Original Articles

Misuse of Pakistan’s PhD Grants in US and Canada

Editor’s Note: We thank the author, a US national, of this article for providing us this valuable information.

An apparent bastion of honesty, the HEC has been misused and abused by those who have been its beneficiaries

Pakistan’s government seems to be unaware of how its taxpayer’s money is being abused in foreign land. Grants worth millions intended for PhD studies in the US and other countries are being spent toward other purposes, violating altogether the rules but, not surprisingly, invoking little action by the authorities. Here are a few cases we found after searching the web for Pakistani researchers abroad.


Searching the web for Pakistan’s research projects in natural disasters, we found this person named Shah Faisal Khan, a research student studying geography and natural disasters at the University of Montana. Coming from the National Center of Excellence in Geology (NCEG) at the University of Peshawar to the US, he is being reported (http://www.montanakaimin.com/arts-culture/researcher-spurs-solidarity-with-pakistan-refugees-1.1748442 ) as spurring solidarity with Pakistan’s flood victims while he came to work on his Master degree at Montana in 2007.


But the profile of Mr. Khan on his home institution’s page http://nceg.upesh.edu.pk/shahfaisalkhan.html shows that he is doing his PhD and in fact already has two Master degrees. Impressed with his academics, you find that this guy is actually on a government-funded grant for completing his PhD.  The government of his country is sponsoring his “PhD” studies, but he seems to be daringly misusing the funds. The primary sponsor of the doctorate program appears to be his country’s Higher Education Commission that offers scholarships for earning PhD in the US and other countries. What’s more is that the terms of his scholarship (http://www.hec.gov.pk/InsideHEC/Divisions/HRD/Documents/Terms%20and%20Conditions%20with%20Deed%20of%20Agreement.pdf) require him to be returning to his country after completing his PhD in 4 years, and Hannah Ryan in the aforementioned post about Mr. Khan  tell us that he hasn’t even started yet.

Browsing a few profiles on NCEG’s pages, you come to learn about more such cases. Mrs. Sofia N. Khawaja (http://www.magnet.fsu.edu/search/personnel/getprofile.aspx?fname=Sofia&lname=Khawaja) is a prominent example. She is from the same institute and came to Florida State University (FSU) in 2006 on a PhD grant like Mr. Khan. Having spent over 5 years here now, she hasn’t earned a PhD and is overstaying her assigned term as specified per HEC rules (which allow 4 years maximum). While she is listed as faculty on the FSU page, as linked above, and on the faculty page of the NCEG  (http://nceg.upesh.edu.pk/faculty.html), there is no link to a profile for her at NCEG, just her name.

Then this one really is a classic example with online proof of a scam. He is named Shah Faisal, similar name as the first case but a different person and on the same type of grant as the other two. His profile on the NCEG page http://nceg.upesh.edu.pk/shahfaisalktk.html says, as in the first case, that he is doing his PhD abroad, at Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario Canada. But is he? Well, let’s look at his thesis abstract here https://qspace.library.queensu.ca/handle/1974/5964. It’s a Master thesis submitted in 2010, some 3 or 4 years after he got the HEC scholarship for PhD and moved to Canada.

Naturally, an average American like me would ask what kinds of visas or permits have been issued to these students. How come some of them have been pursuing a Masters for four years while some staying in violation of terms without dropping out or getting deported? Are these some special cases these American universities are entertaining? These questions need answers particularly when we know that immigrants from that part of the world have been found involved in terrorist activities and raise concerns regarding homeland security. The Universities in Montana and Florida and Ontario need to inquire about these students, the status of their funding, and the validity of the reasons for their continuing presence abroad, as well as the NCEG’s position on their ongoing studies for Master’s degrees instead of the PhDs.   Government funds have been provided to these students, they are staying abroad longer than the funding allows, and working on degrees the funding doesn’t cover.  Is the NCEG aware of any of this?


Besides these few cases of clear violation of terms, several other faculty members on the NCEG faculty page appear to be benefitting from the government funds coming through the HEC. The same seems to be true for other universities in Pakistan. But is there any check and balance maintained by Pakistan’s government? The surprising aspect is the inaction of the HEC which is giving away huge amounts of money, by Pakistan’s standards, for getting doctorate degrees and yet is either not aware of these frauds or otherwise silent for convenience’s sake over them. Need we point out that Pakistan ranks high on the list of countries with boundless corruption? So the authorities governing education in Pakistan, unless they are partaking in such frauds, must take appropriate measures to stop this kind of transgression by students, squandering government funds in ways other than specified by regulation. This will ensure transparency in the use of government grants reserved for education, particularly in a country like Pakistan where the average citizen lives through hard times.


One advice to Pakistan’s commission for higher education is that they test their would-be scholars in their respective subjects before providing them with a grant. Since they seem to be ignorant of the findings that the general GRE exam has been proven of little use in gauging the proficiency of applicants in a particular field of study, Jamie Hale’s article (http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2010/12/09/does-the-gre-measure-anything-related-to-graduate-school) explains it well.


Finally, we sincerely wish that the pubic in Pakistan take notice of cases where their tax money is squandered off parasitically under authoritative control while the same could have been spent on issues of more vital import – health, security, and, of course, poverty alleviation. It’s a poor country after all.

About the author

Ahmed Iqbalabadi


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  • Where are those huers and criers that promised to topsy turvy Pakistan if HEC was dismantled and the system went to provinces under 18th Amendment?

    If HEC is not hand in hand in this corruption, they are sure the most incompetent on having a check and feedback.

    Regarding apprehention that these learned master degree holders and sent abroad for preparing dissertation and getting doctorate degree but many of them suspected entering into overseas terrorism network, it is a headache of American and Canadian Homeland Security. Period. However, the stone cold blame would fall on the shoulder of Pakistan which please note. Also, the genuine PhD students overseas would suffer big time because of this.

  • a few cases of misuse of HEC’s grants is no reason to pack up the whole program… it just means that the system should be improved to ensure that these students return to home country and serve it for the specific time period they promised when taking the grants

    but why should ppp care about education?? when it’s co-chairman himself has a “dubious” degree…

    ppp wants the whole nation to remain uneducated and unprivileged (like the misery stricken interior sindh) so that it keeps on ruling in bhutto’s name and nobody challenges them

  • These cases are not new. HEC has sponsored frauds in countless cases. The biased judiciary has come to rescue it from the government’s move to devolve it in order to save corruption and let the country go bankrupt. Shame on HEC!