Haroon K. Ullah is an American author, educator, scholar, diplomat, and researcher who focuses on South Asia and the Middle East, often Pakistan and Afghanistan. He is also a convicted felon, found guilty of theft of US government property in November of 2019 and sentenced to three months in prison. He has conducted field experiments, interviewed party activists, and gauged opinions.[non-primary source needed]
Early life and education
Ullah graduated from Whitman College in 1999 with a bachelor of arts degree in politics. He earned a master's degree in 2002 at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government.[non-primary source needed] Thereafter Ullah earned a joint PhD in political science and public policy from University of Michigan.
While earning his doctorate from the University of Michigan, Ullah was a senior research fellow at its Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs for the Dubai Initiative (2007-2009). He was part of the US Secretary of State's Policy Planning Staff, working with US Ambassador Richard Holbrooke on policy regarding Pakistan and Afghanistan.
2019 felony conviction
The U.S. Department of Justice announced June 27, 2019, that Ullah had pleaded guilty in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia to the theft of over $40,000 in U.S. government funds. Ullah admitted falsifying multiple travel and expense reimbursement claims in 2018 while employed as Chief Strategy Officer for the U.S. Agency for Global Media. He also admitted he used his government-issued laptop to create many of the falsified documents. In addition, Ullah admitted falsifying information in a home insurance claim.
According to people familiar with the case, a USAGM staffer first reported concerns about the amount of time and money Ullah spent traveling to superiors in August 2018. Ullah became belligerent in response, leading to a complaint of a hostile workplace, according to those people; management initially agreed with him that nothing was wrong with the trips. But a travel specialist at the agency began scrutinizing Ullah more closely, calling two hotels in New York where he claimed to have stayed in September, according to court records. Neither had any record of his visit and said the invoices were not theirs.
The agency then started calling other hotels where Ullah claimed to have stayed, found more discrepancies, and called in the Office of the Inspector General, according to court documents. Investigators learned that he had fabricated dozens of hotel invoices, as well as forging letters from a doctor friend to justify flying first class. He was immediately suspended, and fired not long after. “This is a sophisticated fraudster who was in a senior position using very sophisticated tactics,” USAGM general counsel David Kliberman said.
Ullah was sentenced by Judge T.S. Ellis III in November of 2019, telling Ullah that he would get three months behind bars, more than prosecutors requested. According to prosecuting Assistant U.S. Attorney Russell Carlberg, “Post-traumatic stress may explain . . . impulsive actions that harm self or others,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Russell Carlberg wrote. “But it is difficult to see how it leads a senior official with substantial intellectual capacity, painstakingly to create multiple types of fraudulent documents; practice forged signatures; and then to profit off the money received as a result of his deception.” 
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Honors and awards
- William J. Fulbright Fellow
- Harvard University Presidential Scholar
- National Security Education Program Fellow
- Woodrow Wilson Public Service Fellow
- Vying for Allah’s Vote: Understanding Islamic Parties, Political Violence, and Extremism in Pakistan (2013), Georgetown University Press, ISBN 9781626160163
- The Bargain From The Bazaar: A Family's Day of Reckoning in Lahore (2014), PublicAffairs, ISBN 9781610391672
- Digital Rebels: Islamists, Social Media and the New Democracy (2018), Yale University Press, ISBN 9780300207187
Notes and references
- Mannan, Hamza (May 15, 2014). "Interview: Haroon K. Ullah". The Diplomat. Retrieved February 1, 2017.
- "Haroon K. Ullah". haroonullah.wordpress.com. Haroon Ullah. Retrieved February 1, 2017.
- "Haroon Ullah". belfercenter.org. Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. Retrieved February 1, 2017.
- "Vying for Allah's Vote: About The Author". Google Books. 2013. Retrieved February 1, 2017.
- "Haroon Ullah". Georgetown.edu. Georgetown University. Retrieved February 1, 2017.
- "Former Senior Official Pleads Guilty to Stealing Government Money". United States Department of Justice. 2019-06-27. Retrieved 2019-06-29.
- "Senior federal official admits bilking $37,000 from government, court files show". Washington Post. 2019-06-28. Retrieved 2019-06-29.