Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Christian student files petition against 20 marks for Hafiz-e-Quran students

The Daily Times of Pakistan


By Ali Waqar LAHORE: A Christian student has filed a constitutional writ petition to the Lahore High Court (LHC) for instant action, under Section 151 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), against the policy of awarding 20 additional marks to a Muslim hafiz-e-Quran (who has learnt the Quran by heart) candidate for admission in the MBBS and others, saying that it was discrimination against minority students and a violation of fundamental rights granted by the Constitution of Pakistan.

The petition, which is the first of its kind, has demanded the LHC either abolish the policy or make a parallel policy of awarding 20 additional marks to minority students for MBBS admission on the basis of their religious knowledge/study.

Qandeel, a Christian and daughter of Benjamin Robert Sultan, filed the petition through her counsel Rana Aamir Iftikhar and Waseem Ahmed Shahzad against the King Edward Medical College principal, who is also the Admissions Board chairman, and the Punjab Health Department. She has also asked the LHC to grant her a stay and restrain the Admissions Board and Punjab government from commencing MBBS 2005-06 academic session classes in medical colleges of Punjab till the final disposal of the petition because the selection of students for admission in medical colleges had been made on basis of discrimination and ignoring the rights of the petitioner (minority representative).

The hearing of the petition is scheduled on November 28.

The petitioner’s counsel said Qandeel also had merit certificates to prove her proficiency and knowledge of Christianity and thus should be given 20 additional marks for her selection in a medical college on an open merit seat. They said the Punjab government and the admission board be ordered to make a permanent policy under the law for additional marks on equal basis to both Muslim and non-Muslim students.

Qandeel demanded the court that she be declared a selected candidate in the MBBS and be allowed to deposit admission fee.

According to documents submitted, Qandeel is a brilliant student and scored A+ and A grades in the examination under the education examination board. She scored 820 marks out of the total 1,100 in the intermediate examination (FSc) and qualified for the entry test (for admissions in MBBS/BDS) in Punjab’s medical colleges. She got a total of 77.97 percent in the final selection merit but the last seat on the open merit was given to a student with 78.51 percent marks, depriving her from admission because of a marginal difference of 0.538 percent marks. Qandeel would get admission on open merit if she were awarded 20 additional marks given to Hafiz-e-Quran candidates, her counsel said.

Qandeel, a resident of Sialkot Road, Khokherki (Gujranwala), belongs to a lower middle class family and cannot afford admission on self-finance basis. The counsel said that being a Pakistani citizen, she had the right to be treated equally and be given protection under the Constitution. The Article 25 of the Constitution ensures fairness and equality in the state’s action, so there should be an equal education policy for all citizens without discriminating them on the basis of sex, religion, creed and caste, the counsel said.

There are no reserved seats for minorities in the medical colleges of Punjab because reserved seats in these colleges have been allocated for the under-developed districts, Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), Azad Jammu and Kashmir, and disabled persons.