Punjab University continues plagiarism case against teacher, exonerated by Higher Education Commission (HEC)
Lahore: Punjab University administration does not stop the inquiry into a case of alleged plagiarism against its most senior professor despite the fact that he has been exonerated by the Higher Education Commission (HEC).
Punjab University Syndicate had ordered an inquiry, through an inquiry committee, against Prof Dr Harris Rashid, accusing him of plagiarism when he was co-author of an article (retracted in 2007), written in 2005.
Prof Dr Harris Rashid, Dean Faculty of Science and Director Centre for Higher Energy Physics (CHEP), was implicated in plagiarism in 2013, through an unsigned application of the incumbent VC, which he had submitted in 2006 and until Tuesday (August 27th, 2013), he had not signed. It’s strange that over an unsigned application, the highest body of the university, The Syndicate, had ordered an inquiry into the case in its meeting of 4th May, 2013. A similar kind of application was also moved against Prof Harris in early 2013 in the Syndicate on the same charges by the former head of PU Physics Department, Prof Dr Shaukat Ali, whom the Lahore High Court had barred a few months back on the charges of forgery. His application was not entertained by the Syndicate at that time, citing different reasons. Sources in the HEC informed that on July 1, 2013, the HEC, through a letter, Reference No: HEC/QA/2013/1017, informed the PU administration that plagiarism case against Prof Harris was processed as per policy and it stood closed.
“As per record available, the plagiarism case reported against Prof Harris in 2006 was processed as per policy, it stands closed on the basis that it does not fall in the category of plagiarism,” the letter reads.
The sources disclosed that even on Monday (August 26, 2013), a three-member enquiry committee, headed by Prof Shakoori, had held its meeting on the matter and summoned Prof Dr Harris for an explanation.
Prof Shakoori, a few weeks earlier said that he did not know any latest development regarding the plagiarism case when asked about the HEC’s letter. He had further claimed that the PU administration had not informed him about any such letter. “If the HEC has cleared him (Prof Harris), the case would be taken back,” Shakoori had stated.
Interestingly, not only the application, on whose basis the inquiry was initiated, was unsigned but the same application contained two different dates. One, which chairman enquiry committee sent to Prof Harris on June 3, 2013, contained the date of September 10, 2006 and the application which was presented in the Syndicat’s meeting of May 4, contained the date of September 6, 2007. Adding insult to the injury for the PU administration, the chief librarian of the Punjab University when undertook Turnitin Originality Report of that article to evaluate plagiarism charges on April 29, 2013, the Similarity Index of that article was counted 19 percent which, according to the HEC rules, was permissible. Turnitin is a test carried out to check plagiarism under the guidelines of HEC. According to Turnitin, “If the report has similarity index 19% then benefit of the doubt is given to the author (s).”
The vice-chancellor in the meeting on May 4, 2013 had insisted that plagiarised content was 59 percent when a Syndicate member, Razina Alam, reportedly pointed out that she had discussed the case with the Higher Education Commission officials and learnt that the similarity index of the research article was only 19 percent. The Syndicate members had also in that meeting asked the vice-chancellor to present a report in the next meeting after analysing that article whether the alleged plagiarism committed by Prof Dr Haris Rashid was 19 percent or 59 per cent. This is also a fact that the same man, VC Mujahid Kamran, according to the documents, had shifted all those PhD students working under the supervision of another PU professor to Prof Harris in 2008 while chairing a meeting of Advanced Studies and Research Board held on March 24, 2008. The question arises here that if the VC considered Prof Harris as involved in plagiarism then why he allowed transferring of those PhD students to him.
On many occasions in the past, Dr Harris had claimed that an unsigned letter regarding his plagiarism was submitted to the then VC Gen (retd) Arshad Mehmood in 2006 by Mujahid Kamran.
“My thesis was rejected by the HEC on the basis of error not on the basis of plagiarism,” he explained.
It is alleged that incumbent PU administration initiated proceedings against Kh Harris to malign his repute as he was being considered a strong contender for the post of Pro-VC. Zafar Iqbal Jadoon, Director Institute of Science (IAS), and Taqi Zahid Butt, Dean Faculty of Chemical Technology, are the other two contenders in the race of Pro-VC respectively as being the most senior professors at PU after Kh Harris.
When contacted, PU Registrar Dr Raas Masood declined to comment on the issue, saying the VC himself could say anything on the matter. This scribe approached Director Public Relations (DPR) Isaar Rana who assured to respond certain queries about the matter after consulting the VC but till the filing of this report, he did not respond. Even attempts were also made to contact Rana again on Tuesday but he did not respond.
Prod Dr Harris was not available for comments despite repeated attempts were made on his cell phone.