ISLAMABAD - The Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan’s (DRAP) head had allegedly obtained his doctoral degree from a university declared fake by Higher Education Commission (HEC), Friday.  The documents said that the sitting Chief Executive Officer (CEO) DRAP Dr Sheikh Akhtar Hussain had obtained the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Pharmacology from ‘The Open International University’, Sri Lanka. However, the HEC has placed the university and all its campuses operating in Pakistan in the list of illegal/fake institutions on its website. The academic document of the CEO DRAP mentioned that he was awarded with the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Pharmacology in year 2000. The degree was awarded by The Open International University under the faculty of medical studies. Meanwhile, the HEC website has put the name of The Open International University for Complimentary Medicines (Sri Lanka) and its operations anywhere in Pakistan including Karachi and Islamabad offices in the list of fake institutions.

Sources said that a citizen in his private capacity had filed an application at HEC for the verification status of the degree of CEO DRAP Sheikh Akhtar Hussain.  The HEC though didn’t verify the degree status because of incomplete documents; however confirmed that the name of the university mentioned was included in the list of unregistered institutions. The letter issued by HEC Attestation and Accreditation  (A&A) said, “With reference to your application dated 22nd January, 2019 on the subject, it is informed that as per information contained in International Directories published by the UNESCO as well as placed at official website of UNESCO. The Open International University Colombo is not listed amongst the chartered universities/degree awarding institutions”. The letter also said that the status of degrees can only be determined on individual merit upon submission of detailed documents after submission of HEC online application from available at its website along with all supporting documents.

The World Higher Education Database of higher education institutions, systems and credentials also does not contain the record of ‘The Open International University’ Sri Lanka. Sources said that CEO DRAP had to submit his degree to the government after he was appointed the head of DRAP previous month. Sources also added that the government was awarding special allowance to the officials carrying PhD degree in their portfolio after 2004. Net salary of the CEO DRAP was above Rs150000 per month.  “CEO DRAP took around Rs180000 as PhD allowance from the government,” sources said. The official from HEC informed that the degree has not been verified, but the university from where it was obtained is not registered with HEC.

Spokesperson HEC Ayesha Ikram talking to The Nation said that the relevant person or the concerned department with all documents has to apply for the verification of the degree.  Top heads of ministry of National Health Services (NHS) including Minister Aamer Mehmood Kiyani remained tight lipped to comment on the issue.

Sources also said that no serious disciplinary action has been initiated after the alleged dubious qualification of CEO DRAP was surfaced and brought under their consideration.  The ministry had appointed Dr Sheikh Akhtar as CEO DRAP in the previous month. Sources added that the appointment was also a controversial move as ministry was facing pressure from the Supreme Court (SC) to make early appointment on the position.

Sources said that ex-Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) had directed the ministry to appoint the DRAP head on an early basis.  The Nation repeatedly contacted CEO DRAP Dr Sheikh Akhtar Hussain, sent messages for his version but he didn’t reply till the filing of this story. Earlier, the same official was declared deceased in a National Accountability Bureau (NAB) inquiry against him. NAB Karachi had framed corruption charges against an official ranked as Assistant Controllers of Federal Drugs ‘Sheikh Akthar ‘. The NAB conducted inquires in 2001 and 2004 against the official and in both reports the official was declared deceased. 

However, ‘CEO DRAP Sheikh Akhtar Hussain had completely denied his involvement in any corruption case and claimed that Islamabad High Court (IHC) had dismissed the case against him after NAB withdrew its statement against him.

NAB in a statement issued in 2017 had stated that it was conducting an inquiry against DRAP official Dr ‘Sheikh Akhtar Hussain’ for having assets beyond means.  NAB Chairman Justice (retd) Javed Iqbal had also directed the department to inquire the matter of declaring Dr ‘Sheikh Akhtar Hussain’ as a dead man in a reference filed earlier in NAB.