A former head of the country’s higher education watchdog has been found ‘guilty’ of academia’s greatest crime — plagiarism.
A probe committee has found that 30 per cent of the content of a research paper authored former Higher Education Commission (HEC) chairperson Javed Laghari was plagiarised from a European Union (EU) report.
An HEC official said that the research paper was copied from a 2002 EU report which is still available online.
Interestingly enough, Laghari — who remained HEC chairman for four years until his contract expired on August 27 last year — has reapplied for the post along with over 100 others.
The three-member committee, headed by University of Agriculture Faisalabad Vice Chancellor Dr Iqrar Ahmad Khan, has completed its probe after including Laghari defence on the issue. Sources said that the findings of the probe will be sent to the HEC further action.
Under HEC rules, severe plagiarism was defined as 20 per cent of the work being unfairly copied. However, under the HEC policy, anybody found guilty of plagiarism before 2007 cannot be punished because the anti-plagiarism policy was adopted that year and was not retroactive, while Lagari along and his co-author produced the research paper in 2003.
This was also corroborated by Dr Ahmed who said that the plagiarism was done before the anti-plagiarism policy was adopted on September 27, 2007.
Ahmad confirmed that they detected the plagiarism by using plagiarism-checking software, and according to him, 30 per cent of the content of the paper was plagiarised. He said that such old plagiarism cases were not entertained under the current HEC policy. “If action is taken against such papers, there are other hundreds of other plagiarised papers from past decades which will have to come under HEC scrutiny, which is an impossible task,” he said.
Interestingly, despite being head of the probing team, he felt that the entire exercise was a “conspiracy” against Laghari.
The paper by Laghari and Mohammad Nadeem was published in the Journal of Independent Studies and Research in July 2003. Laghari presented the same paper at a national research conference held in Karachi in 2003 while he was teaching at Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto Institute Science and Technology (SZABIST).
While speaking to The Express Tribune, Laghari claimed that it was not a research paper but only an article. He
added that he did not contribute to the piece and only provided the data the Nadeem needed.
Laghari also said that the case did not fall under the HEC plagiarism policy as it was published in a magazine, adding “I never benefited from it and the co-author included my name without my knowledge.”
However, the research paper also figures in his curriculum vitae, still available on HEC website.