Guardian of plagiarism red-faced in its own backyard

Published: January 22, 2018
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PHOTO: FILE

PHOTO: FILE

ISLAMABAD: The Higher Education Commission (HEC) has been left red-faced in the last few years as the body’s senior management has been found involved in the academic crime of plagiarism.

Recently, it was reported that HEC’s Executive Director Arshad Ali’s research paper was plagiarised more than 50%.

The case has become a talk within the commission as it has already being pressurised to remove the official on ethical grounds.

The research paper which was published in July 2004 was seen as the exact copy of a similar paper authored by Chaitanya Kandagatla from the University of Texas in America which was published in February 2004.

Plagiarism: The plague of pilferage

Following the news, the HEC chief formed a committee to look at the alleged plagiarism. The body confirmed that Ali had copied more than 50% of the content from the original author.

The findings had put the HEC chairperson and the senior management in serious trouble as the executive director is the second most important position in the HEC, as the officer is the principal accounting officer.

Besides representing the HEC on several national and international forums, the executive director also heads the committee which looks into the plagiarism complaints sent to the HEC.

Plagiarism: A symptom, not the disease

So far, the HEC has held three meetings to find ways to address the issue as the crime was committed in the year 2004 when the HEC plagiarism policy was not in place. The current plagiarism policy was bought through an act in 2007.

As per the HEC’s plagiarism policy, if an act of plagiarism has been committed prior to 2007, all the benefits will be taken from the accused, including withdrawal of the paper from the journal and cancellation of the degree if applicable.

Besides, a written apology has to be issued by the author, on a stamp paper, for not using or taking credit of that document in the future.

Found guilty: HEC toothless against own plagiarists

If the act is committed after 2007, all above actions will be taken against the author and disciplinary action will also be launched.

HEC officials, privy to the development, said the chairperson was in a fix over the case as two more years were left for Ali’s tenure to complete.

“The ball is in the chairperson’s court but he is not taking a decision and is buying time through different means,” said one of the officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Meanwhile, the HEC chief told The Express Tribune that there was no pressure on him or the committee.

“The decision will be taken as per the law and we will not compromise on rules and policy,” he concluded.

PK makers now face plagiarism charge

Tainted past

This is not the first time that HEC’s senior officials have been found involved in plagiarism. In January 2014, a three-member inquiry committee found out that 30% of the content of Javaid Laghari’s research paper had been plagiarised from a European Union report.

In fear of embarrassment, the HEC took a long time to blacklist the author as he had served as the commission’s former chairperson. Interestingly, Leghari has apologised through an email but is yet to submit it in writing hence he is still blacklisted on the HEC website.

Similarly, acting Director General of HEC’s Department of Learning Innovation Shaheen Khan’s PhD thesis, submitted to the University of Karachi in 2009, was found to be plagiarised by the committee.

Shockingly, Shaheen also headed the Federal Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education with the degree in the same year.

She also continues to hold her position in the HEC as the university has been reluctant in declaring her thesis plagiarised. For the last eight years, she has been able to avoid any disciplinary action because of stay orders given to her by different courts.

Similarly, HEC’s former member and former vice chancellor of the University of Haripur Nasir Ali Khan was also found to have a plagiarised PhD thesis. Khan has also been using similar tactics to stop the University of Peshawar from revoking his degree.

Interestingly, both Nasir and Shaheen continue to deny that they have committed any such crime.

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