It is profoundly disquieting to read that the Senate Standing Committee on Aviation has opposed the termination of services of those employees of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) who hold fake degrees. The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) was briefing the Committee on the verification of credentials. There are currently 1,200 cases of fake degrees or certificates being investigated, and 40 employees have been terminated, 35 cases are ‘under process’ and 263 employees have approached the courts seeking stay orders in respect of the verification of their degrees.
Let there be no misunderstanding in this matter. A fake degree is a fake degree, and if it is presented in support of a job application then that is fraud. Fraud is a crime, and the numbers suggest that PIA has failed to effectively gatekeep in respect of employees that have cheated and lied to gain employment. There is no excuse for this. Firstly and most importantly the successful presentation of a fake degree devalues at a stroke those degrees that are not fake, and which people have worked hard over years to obtain honestly. Their degrees have worth and value and are an indicator of their competencies and skills that have been academically tested. Their degrees are awarded on merit, they earned them and are rightly proud of their achievements.
Those that hold and submit fake degrees are cutting the ground from beneath the feet of the universities and the scholars that attend them in pursuit of excellence. The Chairperson of the Senate Committee argued that rather than sacking the offenders they should have their salaries reduced, a proposal that is preposterous and dangerous nonsense. Nobody, he argued should lose their job because they have a fake degree because they would lose their livelihood and anyway why are not those who appointed them being penalised? In respect of the latter they were the subject of deception and in respect of the former of course they should lose their jobs, they lied and cheated and do not deserve employment. Indeed there is an argument that not only should they be fired, but prosecuted as well. The enormity of the fakery is compounded by the fact that PIA has a duty of care towards it passengers, who have an expectation that those flying them around the world are appropriately qualified to do so. Would the Standing Committee be happy to appoint a taxi-driver who showed up with phony papers applying for a pilots post, or that of an engineer? We would sincerely hope not – but on the evidence before us that might not be so far-fetched after all. Fake is fake and show them all the door, no exceptions, no mollycoddling and whingeing and whining. We rest our case.