair and impartial” inquiry was conducted leading to the confirmation of the cheating charge against the candidates, who were given show cause notices as well as personal hearing to defend themselves.

The officials said the commission had decided to cancel the test as many candidates got “exceptionally high marks” creating the impression that those candidates must use unfair means. They claimed that a “powerful mafia” got millions of rupees from candidates to help them solve multiple choice questions based papers with the help of technological devices.

The officials said such people were experts in different subjects.

A senior PSC official told Dawn that the commission didn’t have “resources” to install mobile phone jammers at every examination hall to prevent cheating with the help of Bluetooth devices.

“Bluetooth devices are so small that candidates can easily hide them under their clothes,” he said.

The official said male candidates could be body-searched but that couldn’t happen to women sitting the test.

He said the only solution to that cheating issue was the shutting down of mobile towers near examination centres during the test.

An education expert told Dawn that the cancellation of the recruitment test by the reputed PSC had deepened the mistrust of people, especially candidates and their parents, in the government and private organisations responsible for holding tests.

He said a question mark was already hanging over the tests conducted by the privately-run testing agencies for appointments to government departments.

“This cheating issue was repeatedly raised on the floor of the provincial assembly, but to no avail. Our only hope for fair tests was the Etea and PCS but that, too, has begun to die,” he said.

Mohammad Anwar, whose daughter sat the last MDCAT, wondered what students would do if they got less marks in the new test compared with the previous one.

He said most students were under immense pressure from parents to get high marks in tests.

“The holding of tests afresh will increase the misery of students,” he said.

Published in Dawn, November 19th, 2023

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