REHMAN Malik is probably the most mobile and visible minister of the federal cabinet. He has been bravely at the centre of several odd situations, mostly relating to terrorism. Yet he has found the time to help his government and party cut crucial political deals. All his efforts had until now gone unrewarded by the public; instead, he had drawn the wrath of his detractors for his alleged inability to perform his duties as interior minister. In recent times, doubts had been cast over his role with regard to the violence in Karachi. Against this background, a beaming Mr Malik receiving an honorary doctorate from none other than the Karachi University on Tuesday makes so much sense. It signifies Karachi`s recognition of his services.
The problem, a minor one, is that as a former intelligence man, Mr Malik appears to be permanently wedded to mystery wherever he goes. In this particular instance, members of KU`s academic staff have been left searching for clues to the interior minister`s qualification for the doctorate. The award has come at a time when the term of the current vice chancellor of the university is about to end. It is the Sindh governor, who, as the chancellor of the university, has conferred the degree on Mr Malik, while, as per convention, it is the syndicate at an institute that nominates personalities deserving of such an honour. Then, if the doctorate has been awarded without consulting the syndicate or the academic council of the university, there may follow a debate about whether this is against the basic idea of academic freedom. This last one is perhaps the most crucial of all questions and it will be in everyone`s interest that the responsibility for explaining the situation does not, once again, fall on the shoulders of Mr Malik.