Saturday, November 26, 2016

How to be a Change Agent in Government: Memoirs of Irtiqa Zaidi

I felt honored when I was asked to review the book of memoirs of Mr Irtiqa Zaidi that is about to go into publication. The book is exciting, enjoying, and often a thrilling account of his photographic memory of the events spanning the expanse from his childhood in Quetta to his rise as a senior official in Government, where he was involved in some momentous agreements of Pakistan related to trade and commerce.

My first meeting with Mr Irtiqa Zaidi was in the early 1970s when he got posted in Islamabad and came to stay at our place while waiting for the allotment of a suitable government accommodation. Irtiqa Chacha is a close relative of my father, and also the elder brother of my brother in law.   During that first winter when he was staying with us, I remember listening to his stories with my father, mother and sisters huddled around coal fire with blankets wrapped around us. I remember listening intently to his wonderful and picturesque narrations that were and still are full of humor and suspense with dramatic turns and twists from among the huge collection of his encounters and personal experiences. I recall that this fully captivating story telling sessions would often seamlessly extend for hours. I had the pleasure of listening to such experiences throughout the seventies when he was among those few relatives we had in Islamabad whom we would regularly meet every week or so. During 1980s and later when I had moved to Karachi,  I would lose no opportunity during my trips to Islamabad to get that warmth of his riveting accounts often starting around dinner time and extending deep into the night.

Coming from that experience of his oral traditions, and after having read the book, I can safely say that this is only the first installment of his store of vivid memories and we are looking forward to an inspiring writer who would now be rendering in print that voluminous store of vivid memories, in volume after volume. At times the details in the book suggest that he has been taking copious notes. However, I think that these graphic details are etched in his mind because of his extra ordinary ability to engage anyone around him with stories of interesting life events in that distinctive humorous style that people would soon gather around him and he would soon become the center of attraction in any gathering. One sees this in his account of how during his foreign training programs and visits he quickly became the center of social events on those tours. The fantastic thing about his stories is that he would always pullout the ones relevant to the audience. I am sure that he remembers the facts because he has related them orally so many times to so many people, with the unique distinction of always remembering the ones he has already told to whom and thus never boring any one with repetition. The book represents the recollection in writing emanating from this refined store of his memories etched in his mind due to their repeated oral renditions in gatherings. Of course, for me there are several events that I have never heard. I suspect in this book he has tried to write down the stories that he has seldom related elsewhere and would like to put them on record. Especially, those related to the challenges of his career and the conflicts that emanated on policy related issues and personalities.

Points on which I would be writing further: Need a couple of hours

  • Murgha, jootay ka qissa, jhoot ko burai samajhna
  • Master's insistence to sell the inkpots to students. Good and bad teachers
  • Cheating in exams
  • Lectures in English
  • Tribal areas, lady doctor's kidnapping and today's issues
  • Punjgor travel and the dangers and today's situation
  • Check dams; issues of smaller provinces and why politicians try to have development in their constituencies
  • Gawadar road's dilipidated condition and today
  • 1973's administrative reforms and its adverse effects
  • Politics of bueaucracy: Economicst group vs DMG
  • Attitude of guilty unless proven innocent vs The Hague and no receipts
  • Conflict with Nadeemul Haq
  • Incompetence of Gilani and Shujaat
  • Boldness, and standing on what is right. Counseling during the early part of the career by?
  • Not accepting pressures from highest quarters, seniors, secretaries, ministers, prime minsters, USA, ...
  • Ahsan Iqbal acting on his suggestions
  • Afghan Transit trade and US facilitation of Indian interests






Sunday, October 16, 2016

At What Cost! Why Compute Economic Costs of Faulty Political Decisions

Political discourse in Pakistan is punctuated with allegations and counter allegations without a formal study of the economic implications of the various decisions that have been rocking the country from as early as 1950s. The series of posts in this thread of "At What Cost" is attempt to build a framework for researchers to explore the economic costs of each of these decisions. The title of this series is based on my extensive discussions with late Mr Fazle Hasan of IBA in 1986-87. My later reflections on the lessons that he was trying to convey and which I vehemently disagreed with at that time, but have now come to appreciate only recently have been put down as the first post in this "At What Cost!" series: At What Cost! Fazle Hasan of IBA and our Computation of Economic Costs


Connecting vs Disconnecting with Relations- Sila e Rahmi vs Qata e Rahmi

Over the last few years, misconceptions regarding disconnecting from the relations (relatives, neighbors, colleagues) seem to be spreading. Disconnecting from relatives and relations is not a part of our culture or tradition. Our guidance has been to mend fences and work towards establishing relationships. Ethical leadership in our tradition requires that we care for those who throw garbage on you, make fun of you, or even try to harm you. Mohabbat fateh e Aaalim.


Left hand column shows the basis of our culture and traditions, whereas
the right hand column shows typical messages being shared on the facebook/whatsapp promoting
misconceptions that stand in stark opposition to our culture and traditions. 


Monday, October 10, 2016

What does a Child Need? Mother's Teacher-hood vs Motherhood

I am forced to write this post as I increasingly encounter cases upon cases of children with shattered confidence, broken personality and with severe personality issues and most of them emanating from the tremendous desire of the mother to relinquish her "mamta' (motherhood) role and assume the role of a teacher for which she is singularly unequipped! A child needs his mother's motherhood more than her teacher-hood. In their enthusiasm to make their children smart, and under tremendous peer pressure and the pressure from schools, mothers in Pakistan are assuming more and more the role of a teacher, at the expense of  their motherhood role. This is disastrous for the confidence and feeling of self-worth for a child, especially, because motherhood is a natural role for the mother, however, role of a teacher has to be learned and does not come naturally to everyone. Teaching requires aptitude, attitude, soft nature, quest for knowledge, magnanimity and  hosts of teaching skills. These skills are in short supply even in those who have had formal training in teaching.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

How to Distort History through Prejudices of Today: Taj Mahal as a Symbol of Love

I often see people looking at history using today's prejudices and lenses. History can not be seen in the light of our current preferences and current philosophies. History has to be evaluated in the context of the prevalent norms and challenges of that day. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Top 10 Reasons Why Students Fail in Semester System- Survival Guide

About 5%-10% of students entering the university are unable to survive the semester system. The following list of top 10 reasons is based on my observations as a student from 1980-1994 at NED, IBA Karachi and at Univ of Texas at Austin. These are also based on my interactions with dropouts as faculty member from 1995-present (FAST NU, IBA, KIET, IoBM) with eighteen years as Deputy Director and Dean. I have given counseling to countless students. Often the students come when it is too late. At times their behavior compels me to think that they were asking to be dropped! You will agree too after reading this list. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Dr Wahab and IBA of 1980s and 1990s

Dr Abdul Wahab went to meet his creator on Sep 6, 2016 morning, inna lillah we wa inna ilaihi rajioon. The news brought flashbacks of several memories from my association with IBA; first as an MBA student from 1985 to 1987, and then during my stint as a faculty member from 1995 to Dec 2000, the last four years of which were spent as Deputy Director. I relate here the essence of Dr Ab Wahab's contribution to IBA from the period when he became director in 1978 till he retired in 1999. The contributions are pictorially represented in the graph below.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Youth Leadership and Dave Ulrich-Orientation for University Students

[Presented at IoBM Orientation Session for Fall 2016 intake on Sep 3]

Last Wednesday I had the pleasure of attending a workshop on leadership at Karachi Marriott by Dave Ulrich, who is considered as the father of modern Human Resource Management. Ulrich is a professor at the University of Michigan and a consultant to top companies of the world. With over 30+ books on HR and leadership, he was ranked #1 Management Educator and Guru by Business Week, and was selected as one of the 10 most innovative and creative leaders, and was named as the most influential thinker in HR of the decade by HR magazine.

Dave Ulrich ended this Karachi workshop on leadership by presenting the three questions on which he had based his commencement speech at the graduation ceremony of a US university some years ago.

I will start my orientation speech with those three questions which I think are so fundamental to youth leadership that instead of you grappling with these questions at your graduation, you should be asking them at the very start of your professional education. The three questions that Dave Ulrich briefly touched upon in about ten minutes were:

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Why Engineering Students are Reluctant to become Entrepreneurs: Role of PEC and Universities

Presented at ICEE-2016, International Conference on Entrepreneurial Engineering: Commercialization of Engineering Projects and Research

There are several reasons why Engineering students in Pakistan have been found to be reluctant to opt for entrepreneurship in their engineering fields as opposed to other disciplines such as Computer Science. These reasons can be classified in five major categories; (i) cultural and family mindset, (ii) demographic pressures (iii) narrow focus of curriculum, (iv) teaching and lab methodology, (v) enabling and facilitation environment.  Pakistan Engineering Council has a major role to play in at least the last three areas. The curriculum design and enforcement of PEC has left no room for subjects that can broaden the vision of the students and open their minds to other areas. The recommended lab methodology is based on the use of trainers and fill-in-the-blank type of submissions that further constrains the work of the students in predetermined directions. The recommended teaching methodology focused on class-room type of work also leaves no room for out-of-the-box exploration of ideas. There is a need for the universities and PEC to join together to provide an enabling and facilitation environment that can help the students. There is a need to diversify the curriculum to other areas by reducing the number of technology intensive areas and more creativity and exploratory courses that can broaden the perspectives. There is a need to adopt new methodologies such as project based learning and problem based learning. The lab work needs to be liberated from the clutches of the trainers. A post graduation apprenticeship or internships in exploring new ideas is necessary for entrepreneurial engineering. 

The Case for Engineering Entrepreneurship

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Abuse of Presentation Slides in Classrooms: Ban Powerpoint Presentations

Problems with Powerpoint Presentations in Classroom

A couple of weeks ago I came to deliver a presentation in a seminar after four speakers who were delivering a technical talk to the business owners using powerpoint and speaking in English, which is the second or third language of the speakers and the audience. I could see the disconnect of the speakers with the audience. I could see the boredom. It was getting late after lunch and people were dozing. I came, junked the presentation that I had prepared, and made a presentation using our local language and talked with my heart. Immediately I got the attention and the audience woke up. Several from the audience later came and congratulated me for waking up the participants and making the session lively.

 For  over 10 years now, I have realized the futility of using the presentations. I have discarded the use of the powerpoint presentations, except very technical talks to very captive audience where there is enough time to intersperse talk with slides, in workshop type formats.
I had started with power point presentations much before they became a norm. It was way back in the mid of 1996-97 that I started with multi-media presentations using a laptop. Those were the time when powerpoint presentations and multimedia was a novelty. Somewhere along the line they became a ritual. They lost their power and became a drag on the presentation.Following are my reasons for urging people to ban the use of powerpoints:


Lights are on the Powerpoint Screen and
the performer is hidden in the dark

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Who has Greater Will and Resolve in controlling Karachi Disturbances: Dictators vs Civilian Governments

At What Cost? Costs of perceived strictness of military dictatorships vs the reality of civilian governments in Pakistan

This post studies the case of Karachi disturbances and rise of MQM from 1980 and the relationships of various governments with MQM. It is interesting to note that unlike military dictators with cozy relationships with MQM, civilian governments have been more focused and have shown greater political will and resolve in dealing with the disturbances. The poor dictators always seem to be busy trying to buy legitimacy through political wheeling and dealing. There had been five major operations in Karachi during this period interestingly enough every one of these operations were conducted during the civilian governments. In contrast, during the two dictatorial regimes of General Zia and General Musharraf, MQM was given a free hand to fashion the situation of Karachi as they pleased. In both of these regimes, MQM continued to amass more and more power, and acquired greater and greater control while the civilian and military agencies acting more like bystanders. Although the rangers had been deployed since late 1980s, but they seem to had only been "operational" only during the civilian regimes.