The extra 20: SC asks why Hafiz-e-Quran students have edge over others

    The Supreme Court (SC) has issued notices to the Pakistan Medical Commission and others to submit replies on a court query as to why 20 extra marks should be given to Hafiz-e-Quran students for admissions in professional colleges.

    “Why should a hafiz-e-Quran student (a person who memorises the Holy Quran) be given extra marks for university admissions?” Justice Qazi Faez Isa said on Monday.

    “We believe that memorising the Quran is sacred. And it is a plus point when someone wants to become the imam of a mosque or a religious lecturer. But how can a hafiz-e-Quran be a better doctor?”

    The apex court dismissed the petition of a student from the Bolan University of Medical and Health Sciences, Quetta, who had petitioned the top court after he was denied admission.

    At a hearing on January 8, the petitioner said that if he is given 20% additional marks for being a hafiz-e-Quran, he would be easily enrolled to the varsity on merit. When the petitioner’s lawyer pointed out that this was a sensitive matter, Justice Isa asked why was he worrying. “Religion makes things easier for us,” he remarked.

    According to the official website of Punjab’s prison service, Muslim convicts who memorise the Holy Quran can gain sentence remissions of between six months and two years.

    In 1987, the government passed a law under which Hafiz-e-Quran candidates are awarded 20 extra marks at every level after matriculation. Minorities say it is discriminatory as non-Muslim students don’t have any such facility for admissions in professional colleges and jobs under the Public Service Commission.

    Rights activist & educationist Dr AH Nayyar agreed.

    “This is religious discrimination. The policy of awarding additional marks violates rights of deserving students — both non-Muslims and Muslims. Despite not being on merit, it facilitates countless in getting admission in a delicate profession like medicine. People of other religions have no equivalent advantage,” he told Kross Konnection.

    “These are a remnant of former military ruler Zia-ul-Haq (who started a programme of Islamisation in the 1980s) and had no logic. The authorities struggle to remove them. Time should come when they should announce that the credit of being a Hafiz-e-Quran is for the afterlife.”

    Catholic professor Anjum James Paul, chairman of the Pakistan Minorities Teachers’ Association, has been struggling against this policy since 2004.

    “This discrimination is against equality. There are even 5 marks for government jobs in lower grades,” he said.

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