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Plagiarism and literary spying

Plagiarism, world literature and literary spying
Karachi, Aug 17: "If you steal from one author, it's plagiarism; if you steal from many, it's research," goes the well-known witticism. But jokes aside, benefiting from many authors is not plagiarism if proper acknowledgements are made in the reference section and bibliography. However, that's exactly what many don't do - intentionally - pretending that it's their own work and run the risk of attracting the derogatory title of plagiarist.

Plagiarism by definition is the act of taking the work or an idea of someone else and passing it off as one's own. Let me clarify first that the definition quoted above is derived from the Concise Oxford English Dictionary lest I should be accused of the reprehensible practice I am writing about.

When it comes to plagiarism in research papers and PhD theses, Pakistani universities and the Higher Education Commission act quite swiftly and deal with the problem very sternly these days. A few academics have lately been sacked on charges of plagiarism by some universities. Plagiarism, however, has been around for centuries and - if past is any yardstick to predict future patterns - would probably continue to haunt research and higher education institutions for quite some time.

Both the academic world and literary circles have long since been involved in it, in one form or another. For instance, it is a well-known fact that Homer, Shakespeare and Molière "borrowed" themes from old ballads and oral traditions. Dante has apparently drawn heavily from some Islamic and Christian traditions in his "Divine Comedy" which talks of Paradise, Hell and Lucifer, or Iblees. A recent research proves that Dante owes much to Ibn-e-Arabi for his "masterpiece". Ghalib, it is often said, benefited greatly from Persian poetry and many of his Urdu couplets are but an echo of the original Persian couplet - if not a beautiful translation. In the words of J.A. Cuddon, "much plagiarism has been lifting, filching or pirating of other people's works; a very common practice among dramatists during the Elizabethan period when hack-writers blatantly stole the plays of others and presented them as their own. These days [and for long past] such thieving is rare and authors are now fairly well protected by copyright". Well, maybe. But the scholars who have researched such "thieving" tell us that until recently, at least in this part of the world, the curse continued.A few years ago a student of Islamia University, Bahawalpur, was awarded a PhD on his thesis that thoroughly thrashed out the tradition of plagiarism in Urdu. As far as I know, the dissertation has not yet been published, though many like me have been waiting for its publication quite impatiently. But recently, three Urdu publications have discussed plagiarism and going through them makes one see plagiarism in its historical perspective and one realises that plagiarism is as old and widespread as perhaps literature itself.

The first of the three publications is "Sahil", a monthly published from Karachi, but since much of its contents discuss some religious personalities and their "plagiarism", we would rather avoid it. Another publication that carries a very informative research article on plagiarism is "Daryaft", the research journal of Islamabad's National University of Modern Languages (NUML). Written by Prof (Dr) Moinuddin Aqeel and published in Daryaft's 2010 issue, the article says that plagiarism is a global issue and ages old. The examples of plagiarism are found in literature of almost all the languages. Recent research has revealed that some eminent writers who have been involved in plagiarism include Marco Polo and Ibn-e-Batuta, says Dr Aqeel.

But the publication that has thoroughly discussed the much talked-about issue of plagiarism is brought out by Karachi University's Bureau of Composition, Compilation and Translation (BCC&T). The book's title 'Che dilawar ast' is an allusion to a much-quoted event. Legend has it that a king's precious necklace was stolen. Worried, he at night decided to have a 'faal' or cast a spell with the help of Divan of Hafiz of Shiraz to know the fact. (Interestingly, Divan of Hafiz was used by soothsayers for fortune-telling and some still believe in it, hence the title given to Hafiz: lisaan-ul-ghaib, or, literally, "the tongue of the unknown"). The king ordered a maid to bring a lamp so that by its light he could read the divan and take an omen from it. The maid brought the lamp and held it in her hand. The line cast from the book read: Che dilawar ast duzde ke bakaf chiraagh darad which can roughly be translated as: how daring is the thief that has a lamp on his/her palm. The king held the maid responsible for the missing necklace and she admitted to have stolen it.

By alluding to this line, the editors have pointed out that a criminal leaves the marks and signs behind them with which they can be traced. This kind of literary spying was done by a literary magazine named "Mehr-e-neemroz" ('the midday sun' literally). Launched from Karachi in February 1956 by Hasan Musanna Nadvi and Ali Akber Qasid, the magazine decided that enough was enough and the mask from every plagiarist's face be snatched. Abul-Khair Kashfi too joined them and the magazine sent tremors across the literary world of the subcontinent. Some eminent scholars such as Abul-Lais Siddiqi and well-known writers such as Mumtaz Mufti helped the magazine by providing it with hints and raw material while others such as Farman Fatehpuri, Qazi Abdul Wadood and Nazeer Siddiqi contributed articles (or were the "literary detectives", to quote the magazine) in addition to the three editors who sometimes had to finance the magazine that, true to its name, rose and set intermittently.

Some of the articles published in 'Mehr-e-neemroz' unearthed plagiaristic pieces that we would hardly believe in, since they involved some real big and great names.

Some of the articles remained unpublished which also included an article that traces Dante's "Divine Comedy' to Ibn-e-Arabi's 'Futuhaat-e-Makkiya' and tells us that even the minute details have been taken by Dante, sometimes word for word.

Now the BCC&T has compiled all those published and unpublished articles in "Che dilawar ast" along with a very elaborate foreword that not only traces the history of plagiarism in world literature, including Arabic, Persian and some western languages, but also "absolves" some innocent writers who were wrongly charged with the stigma. Dawn

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UoP announces test dates
Peshawar: The University of Peshawar admission test into BS four-year programme for pre-medical students would be held on Monday August 30 at 9am under the National Testing Service, said a spokesman for UoP here on Monday.

The tests of pre-engineering, inter-science and arts students would remain unchanged and for these students the test would be held on August 29 as previously announced. However, the test of pre-engineering would be held on August 29 in the morning session starting from 9am instead of evening session.

For the medical students the change in allocation of the halls would be communicated to them through telephone numbers given in their admission form by the National Testing Service accordingly.

The tests date, timings and halls of the general science and arts group would remain unchanged and these tests would be conducted on August 29 at the times given in students' admission test roll number cards. app

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FDE employees without salary for 16 months
Islamabad: Federal Directorate of Education (FDE) employees, who have not received salary for the last 16 months, are still struggling hard for the payments, as promises made by the Ministry of Education officials remain unfulfilled.

It has been learnt that more than 500 teachers on contract want their salaries as well as regularisation of their services, while the FDE has yet to receive funds from the Accountant General of Pakistan Revenues (AGPR) for teachers and non-teaching staff both, as the AGPR stopped releasing salary grants to them by raising various objections.

The teachers said they had taken out protest rallies and met ministry and FDE officials time and again but they had yet to receive their salaries.

They said deadline given by the ministry and FDE officials to release grants and arrears to the teachers expired on March 15. "Sadly, no progress has been made in this regard so far," they said.

It has been learnt that AGPR stopped payment of salaries to teachers as well as non-teaching staff, as the posts were not created properly and the AGPR had no record pertaining to the posts.

Teachers of different subjects including Computer Sciences, English and non-teaching staff were appointed in different schools and colleges without following the rules and proper creation of posts by the directorate and they have never been regularised despite working for years.

Contracts of some employees have expired and not renewed by the directorate. They are working on the verbal assurances given by the directorate officials.

"We appeal to Minister for Education Sardar Assef Ahmed Ali and Secretary Education Imtiaz Hussain Qazi to ensure release of our salaries as we have been teaching without salaries for the last many months. We have not been getting anything in return. Instead we are paying heavy price for our jobs," remarked a female teacher.

Sources in FDE said thousands of teachers and non-teaching staff were appointed without following the rules of contracts and proper creation of posts by the directorate. "The staff was never regularized. That's why the issue has raised its head now," they explained.

"Whole mess and confusion at the directorate has been created by the retired army officers who ruled the directorate for years. We hear a new story everyday narrating violations of policies and rules," sources added.

When contacted, Acting FDE DG Shaheen Khan, said, "There is no such issue existing now in FDE as majority of cases have been settled amicably," she said. She, however, refused to divulge how the matter stood resolved when employees were still complaining and agitating. Daily times

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