It had surfaced last year in September that the PhD thesis of the Pro Rector of Comsats Institute of Information Technology (CIIT) and chief executive officer of the National Testing Service (NTS) has been found to be over 72 per cent plagiarised. An investigation by the Higher Education Commission (HEC) ensued and after almost a year of the allegations surfacing, Pro-Rector Haroon Rashid has been suspended from the prestigious post after his PhD was cancelled by Preston University, the body that had awarded him the degree negligently in the first place.

Haroon Rashid has been the recipient of Sitara-e-Imtiaz in the previous Pakistan Peoples Party government and has been working with Comsats for over five years, working for various government organisations over the past 35 years. At least 26 of his articles, mainly in the ICT field, had been published in various national and international journals, which undoubtedly will come under scrutiny now and have the possibility to be retracted. Such is the humiliation that will follow a decorated man wherever he goes and a long spanning career will come to an abrupt end.

Plagiarism in its most basic terms is the act of copying the works of others and passing them off as your own. This violates the author’s right to the ownership of the work, which is a fundamental moral right. In academic circles plagiarism is considered to be the most unethical and in most cases unforgivable crime as this research misconduct creates a ripple effect of costly damages for researchers, organisations and the general public.

Due to the growing research population and a plethora of PhDs, especially in Pakistan, a pressure to ‘publish or perish,’ an increasing number of researchers have taken to cutting corners, resulting in falsified research, fraudulent data, paraphrasing, duplication and blatant plagiarism. The theft of ideas is the worse crime, perhaps larger than the theft of words, as original ideas are not easy to come by. Innovation will only come to Pakistan when students are encouraged to think for themselves rather than “copy-paste” for the sake of a degree; a degree utterly useless if the subject has no originality nor implication.