The plagiarism guardian — HEC has been left red-faced as its Executive Director has been caught red-handed in plagiarism. When the news of alleged crime of plagiarism by HEC ED Dr Arshad Ali hit headlines in the print media on 28 December 2017, the-then chairman HEC Dr Mukhtar Ahmed had formed a fact-finding committee to separate wheat from chaff. The committee confirmed and concluded that Dr Arshad had copied more than 50percent of the content from another author.This involvement in academic dishonesty by no less than HEC Executive Director has left the research scholars, professors and academics in a daze. Dr Arshad’s paper ‘A Taxonomy and Survey of Gird Resource Planning and Reservation Systems for Gird Enabled Analysis Environment’, published in July 2004,is almost the exact copy of a similar paper authored by Chaitanya Kandagatla at University of Texas, Austin America in February 2004. Magnitude of malpractice can be gauged from the fact when Dr Arshad’s paper was examined with the official software Turnitin, which has been provided by HEC to the universities to check plagiarism; it confirmed overall 88percent index against 19 percent set by Pakistan’s higher education body.In addition, 47 percent similarity index has been reported from single source, authored by Chaitanya Kandagatla against the 5 percent approved limit.The Expert committees, Plagiarism Standing Committee and high-powered committee working during December 29 2017 and 12 April 2018 to conclude investigation process, found Dr Arshad guilty of major plagiarism, his more than 20 research papers were found to have been plagiarised. Unfortunately, no punishment for the crime of plagiarism has been handed down to the black sheep in question yet.Despite this, after the retirement of Dr Mukhtar Ahmed on April 15, Dr Arshad acts as de facto chairman and has influenced the HEC management and turned tables in his favour as the HEC management mulls minor penalty where the man in question would be asked to render an apology and submit an affidavit that he would not cite that paper in his curriculum Vitae(CV).This leniency is being considered on the grounds that academic offence was committed in 2004while HEC’s plagiarism policy was formulated and put in place in 2007. This negates transparency. Does this mean academic dishonesty was allowed before the HEC plagiarism policy came into effect? The logic offered is unconvincing. The research scholars are supposed to be whiter than white in their write-ups, research work and literary labour.More importantly, according to HEC Acts and Rules, ED is the second most important officer of the commission, being the principal accounting officer of the body that manages about RS 90 billion annually. He acts as the head of HEC secretariat and also as the Secretary of the commission’s governing body which makes policies on improving quality of education and fighting plagiarism. A man with questionable integrity cannot be entrusted with the responsibility of running the affairs of HEC. Allowing the plagiarist under discussion to be at the helm of HEC’s affairs and overseeing other scholars in terms of academic stealing, is akin to set a thief to catch a thief.ED is the second most important officer of the commission, being the principal accounting officer of the body that manages about Rs 90 billion annually. He acts as the head of HEC secretariat and also as the Secretary of the commission’s governing body which makes policies on improving quality of education and fighting plagiarismBesides, ED represents HEC at national and international forums. How can such a tainted character be representative of the commission whose own academic credibility has been questioned? Warren Buffet rightly remarked that look for three things in a person: intelligence, energy and integrity.If one does not have the last one, don’t even bother with the first two.HEC’s own plagiarism policy mentions, ‘If most of the paper(or key results) have been exactly copied from any published work of other people without giving the reference to the original work, major penalty of dismissal from service could be imposed.’If a co-author has listed in his/her resume and applied for a benefit forth with, any co-author is deemed to be equally responsible for any plagiarism committed ina published paper presented to or published in a journal or presented at a conference. Interestingly, the curriculum Vitae (CV) of Dr Arshad Ali proudly mentions the controversial research paper.The policy also mentions that such a plagiarist may be blacklisted and may not be eligible for employment in any academic, research organisation and the notification of ‘black-listing’ of the authors may be published in the print media or may be publicised in different websites at the discretion of the Vice-Chancellor/Rector/Head of the organisation.One is dismayed that the HEC management has cultivated soft corner over the years for the plagiarists who are serving in the premier higher education body or ex-officials who have served: in January 2014, a three-member inquiry committee found out that 30percent of the content of Javed Laghari’s research paper ‘Study of Pakistan Election System as Intelligent-e-Election’ had been plagiarised from a European Union report of ‘European Union Election observation Mission i-e Pakistan National and Provincial Assembly Election 10 October 2002’.The HEC authorities first dilly-dallied on the action against Leghari simply because he had served as the HEC chairman. When media pressure builtup, it blacklisted the author. He is believed to have apologised through an email only.Similarly, acting Director General of HEC’s Department of Learning Innovation Shaheen Khan’s PhD thesis submitted to the University of Karachi in 2009 was found to be plagiarised by the Committee. She continues to hold her position in the HEC as the university has been reluctant in declaring her thesis plagiarised. And HEC’s former member and former vice chancellor of the University of Haripur, Nasir Ali Khan was also found to have a plagiarised PhD thesis.Since some senior rank HEC — both serving and ex — officials have been found guilty of plagiarism, the verifications of degrees and examination of research papers and theses of those presently working is imperative. HEC should not wait for newspaper headlines and letters exposing plagiarists; instead it should have robust monitoring mechanism and inbuilt filters to flush out the corrupt crop.Dr Arshad was appointed ED HEC in 2016, with the availability of modern tools like Turnitin software; why his research paper was not examined? Such loopholes need to be plugged off while recruiting employees.These academic thieves and the academic institutions they belong to should not be let off the hook; proper action must be taken against them. The Federation of All Pakistan Universities Academics Staff Association (FAPUASA) President Professor Dr Kalim Ullah Bareach claimed HEC’s website carried the name of black-listed professors and academics whose papers had been found plagiarised by over 20 percent.‘If the teachers can be penalised so strictly, why does HEC management not implement same policy on its own top boss’, he questioned. Bareach’s concern conveyed is both logical and convincing. Punishing those found guilty of minor plagiarism and saving the skin of those with major infringement speaks volumes about the double standards being followed by HEC management when it comes to holding accountable those in the backyard of the HEC; and same pattern is being repeated in the case of Dr Arshad who has tarnished the image of the institution beyond repair.Anti-plagiarism watchdog — HEC — authorities are said to have put pressure on Executive Director Dr Arshad to step down given the ouster would bring disgrace to the organisation, but Arshad resisted this saying he was innocent. Once the HEC, under chairmanship of Dr Attaur Rehman, had earned international recognition and appreciation for making all out efforts in advancement of learning and innovative methods applied in Science and research work in Pakistani universities.Sadly, the same premier higher education body is mired in crises and being run by a tainted person. Prime Minister of Pakistan is the controlling authority of HEC and its chief is appointed by him for a term of four years. He should intervene and order removal of ED and HEC chairman should be appointed without further delay. Neero was playing on flute when Rome was burning.The slot of HEC chairman is a coveted post given the cheque book of HEC being heftier than Rs105 million. This is the reason why political connection and influence are plus points to be considered for the selection. However, the herculean task for the successor of Dr Mukhtar Ahmed will be to get rid of this plagiarist ED, the influential one. Let the noose be tightened on the guilty with the same intensity and universities/institutions that patronise plagiarists be taken to task.HEC -high ups are supposed to be role models for the research scholars; their indulgence in intellectual crime called plagiarism is distressing. ‘If gold gets rust, what shall iron do’?Justice demands the ‘doctor’ in question to be punished and removed. Otherwise HEC’s ultimate objective of ensuring quality education and fighting plagiarism will remain a pipedream.The writer is an Educationist and a freelance contributor; he can be reached at email@example.comPublished in Daily Times, May 22nd 2018.