Farukh Iqbal, teacher at the Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering at RMIT University, Melbourne Australia wrote a letter to the Prime Minister of Pakistan, on June 17 2021, requesting for termination of the Vice Chancellor of Khawaja Fareed University of Engineering and Information Technology, Prof Dr. Muhammad Suleman Tahir for misconduct of plagiarism.
In his letter, Iqbal addressed the PM, stating: “Khan sahib, I had already written to the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan and the PM Citizen Portal regarding my complaint against Tahir, who plagiarized my MS thesis and research paper to publish his paper”.
However, the pervious complaints were sent to the KFUEIT VC who unanimously rejected Iqbal’s claims without admitting the crime and publishing a paper containing stolen material. Dr Tahir had published his paper titled ‘RETRACTED: Fabrication of ZnFe2O4 modified TiO2 hybrid composites for photocatalytic reduction of CO2 into methanol’ in the journal named “FUEL”.
According to the authorship contribution statement, Dr Tahir claimed as the first author of the paper and took credits of supervision, validation, visualisation, conceptualisation, and data curation. “He fabricated his paper by plagiarizing my experimental and analytical data published in my paper [titled:] ‘Photocatalytic reduction of CO2 to methanol over ZnFe2O4/TiO2 (p–n) heterojunctions under visible light irradiation’ published in the Journal of Chemical Technology and Biotechnology and relevant chapter of my MS thesis”.
When Iqbal registered complaint with the FUEL, the editor conducted an inquiry and finally accepted Iqbal’s plea and retracted Dr Tahir’s paper.
“As such this article represents a severe abuse of the scientific publishing system. The scientific community takes a very strong view on this matter and apologies are offered to readers of the journal that this was not detected during the submission process”.
The journal, in its verdict, stated: “The article plagiarized part of the PhD thesis of Farrukh Iqbal subsequently published in the Journal of Chemical Technology and Biotechnology”. The editor of the FUEL published an apology and retracted the paper, however, no action was taken against the VC and he’s still in the office of a varsity imparting knowledge on science and technology.
However, Retraction Watch, an international organisation which keeps a record of over 31,000 retracted research papers, also noted that the masters’ thesis was mistakenly written as Iqbal’s PhD thesis.
“I have launched a complaint on the PM portal more than 8 times, and all the time, the complaint was sent to the HEC chairman and then forwarded to the KFUEIT VC who was guilty. And the VC commented all the times that plagiarism did not find and relief can’t be granted.”
Iqbal, in his letter, further states: “My last complaint was sent to the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs, Overseas Ministry, President Office, PM Office, Higher Education Department Punjab, and Governor Office. I have sent my complaints in hard form to all these departments two times, but I haven’t received any response”.
However, the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs sent Iqbal’s complaint to PM portal. The section officer marked the complaint to the HEC and the commission sent the complaint to the KFUEIT VC. The VC, responding to the query, replied that plagiarism was “not found” and “We already have launched a defamation case against Farukh”
On the contrary, the Elsevier, a Netherlands-based publishing company specialising in scientific, technical, and medical content has already published its decision taken against the VC. Retraction Watch had also covered the story and exposed why the VC’s paper was retracted.
Retraction Watch, while quoting Iqbal, has written: “This story is interesting and different from similar stories because the first author of the plagiarized paper is a sitting Vice-Chancellor of a public university in Pakistan and corresponding authors are heads of their departments. This thing puts a serious concern about research ethics violation by the head of institutes who are supposed to be responsible for the implementation of research integrity in their teaching institutes. It is also points out the abuse of power to steal student’s work and use it for personal benefits”
“I have also sent this complaint to the Pakistan Engineering Council, but they didn’t respond to my emails and just called me and told me that this is not in our jurisdiction”. Not only this, but Iqbal also contacted several public representatives — Minister HEC Punjab Raja Yasir Humayoun, MPA Chudhari Masood, and MPA Mian Shafi Muhammad. Among them only Humayun responded and told the complainant that he has sent the complaint twice to the HED, but this process is slow and will take time.
As it has been proved and notified by the editor of a reputed journal that Dr Tahir has plagiarised a part of the thesis and research paper, Iqbal requested the concerned authorities to terminate the VC and save the integrity of the varsities and higher education sector as per the HEC plagiarism policy section 11 (a) i.
However, when Academia Magazine approached Dr. Tahir to know his stance on the matter, he declined to comment.