ISLAMABAD, July 6: The Higher Education Commission (HEC) has blacklisted a faculty member of the International Islamic University Islamabad (IIUI) for plagiarism.

The decision was taken after the IIUI did not respond to a number of reminders sent to it by the commission to take action against the teacher. His name has also been mentioned in the website of the HEC.

According to documents available with Dawn, on December 11, 2012, Zia Batool, the director general quality assurance at the HEC, sent a letter to the IIUI president, stating that Daniel J. Costello, a representative of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), Japan, had complained to the commission that Assistant Professor Mohammad Sher had committed level one (severe) plagiarism in their publication services and products board (PSPB) operation manual.

Ms Batool requested the university to take up the case as per policy and investigate the matter within 90 days.

An official of the HEC requesting not to be named said the IEEE had lodged the complaint in September 2012 seeking action against Dr Sher for publishing a plagiarised research paper “Application of error control coding” in their journal on October 6, 1998.

“The IEEE also sent us the soft copy of the research paper and we checked it through Turnitin (plagiarism detection software) and found that there was a level I (severe) plagiarism. The research paper was plagiarised from different papers of the IEEE.”

It is worth mentioning that Dr Sher, who was given the best university teacher award by the HEC in 2008, was also caught for plagiarism in 2011. However, at that time, Dr Sher apologised to the HEC in writing before action could be taken against him.

He maintained that he never used the thesis in question.

An official of the university said a meeting of the board of governors of the university was already scheduled for July 6 in which its members - former ambassador to the US Sherry Rehman, former minister Samina Khalid Ghurki and Justice Shahzado Shaikh of the Federal Shariat Court - were likely to participate.

“We have decided to inform them about the issue to discuss it because at the moment admissions are under process at the university and involvement of a faculty member in plagiarism will affect the reputation of the institution,” he said.

Dr Sher got promotion as a professor because of the research paper which turned out to be plagiarised and according to rules his promotion can be withdrawn, he said.

An official of the HEC on the condition of anonymity said as per standard operating procedure (SOP), the university was informed to constitute an inquiry committee and submit a report to the HEC within three months. The director general HEC sent a letter to the university and later a letter was also sent to the IIUI by the HEC chairperson but the university did not take any action.

“As a last option, we have decided to blacklist the faculty member and have placed his name in the website of the university. Now it’s up to the university management whether it takes action against the teacher or not,” he said.

In reply to a question, the official said: “The HEC can only stop funds to the university. In 2007, we received a similar complaint from foreigner scholars against six faculty members of the University of Punjab. But the university did not take any action against them so we stopped its funding due to which the whole university staff and students suffered. Now we have decided not to stop fund to any university,” he said.

Munir Ahmed, the HEC focal person for all universities regarding plagiarism, while talking to Dawn confirmed that Dr Sher had been blacklisted.

An official of the HEC said so far nine faculty members of different universities have been blacklisted. They include Dr Jalaluddin Noori, dean Islamic Studies, University of Karachi; Aijaz Ahmed Gujjar, Islamia University, Bahawalpur; Shabnum Sharif, a graduate of AJK University; Dr Abdul Sattar Almani, Mohammad Aslam Kamboh and Mohammad Aslam Chaudhry of the University of Sindh, Jamshoro.

“Dr Kamaluddin Ahmed of LUMS, Lahore, and Suleman Memon of MUET, Jamshoro, were also blacklisted but they moved the courts against the decision and their cases are under trial,” he said.

When contacted, Prof Dr Mohammad Sher said the HEC had blacklisted him because the IIUI failed to complete its inquiry into the matter.

“It is a routine practice with the HEC and I am sure that during the inquiry I will be declared innocent. I will not approach the court because the inquiry will prove that there was nothing wrong with my thesis,” he added.

Rector IIUI Prof Dr Mohammad Masoom Yasinzai while talking to Dawn said he had instructed the vice-president of the university to set up a committee to probe the matter and submit the report to the HEC but the matter was delayed.

“Now I will personally take up the issue. I will have to see if there was a minor or major plagiarism and then a final decision will be taken.” He said there were different penalties/punishments for different categories of plagiarism.