Fake PhD Maria Sultan served as professor on nuclear policy in National Defence University – PhD matters: Fake it if you can’t make it


ISLAMABAD: Dr. Maria Sultan recently pointed towards a peculiar paradox. It is simply ironic that Pakistan has no great thinker in the social sciences of Dr. Allama Iqbal’s caliber who had conceived the idea of this nation-state, she said, attributing this sorry affair to the lack of research.

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That Dr. Maria has vocalized these concerns is equally ironic. If you ask about the institution which awarded her PhD, she appears to have forgotten. Nevertheless, she is a renowned name in social sciences being defense analyst and director general of South Asian Strategic Stability Institute.

Another irony: she is a vice chancellor of MY University owned by the family of WaqasAkram Sheikh, former education minister whose fake educational credentials made headlines three years ago.


Maria is not alone facing allegations of faking PhD, there are many dubious doctors successfully surviving in a country where around 8,988 PhDs have been produced since 2002 against only 3,000 in 1947-2001 period. Pakistan’s quality of higher education has received 124th slot in the ranking of 140 countries, according to the latest Global Competitiveness Report of World Economic Forum.


While there is no serious attempt to cleanse the academia from fake elements who doctor degrees and plagiarize research papers, isolated efforts brought to spotlight the reality of some of them. Dr Maria Sultan is included among them.


Quaid-i-Azam University’s Defense Strategic Studies Department wanted to name her in its board of studies and doctoral degree was a compulsory qualification to become a board member. Dr.RiffatHussain, then head of this department, received queries from the colleagues raising questions about her PhD; she would then claim to have done this from Bradford University, UK.


A letter written for verification returned with this answer: “Maria Sultan doesn’t hold a doctorate from the University of Bradford. She was registered as a PhD student in the Department of Peace Studies but never made satisfactory progress in the preliminary stages. She is not currently registered as a PhD student with us.”


The idea to include her in the board of studies was subsequently dropped but she has stopped short of dropping ‘Dr’ from her name like several others including Dr. Babar Awan whose PhD-awarding Monticello University has already been proven fraud.


Taking Wikipedia a guide, Maria did PhD from the University of Bradford and her thesis contained work on “Pakistan’s nuclear arms controls policy process.”


As The News rang Maria to ask about the university awarded her doctoral degree, she was reluctant to divulge this best-kept secret. Initially she said she did from Surrey (a county in the neighborhood of London). When inquired about the university, she didn’t answer. Asked if she did from the University of Bradford, she was reluctant to reveal and instead advised this correspondent to “write whatever you want.”


Notwithstanding the fact that her PhD status was unclear, she has served as professor on

nuclear policy in National Defense University; regularly appears in talk-shows with ‘doctor’ tagging along her name and is now serving as vice chancellor of the private university the charter of which was hurriedly approved by WaqasAkram Sheikh, the owner who was then education minister. The charter of another university owned by Maria herself (Sassi) was also pushed through the Parliament then. It has not been launched yet.


While Waqas family owns MY University, former principle secretary to Prime MinisterSaeed Mehdi is its chancellor and renowned scientist Dr. Samar Mubarak Mand is patron.


As Muslim Youth University (commonly known as MY University) has been launched under Maria’s leadership, the HEC requirements relating to faculty are still unfulfilled. Engineering programmes are being taught without having sufficient numbers of PhDs that should be minimum three for one programme whereas there is one each for three programmes. The HEC rules require 100-kanal land for the university but MY University is confined to a plaza.


Maria isn’t the only one facing questions about academic integrity. Senator Babar Awan’s PhD was proved bogus yet he has the audacity to use it with his name.


The News has reported about an ongoing inquiry against Chairman Higher Education Commission Punjab Dr.Nizamuddin in a scandal of dubious degrees issued under his watch as vice chancellor, University of Gujrat.


A related report is about the short-listed candidates for four universities in Punjab. Included among them is one considered hot favorite for the slot of women universities at a time when her research claims are not complemented by real work. A detailed examination of the shortlisted candidates revealed an interesting trend: the higher one’s score on academic side, the lower marks one got in interview apparently indicating how the choice candidates will be inducted on ‘merit’.


Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy had a story to tell about a dean at Quaid-i-Azam University “caught red-handed while faking referee reports for his PhD students”. He admitted guilt but was not terminated. Later he served as vice chancellors of two different universities.