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HEC chief accused of plagiarism

Updated August 21, 2013

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ISLAMABAD, Aug 20: Although it is the responsibility of the Higher Education Commission (HEC) to take action on plagiarism, a research paper allegedly copied from a European Union (EU) report has been moving from one office to another at the HEC without anyone taking action or at least holding an inquiry into it.

The reason behind it is that one of the authors of the research paper was Dr Javaid R. Laghari, the current chairman of the HEC.

On the other hand, the HEC management claims that it is a conspiracy against Dr Laghari because a summary for the extension of his contract is being moved to the prime minister.

An official of the HEC requesting not to be quoted told Dawn that the thesis “Study of Pakistan election system – ‘intelligent e-election’” was written by Mohammad Nadeem and Dr Javaid R. Laghari in 2003 when they were working at SZABIST.

“When the documents were received at the HEC, we checked it on the plagiarism detecting software -Turnitin - and found that 78 per cent content of the research paper was plagiarised.” It may be noted that 20 per cent plagiarism is ranked in the A Category (severe plagiarism). The official added: “We cannot take action on this because one of the authors of the paper is the current chairman of the HEC.”

Another official of the HEC on the condition of anonymity said both the EU report 2002 and the research paper (copy available with Dawn) showed that the research paper was copied from the EU report available on its website.

He said it was mentioned in the curriculum vitae of Dr Laghari (available with Dawn) that he had published “Study of Pakistan election system - ‘intelligent e-election’” in the Journal of Independent Studies and Research (Vol. 1, No 2, July 2003, pp. 2 – 7) along with Dr Mohammad Nadeem.

According to the HEC rules, anyone found involved in plagiarism before 2007 cannot be punished but all the benefits availed because of the plagiarised thesis or research paper would be withdrawn, he added.

A senior officer, however, maintained that Dr Laghari was just a co-author of the research paper. He has never taken any benefit because of that research paper so action cannot be taken against him, he added.

The officer pointed out that the research paper was written in 2003 when there was no policy about plagiarism. “Dr Laghari just supervised that research paper so action can only be taken against Mohammad Nadeem,” he said.He said some political personalities, who were stopped from taking part in the general elections because of fake degrees, had been trying to make Dr Laghari’s personality controversial. They are creating hurdles in extension of his contract as the HEC chief, he said.

Prof Dr Fida Mohammad, a former president of the Federation of All Pakistan Universities Academic Staff Association, said it was a very sensitive issue and the HEC should confirm it carefully.

“Plagiarism is an offence, but I feel that the HEC officials cannot take action in this case so courts or the prime minister can be approached to get a decision,” he said.

Renowned educationist Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy said he had recently been made aware of a paper bearing the names of M. Nadeem and J.R. Laghari. It is acknowledged in the latter’s CV that the paper was his own, he added.

“An inspection shows that it contains direct copies of text lifted from an EU report in 2002. This has been done without acknowledgment, and so appears to fit the definition of plagiarism as specified by HEC’s written guidelines,” said Dr Hoodbhoy.

“In principle, the HEC ought to be asked to investigate the matter. The problem is that one of the authors happens to be the current HEC chairman. Therefore, an independent inquiry is needed,” he said.

This reporter tried to contact the HEC chairman, Dr Laghari, for three days. SMS were sent on his cellphone and even this reporter tried to contact the chairman through his subordinates, but he did not respond.

Dr Mukhtar Ahmed, the executive director HEC, told Dawn that he had been informed by someone about the matter. However, he added that he had not seen the documents.

“I personally asked Dr Laghari about the plagiarism allegation but he denied it and said it was a conspiracy,” he said.

“Although I am not aware of the matter, if plagiarism is proved, it will be unfortunate. The HEC shows zero tolerance against plagiarism,” he said.

In reply to a question, Dr Mukhtar said Dr Laghari should have announced that he was not involved in the writing of that research paper “but if he has been using it in his CV, I only can say that it is unfortunate.”