Syed Talat Hussain
Babar Awan almost became the law minister—again. For anyone in his shoes, this should be a cause of joy, but today has been a mixed day for him. The ultimate reward for his loyalty to president Asif Ali Zardari has been marred by a worrying experience at the Court. The bench headed by the chief justice of the Surpeme Court of Pakistan gave Mr Awan a few shocks. The judges, who have a habit of doing their homework, jogged the generally on-top Awan’s memory about the history of contempt notices against him. Including the one he is facing from the present Court he has got three already. He has also lost the opportunity to appear before the Court in the famous Bhutto execution case—the platform he really wanted to exclusively use for self-projection and legal publicity.
In fact his appearances before the Supreme Court have been suspended till the contempt case against him is decided. But the most problematic sign is that the judges now want to know his educational background and whether his degrees are genuine or not. Now this seems like a trivial pursuit but Mr Awan’s qualification (including his alleged doctorate) has been in the news for sometime, but given the nature of his PR with the media and the promotion that he got by being close to the party co-chairperson somehow he skillfully dodged the controversy. In fact the glamour that he commands before the cameras and the glibness that exhibits when facing the mike seem to be a great cover for whatever deficiency he might have in his academic career.
This time round the issue (or the set of issues he is facing) is here to stay. This Court, which Mr Awan has made a career out of holding in contempt, is not going to let him off the hook. As the Court collects his files of registration with different bars, and gets hold of the record of his degrees, the mystery would eventually be settled whether the law minister, who is all over the place tutoring the public about law, morality, and democracy—not to mention religion whose expertise he professes in a regular tv show—has been truthful about his education.
It may not look like a national issue, but a probable law minister with a contempt notice and suspect educational background looks like a pretty sorry spectacle to me. And this in a country that has produced prodigies like the gem late Arfa Karim, who in such a tender age acquired a global merit that even moved Bill Gates, looks even more scandalous. We should all watch this case carefully. This may yield interesting information about how this system operates and what really is the criterion to make it to the federal cabinet at public expense.