LAHORE, Nov 13: The former secretary of Punjab higher education department Ahmad Cheema, who is currently Lahore district coordination officer, on Saturday appeared before a judicial commission probing into intermediate results fiasco and defended education boards’ former IT consultant Dr Majid Naeem, allegedly responsible for the whole episode.
In his statement, Mr Cheema said Dr Naeem was an honest and hardworking officer and was not responsible for the incorrect results issued by the boards. He said the task given to Dr Naeem was only to provide a computerised system to be utilised by employees concerned of all the eight boards for preparation of the results. He said the board employees
did not cooperate with the consultant and intentionally failed the project.
The former higher education secretary pointed out that Dr Naeem successfully got prepared two previous results with less than 25 per cent errors.
Mr Cheema said a mafia comprising handful employees of the education boards was behind the whole chaos and the propaganda campaign launched against the consultant.
To a query of the inquiry judge, he maintained that Dr Naeem’s appointment was not based on any political consideration and that he (Cheema) had nothing to do with the posting. However, he could not produce Dr Naeem’s appointment letter. Later, Lahore BISE acting-chairman Allah Bukhsh Malik said in his statement that Mr Cheema, being
higher education secretary, was the competent authority with regard to hiring of Dr Naeem and they both (Mr Cheema & Dr Naeem) were responsible for the results mess.
Mr Malik further said the board administration and employees fully cooperated with Dr Naeem and struggled to make the computerised system successful. But, he said, there were many inherent flaws in the system software.
When the judge asked Mr Malik whether the board officials brought the matter into notice of government authorities, he replied the authorities concerned were informed verbally, however, no written complaint was lodged.
At this the judge remarked, “Your minor mistake played havoc with the future of innocent students:” Mr Malik regretted and admitted that he committed a great mistake by not lodging a complaint in writing and in time. He was asked to file his written reply on the next hearing.
Boards’ suspended chairman Akram Kashmiri who also appeared before the commission, said he was illegally suspended as he had no role in the matter. He said the system was enforced through incompetent people who could not handle it. He said the computerised system was good but the software introduced by Dr Naeem was defective.
He said he had been verbally conveying his reservations to the authorities concerned but no action was taken.
Lahore board employees’ union president Aslam Gujjar stated before the commission that he had been pointing out the flaws in the system but the authorities remained indifferent.
Gujjar also presented the result card of a student, Shahzad Ahmed, who had committed suicide after he was wrongly declared ‘fail’, but later it transpired that he passed the exam by securing 454 marks.
He also produced a circular issued by the higher education department wherein the employees of all boards were directed to strictly follow the computerised system. Without mentioning the name of the system in charge (Dr Naeem), the circular warned the employees of strict action under PEEDA rules if any resistance was offered against the system.
Some other officials of the Lahore board also informed the
commission that Dr Naeem was given the task because of Ahad Cheema’s influence who had been giving him undue favours throughout his tenure as the secretary concerned.
The commission was informed that result of 80,000 students was erroneous out of total of 124,653 candidates who appeared for the examinations.
Countering the allegations leveled by board officials and employees, Dr Majid Naeem said he was responsible only for providing or introducing the system. He said the project software was designed by a US company and was internationally recognised.
He alleged that the ‘Booti mafia’ operating inside education boards sabotaged the computerisation for its vested interests. He said the boards’ administration did not take action against the mafia fearing reaction of employees’ union.
He said that he volunteered his services for education sector and got no money for the project.
The inquiry judge asked Dr Naeem to submit his national tax number (NTN) and tax details when, answering a query, he said that he had not paid any tax for the running year as his income was zero. The doctor was also directed to submit his academic certificates.
Justice Chaudhry Shahid Saeed adjourned the hearing till Monday and directed all the officials present in the court to file their written statements.Dawn.