Karachi University plagiarism cases & administration

No decision yet in KU plagiarism cases
Karachi, Sept 21: The Karachi University administration is moving at a snail's pace to decide the two plagiarism cases involving three senior teachers, giving rise to speculations that officials might have struck "compromises" to give maximum benefits to the accused, it has been learnt.

Interviews with university teachers indicated that the prolonged procedure adopted by the administration to institute inquiries into the cases was unprecedented in the institution's plagiarism history.

While plagiarism charges against two professors proved twice during the proceedings, which continued for almost two years, no action has been taken against them so far. Both teachers retired last year.

Rejecting the media reports in January that the KU syndicate had "spared" the retired teachers, KU vice-chancellor Prof (Dr) Pirzada Qasim Raza Siddiqui had told this reporter that the syndicate "has sought a legal advice in the matter. So, it is not correct to report that the syndicate has declined to take action [against the retired teachers]."

More than seven months have passed, but the legal advice is still awaited. The retired teachers are: Prof (Dr) Saeed Arayne and his wife Prof (Dr) Najma Sultana, a former chairman of chemistry department and an ex-dean of pharmacy faculty, respectively.

The other case of plagiarism relates to Prof (Dr) Jalaluddin Ahmed Noori, a dean of Islamic studies faculty, against whom a number of allegations have been raised time and again.

It is worth noting that Karachi University looks into plagiarism cases under the rules and regulations related to misconduct because the university does not have a plagiarism policy.

Multiple inquiries
The university had initiated an internal inquiry to establish whether plagiarism had actually been committed by the three teachers.

A nine-member committee found the level of plagiarism as "major" in the case related to Prof Arayne and Prof Sultana, stating that there was evidence of "several other cases of plagiarism by Prof Arayne."

High-level plagiarism was also found to be committed by Prof Noori whose case was investigated by Dr Rizwan Ali Nadvi, a research scholar and KU examiner.

While a contract teacher, Dr Zakia Bibi, was sacked on plagiarism charges, the three senior teachers were suspended after the findings of the committee were approved in a syndicate meeting in May 2009. Prof Arayne and Prof Sultana were research supervisors to Dr Zakia in the same case.

Then, the university requested retired justices Haziq-ul-Khairi and Saleem Akhtar to investigate the cases and establish the charges. However, the mandate given to the retired justices didn't include recommendation of penalties.

As a result of this inquiry, plagiarism charges were again established.

In January this year, the university decided to appoint retired justice Nadeem Azhar Siddiqui as an inquiry officer in Prof Noori's case while a legal advice, according to the vice chancellor, was sought in the case relating to Prof Arayne and Prof Sultana.

Senior university teachers question the reasons for conducting multiple inquiries into the two cases. "Once the scale of plagiarism had been decided through an internal inquiry, the university should have appointed an inquiry officer to wrap up the case rather than going for a third inquiry," a teacher said. The teachers said that the prolonged inquiries helped the suspended professors to get full perks and privileges.

Despite repeated attempts, the vice chancellor could not be contacted for comments.

Probe report
A top official of the university, however, said that the Prof Noori's case proceedings had been completed and its report would be presented in a syndicate meeting within the next two weeks.

He was of the opinion that the university could not take action against retired teachers and their case stood closed. "It's enough humiliation that they retired with charges of plagiarism. Their names have been listed on the Higher Education Commission's website that shows them as plagiarists. They are no more eligible for a teaching job at any institution," he said.

Senior KU teachers, however, argued that the teachers were very much in service when the cases were initiated against them and the university could easily penalise them by withholding their pension, gratuity benefits or provident funds as was stated in the KU code.

According to the university code: "Subject to any order of the authority or of the chancellor, as the case may be, made on compassionate grounds, a university employee who is removed or dismissed shall not be entitled to any pension, provident fund or gratuity benefits accruing from university contributions to his provident fund account."

While the university has not taken any action against the senior regular teachers, it immediately sacked the contract teacher on plagiarism charges without even serving a show-cause. Dr Zakia, who did her research under Prof Arayne and Prof Sultana, had also been listed on the HEC website.

Giving a brief about the history of plagiarism at the KU, teachers said that charges in such cases were proved many times in the past but hardly ever a punishment was awarded. "Usually, an inquiry committee comprising one or two members are set up to investigate a matter which is later hushed up," a teacher said.

In some cases, he added, teachers were asked to "rectify" their PhD thesis after degrees had been awarded to them.

Two such cases were related to Prof Noori (1994) and Dr Mehmood Ghaznavi (1998) of the mass communication department. Prof Noori was awarded a PhD degree in 1989. In 1994, he submitted the "rectified" version, which was again found to be plagiarised upon examination by Dr Rizwan Ali Nadvi in 2008.

However, the university failed to take any action against Prof Noori. The professor is also accused of holding dual national identity cards inscribed with different dates of birth. He was once demoted on this allegation, but later exonerated in a subsequent inquiry.

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