On April 22, 2012, residents of Kararian locality reported to police of stinking smell coming out of a house rented by Mr. Tariq Mehmood. Police arrived to witness a triple murder scene as Tariq Mehmood, 55, Tabasum Tariq, 45, and son Saad Tariq, 19 were found bludgeoned to death inside their house.
The circumstances led police to believe that the victims were hammered to death around four or five days back and the killer(s) hid the bodies in a windowless room. After examining the evidence obtained from the scene, police concluded that nobody other than the residents of the doomed house came inside to commit the crime and hence arrested Waqas Tariq, 22, who is a college student. Waqas had claimed in his initial statement that two persons had entered the house, murdered his family and also injured him.
According to the police, Waqas confessed to killing his brother and parents and told that his parents used to scold and taunt him due to his repetitive failure in CA (Chartered Accountancy) examinations, so on Thursday evening he hammered his father to death and then proceeded to kill his brother and mother. City Police Officer (CPO) Azhar Hameed Khokhar was quoted saying:
“All evidences had been washed by the accused and the bodies were dumped in a room which was tightly closed. Had any enmity been the motive behind the triple murder, the suspect would have also been killed or injured but he remained unharmed.”
ASI Shaukat Mehmood, reached the crime scene before anyone else, he said:
“As I entered the room, I saw clothes and other household items scattered inside and bed mattresses lying on the floor. As I removed the mattresses, I found the bodies inside.”
It is court’s job to decide whether Waqas Tariq was guilty of the horrendous crime or he recorded the statement to escape the typical questioning techniques of our police, but let’s analyze the problems faced by CA students and see whether the demands of a professional course are depressing enough to depress someone to an extent to commit such crime.
Chartered Accountancy is considered as one of the most prestigious qualifications in Pakistan. The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Pakistan governs Chartered Accountancy in Pakistan, it was established under The Chartered Accountants Ordinance, 1961 as a self regulatory body and it operates under the CA Bye Laws 1983. CA consists of 6 modules; Module A,B, C, D, E & F. Module A & B are termed as Foundation; C & D as Intermediate and D & F as Final. A student has to pass all modules and complete a mandatory training period (normally referred to as articles) of three and a half years from a CA Firm to become a Chartered Accountant. The demands of professional studies and commitment required in a qualification like CA are far treacherous than the level of commitment required in Intermediate and A-Levels, thus most of the students find it extremely difficult to adjust their timetable to match the level of hard work required in the field. Thus, a large number of students fail in the foundation stage and leave CA to pursue education in other fields which demand or are considered to be demanding lesser commitment than CA.
As the students get mature and they progress beyond the foundation stage to the intermediate, the prospect of joining a firm starts to become a reality and eventually converts itself to a motivation as students start working hard with a newfound energy to secure training contract in a reputable firm and finally qualify as a Chartered Accountant.
What cannot be seen or felt by anyone other than the person pursuing Chartered Accountancy is the dilemma of repeated failure. Imagine you have been an above average student throughout school and college the possibility of failing has never been a real threat to you and having worked considerably harder than in intermediate, you fail in your very first attempt in Module A. The effects are disastrous, students get depressed and parents become outrageous without embarking on an effort to explore the reasons behind the failure.
The problem is compounded by the fact that most of the colleges/ RAETs (Registered Accounting Education Tutors) offer no system of guiding students or helping them identify their mistakes and focus on them to pass their examinations. The only solution advised by teachers is to take classes again and solve past papers to ensure success in examinations, the fact that the student might lack in a particular skill is totally ignored and hence any subject become a source of humility and depression for the student. Appointment of Teaching Assistants have started in various colleges, but usually TAs are senior students who may be able to explain some topics but lack the skill of acting as a mentor and problem solver for students working hard and still facing failure. Institute of Chartered Accountants of Pakistan organizes different seminars and workshops to help students understand examination techniques and understand important areas in the syllabus but the identification of problems and specific guidance is not provided, hence the failure rate. It is recommended that ICAP should appoint certain persons as counselors and require RAETs to appoint full time counselors to help students identify and finally resolve their problems. Moreover, ICAP should communicate such decisions to Foundation and Intermediate students in an appropriate manner to ensure that every student knows the existence of such counselors.
Students passing CA Inter examinations are faced with the dilemma to find a firm for articles, once again guidance is not available if they don’t have a family member or close friend who can help them find and choose firms. The Pakistani culture of ‘reference’ rules the day when it comes to hiring in any reputable firm and hence those without reference have to wait for months before finally recognizing that they should start looking for articles in smaller firms. ICAP should take the responsibility to place all students in firms after completion of CA Inter.
Passing exams become really hard after CA Inter as students join different CA Firms for articles. Trainee students can give exams not earlier than 18 months after commencement of their training period; hence a long break destroys the momentum built by years’ hard work. Except a few large firms, trainee students are treated merely as animals of work without any regard to their professional studies and career. According to ICAP’s instructions, the Partner (of the firm in which the student is registered as a trainee student) should act as a mentor and guide students towards professional excellence, but this seldom happens. Students are required to work extremely hard in their treacherous three and a half years of training period, late sittings are a norm and students are not allowed to take classes as they are expected to sit late and complete extraordinary amount of work. The misery of trainee students is compounded when they are not granted sufficient leaves and after a break of more than one and a half year without appearing in any exams, students find it very difficult to complete the course and pass exams due to difficulties in attending classes as stated earlier.
Another problem face faced by students is lack of standardized study material for CA students. ICAP has failed to produce text books for students and instead recommends a number of books as recommended for exams. ICAP should recognize its responsibility and arrange the preparation of self-designed textbooks for CA students and ensure that examiners follow ICAP’s own textbooks while preparing question papers. CA trainee students are probably exploited more than any other trainee pursuing a professional education. Trainee students are paid a meager sum of Rs. 6,500 for their monthly work which normally includes sitting late, missing classes, reporting to office on weekends and holidays. ICAP’s regulations state that students should be paid reasonable over-time for their work but this regulation is blatantly ignored by firms as they continue the exploitation of trainee students. During five and a half years of pursuing CA (which are usually extended to 7-8 years), 3.5 years are spent as a trainee student in which phase most of the students move to their mid twenties. Those belonging to middle class families, especially those who leave their family residence for training face severe financial difficulties as families start expecting that after 4-5 years their son will start contributing some money to support the family. The expectations fall to ground when trainee students can’t meet their expenses and cannot even think of paying tuition fees for taking Module E & F classes. A minimal increase in the stipend will be applicable from July 2012 which will see stipend increase to about Rs. 8,000, which is still insufficient for an outstation student who has to bear expenses such as bills, food cost, tuition and examination fees.
Although the council members of ICAP are partners of firms and will be directly affected by the decision of increased stipends, but ICAP must take the responsibility and increase the stipend to a level where trainee students can sustain themselves without any financial help from their families.
The problems faced by students pursuing Chartered Accountancy may be huge, the results may be depressive and taunts unbearable… but great gains require great pains. The act of Waqas (if he has done so) cannot be justified but ICAP should take its responsibilities seriously and take the steps recommended earlier.
The author, Bilal Mahmood Sulehri is a CA trainee student and can be reached at [email protected]