Ahmad Yar Khalti* is really worried these days about his daughter’s educational future as well as the money he paid to a “teacher” of an academy to ensure her admission to a medical college a few months back. Though he has been assured of all help, still, he has doubts after reading some news reports appearing in the press recently.
Mr. Khalti, currently living in a posh locality of Lahore, hails from Muzaffargarh district of southern Punjab. He is a zamindar by profession, and owns vast irrigated agricultural lands in his district. Himself educated at a British university, he wanted his eldest daughter to study medicine and become a doctor.
His daughter also has special interest in the field, and she passed her F.Sc. pre-medical examination with very good grades last year. However, she failed to secure the desired score in the MDCAT (medical and dental college admission test), hence failed to get admission to any medical college in the province.
For the 2017-18 session, she started preparation for MDCAT at a famous academy in Johar Town, Lahore, months before the test date. One day, Mr. Khalti’s driver, who used to drop and pick his daughter from the academy told him the academy in-charge wanted to meet him. The message was conveyed by a security guard, and there was nothing unusual in it, as the teacher might have something about his daughter’s studies to discus with him.
However, the meeting proved to be perplexing for him. To his astonishment, the academy teacher told him he could help him secure 100 per cent a medical college seat for his daughter in exchange for a “small amount”. When he expressed doubts, he was promised a meeting with some other parents who had already ‘reserved’ a medical college seat for their children for the upcoming session.
Mr. Khalti was to pay 27 lakh rupees, and a group of people woven in a chain from the academy to a medical college through the University of Health Sciences, would ensure his daughter’s admission “at any cost”. He was asked for 35 lakh rupees, but after a bargain, the deal was done for 27 lakh rupees.
It was part of the deal that the applicant would be provided the question paper one to two weeks prior to the test date. She would also be helped out during test in the examination hall, and if something went wrong despite this arrangement, her answer-sheet would be replaced with that of a candidate who would have secured the desired marks in the test. “Now, it is the only way out for ensuring an admission to a medical college,” he was told. “Now more than 60 per cent of those reaching medical colleges adopt this path.”
Everything went well. His daughter was given three question papers during the last two weeks, and one of those was supposed to be given to her in the examination hall. And then one day before the test date, she was given the final paper. She attempted the paper and returned home happy, sure of a 100 percent result.
However, the next two, three days started unveiling a series of bad news for Ahmad Yar Khalti. Some adventurer had uploaded a section of the “leaked MDCAT paper” to a social media site, and the news spread rapidly.
The news was of great concern for almost all as a large number of people were linked with it directly or indirectly. More than 65,000 candidates including 41,000 female students had appeared for MDCAT on August 20, across Punjab. The test was held simultaneously at 28 centres established in 13 cities – Lahore, Faisalabad, Sahiwal, Multan, Bahawalpur, Rahim Yar Khan, Sargodha, Gujrat, Rawalpindi, Gujranwala, Sialkot, DG Khan and Hassan Abdal.
Prof. Dr. Junaid Sarfraz Khan, the then vice chancellor of the University of Health Sciences, immediately refuted the news and rubbished it as mere rumours. He also contacted the cyber crimes cell of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to track the “hoaxer” who, according to him, had dented the credibility of the institute. But the “rumour” refused to die down.
A group of students moved the Lahore High Court against the alleged leak of the paper. They stated that a teacher at a private college/academy, in connivance with the authorities at the UHS, uploaded the leaked paper and also confessed on his Facebook account to selling the paper to a number of students for Rs. 50,000 each.
Also, a large group of students staged protest demonstrations in different areas of Lahore, including outside the Lahore Press Club, for cancellation of MDCAT results and re-conduct of the test. Various students as well as their parents demanded that the condition to appear in MDCAT for admission to medical and dental colleges be withdrawn, as only students of private tuition centres performed well in it. The academies charge Rs. 30,000 to 50,000 for MDCAT preparation sessions, and everyone could not afford it, they said.
Justice Shahid Waheed of the LHC ordered the University of Health Sciences to withhold the results of Medical & Dental Colleges Admission Test 2017, and sought a report from the provincial government.
After a number of denials, allegations, counter-allegations in the press, and a nerve-wrecking wait of weeks, Khwaja Salman Rafique, Minister for Specialised Healthcare and Medical Education, came with a clear-cut admission. Speaking to the media at the Directorate General Public Relations (DGPR) offices in Lahore, he admitted that a racket was involved in the heinous offence of providing papers to specific aspirants.
The racket comprising employees of UHS, doctors, academics and others was exposed by the Additional Inspector General Commandant, Punjab Constabulary, Hussain Asghar-led inquiry team, which proved that MDCAT-2017 paper was leaked. Hassan Bhatti, Evaluation/Monitoring Office, Tauseef Iqbal, Naib Qasid, Mian Kashif Imran (husband of Saima Tabbasum, UHS Deputy Controller of Examination), Dr. Haider Jatoi, Dr. Inam, Anas Rehman, etc., were identified as the culprits, and arrested.
One Abdul Haseeb of Star Academy was also arrested for posting information about leakage of MDCAT paper through his Facebook account titled “Ya mbbs ha mamu”.
An FIR (first information report) was registered, according to the minister, and UHS Vice-Chancellor Prof. Dr. Junaid Safraz Khan was sent on forced leave to probe his role in the crime. Also the provincial government appointed Prof. Dr. Faisal Masood as the acting VC of the University of Health Sciences.
The inquiry report, submitted to the Punjab chief minister, revealed that the accused doctors/academics used to first identify influential candidates from different districts in the province. They would contact them and promise them success in the entry test against a hefty amount ranging from two to three million rupees, each.
Hussain Asghar told Cutting Edge by telephone that statements of Adil Khaliq (co-owner Star Academy), Salman Maqsood (MD KIPS) and Muhammad Tahir Iqbal (Director Star Academy) and Abdul Hafeez, (Franchise Star Academy Rahim Yar Khan) were also recorded during the investigation. These statements helped a great deal in exposing the culprits, he added.
This year, the candidates are competing for 3,405 MBBS seats in 17 public sector medical colleges and 216 BDS seats in three public dental colleges of the province. Besides, there are 2,590 MBBS seats available in 21 private medical colleges and 555 BDS seats in nine private dental colleges, affiliated with the university.
The UHS has announced re-conduct of MDCAT on October 29, without charging any extra fee from students.
All these high-profile happenings, especially the outcome of the inquiry and the arrest of over a dozen “culprits” has really unnerved Ahmad Yar Khalti. The persons, who had promised him all help and his daughter’s admission to a medical college, had also gone underground meanwhile. At one stage, he believed that all his money had gone waste, and his daughter’s admission would also not be possible.
However, during the past week he received some consolation when he was contacted by one of the academy men. He was told that the issue was almost resolved, as the Naib Qasid at the UHS had “claimed” responsibility for this fiasco. He was assured that either his daughter would be admitted to a medical college “at any cost”, or his money would be returned. His trust was further restored in the authenticity of the claim when a news item appeared in a section of the press that “the Naib Qasid had done it all”.
*. First two words of the name changed on request