A senior official of Higher Education Commission (HEC) embroiled in a plagiarism controversy for months tendered his resignation from the post of executive director (ED) on Sunday, only hours before an expected official announcement of his sacking by the authority.

HEC Chairman Dr Tariq Banuri is expected to address a press conference later today after the commission meeting that is underway in Islamabad. During a press talk on Saturday, Dr Banuri had stated that the commission meetings were still discussing “high profile” plagiarism cases and had sought another day to decide the matter.

The most important among these cases was that of HEC ED Dr Arshad Ali, who was accused of plagiarising more than half of his research work in his papers from an earlier research published by the University of Texas. Dr Ali’s plagiarism issue has been in the limelight for months, ever since his 2004 research paper, “A Taxonomy and Survey of Grid Resource Planning and Reservation Systems for Grid Enabled Analysis Environment,” had been found to be a major replication of an earlier publication, as verified by HEC’s Turnitin App.

In April, the HEC former chairman notified the Federal Ministry of Education that a case had been built against the accused executive director.

Saving Face?

Per reports, the commission meeting on Saturday had found HEC ED Dr Arshad Ali guilty of plagiarism and recommended his sacking. However, Dr Ali did not wait for the official announcement expected to be made by Dr Tariq Banuri today and tendered his resignation of his own will. HEC spokesperson Ayesha Akram was quoted by a newspaper as saying that Dr Arshad Ali had resigned on his own decision in order to “prevent further adverse impact upon the organisation because of the ongoing controversy over the allegation against him”.

Nonetheless, pressure on both HEC and Dr Arshad Ali had been mounting for months. Fighting and ending plagiarism in research publications is one of core functions of the commission, and a defaulter in its own ranks had drawn flak from all quarters.

According to the HEC rules and regulations regarding plagiarism, if a majority of the publication or key results are found to have been copied by an author from any prior published work without proper citation or attributions, a dismissal from service could be a punishment.

The policy also suggests that the one engaging in such blatant plagiarism might be blacklisted and deemed ineligible for employment in any academic or research organisation. It also recommends notifying the blacklisted author in the print media and/or publicised on various websites.

Considering the strict punishment that could have followed, the decision HEC ED Dr Arshad Ali to resign might have provided a lifeline to his future prospects. The resignation means that the HEC will probably let “bygones be bygones” and not announce a formal decision in the case, the accused will escape being named and shamed and the avoidance of being blacklisted gives Dr Ali a major breather in the academic world.

Happy ending for all?

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