Babar Awan declares his American doctorate degree valid
Posted on 12-November-2008
US foundation terms the university fraud
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
By Ansar Abbasi
ISLAMABAD: Like a minister of the Musharraf cabinet, a high profile PPP minister has also been found holding a doctorate degree issued by a fake US university declared to be ‘fraud’ by an authentic US organisation and fined by a US court.
Although Federal Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Dr Babar Awan told The News his degree was valid, every body else says it was fake and was wrongfully awarded by a university that was never accredited for such degree programmes and was shut down in 2000 for being fraud.
The United States Educational Foundation (USEF) in Pakistan confirmed that the said University was never allowed to offer degree programmes, including Ph.D. “It was a fraud,” the USEF Pakistan wrote to this correspondent on Monday.
The minister, who admitted to have got his Ph.D degree from the University of Monticello USA in 1997-98 through its distant learning programme (correspondence course), however, insisted that his Ph.D was valid.
But the USEF Pakistan is of the view that the “fraud” university was closed down in the year 2000 and was also fined US$1.7 million for befooling innumerable international aspirants of different degree programmes.
The Foundation also disclosed that a court in Hawaii had also directed the university management to return all the tuition fees of the students, who had enrolled with the institute. Acting spokesperson of the US embassy in Islamabad Mr Wes Robertson when approached said that the USEF Pakistan is an organisational set-up to promote opportunities and assist students intended to study in Pakistan and vice versa. “It (USEF Pakistan) gives accurate and credible information,” Robertson categorically said.
To a question if there exists any university in the US in the name of Monticello, the USEF Pakistan said: “The closest that any university comes to that name is University of Arkansas, which is in the town of Monticello. There was an unaccredited institute named Monticello University but it was closed down.”
The Foundation also referred to two web links -http:// www.bizjournals.com/pacific/stories/2000/05/29/focus1.html and http://hawaii.gov/dcca/areas/ocp/udgi/lawsuits/monticello/ - which give details of how the university defrauded international students and also give details of the ruling of a court in Hawaii in a lawsuit filed against the University.
One of the links tells the tale of a student of history and law, Todd Rebillot, who said that he had found the university on the Internet, which looked professionally prepared. “I accepted that at face value and felt confident that (the school) could provide me with an education and the degree I was looking for.”
It was not until the Wisconsin resident had paid more than $3000, saw the school’s address changed three times and was given the run-around by school administrators that he finally grew suspicious. “When I started asking questions, then they [the school] began skirting the issue. I wasn’t getting straight answers,” Rebillot said.
Soon afterwards Rebillot was convinced that he had been scammed. Others apparently had come to the same conclusion. Babar Awan was one of those who were caught in the fraud but he was given a degree after which he started writing the title of ‘Dr’ before his name. This may not be valid now.
In April 2000, Monticello University operator Leslie Snell was found guilty in Hawaii and Kansas of issuing invalid degrees without state authority and was fined in excess of $1.7 million. The organisation was ordered to refund tuition to all the students. Whether Dr Awan received his money back is not known.
Despite all this evidence, Babar Awan insists that it is incorrect that the Monticello University was unaccredited and that the Ph.D degree he was awarded is fake. Awan, who also delivers regular lectures on Quran and Islam on a television channel, said that he got to know about the university through an advertisement in the international Times magazine and also reconfirmed the standing of the institution from his acquaintances in the United States.
The minister said that he was awarded the Ph.D degree through the university’s distant learning programme and because of his (Awan’s) experience and research work.
He recollected that when he was awarded the Ph.D degree, the news of his becoming doctorate also appeared in certain newspapers. He said that during those days he was defending Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto in the SGS reference before an accountability court comprising Justice Qayyum and Justice Najmul Hasan.
Besides the newspaper record, he said he still has the fee vouchers that he had paid to the Monticello University and sent through proper banking and financial channels. “There was absolutely no question of fraud at that time when I got the degree from the said university,” the minister said.
Babar Awan, who is known for oratory skills, however, perhaps does not know that the University that awarded him the Ph.D degree was never authorised to do so and that he had been fooled along with many other international students.