S. KHURSHED SHAH did Masters in Electronics and
Physics, both from the Karachi University and the University of
Berkeley, California. A scientist and researcher, he is expert in
electronic circuit designing, both analog and digital, including
assembly language programming for micro controllers. He can design any
electronic system, IC-based or transistorized, including PCB designing
with Easy PC and P-cad. However, his real expertise is that he can write
software for any hardware or design it for any defined system based
integrated circuit. He has designed and developed a number of systems in
Pakistan and abroad — digital temperature controllers for furnaces and
industrial heaters, digital satellite receivers, global satellite
positioning system and trackers, UPS and inverters, automated finger
print identification system. In addition to running an IT engineering
company he has been associated with a number of IT-related projects. He
is the vice chairman of Asia Pacific Council for Trade Facilitation and
e-Commerce (AFACT), member Sindh IT Board, and was a member of the task
force which penned the National IT Policy. He is also Prime Consultant
of National IT Park, the first and the only technology park of Karachi
which is also the first park in the country established in the private
first and the only technology park of Karachi, the National IT Park,
remains unoccupied six months after it was opened in August. Why?
The primary reason the park has failed to attract clients is that it
lacks one of the basic facility — the Internet bandwidth connectivity.
At the inauguration ceremony held in August last year the then managing
director of Pakistan Software Export Board promised that the park would
be provided with this most essential data carrying facility, a must for
any technology park, within a fortnight. Six months later the park still
remains deprived of Internet bandwidth connectivity. The PSEB, a
facilitator in this case, issued the cheque of Rs 3,378,500 to the PTCL
in the last week of December as provisional cost of capital bill for
provision of Optic Fibre Connectivity between the Line Area Exchange and
Caesars Tower where the park is located. The PTCL only recently laid the
fibre optic and has also installed SMT 1 equipment. However, it has
informed the PSEB that it has no Node, an essential component for the
So you are sitting on a lot of empty space?
Yes. We signed a one-year contract with the owners of the building for
100,000 square feet which can be expandable to 300,000 square feet. We
have only been able to rent just 4,000 square feet to a single
entrepreneur while the rest of the 96,000 square feet remain vacant due
to primary absence of basic data carrying facility. The initial response
was great but the lack of basic bandwidth facility has shied many and
interested entrepreneurs away.
The vacant premises must be costing you heavily in terms of finance?
It is taking a heavy toll in term of finance. The loss in term of loss
of potential business is also extremely immense. The income from our
single client is Rs 72,000 per month but monthly expenses, including
around Rs 200,000 in salaries paid to maintenance, security, consultancy
and supervisory staff and Rs 100,000 in energy charges, adds up to
around Rs 500,000. Our expenses far exceed our income and the huge loss
is borne by us and the owners collectively.
What are the human dimensions?
The filling of 100,000 square feet, as planned, could had been able to
create some 10,000 jobs for the IT professionals. It had been enough to
absorb almost the entire experienced IT professionals in a city which
has the best educated and trained IT professionals anywhere in the
What kind of reservations do you have about the new ID cards issued by
The new computerized ID cards have a serious flaw: The finger print on
the card is actually useless — it is neither readable nor verifiable
by computer. In addition, it can not be verified manually. There is no
search engine to match the finger print from the date base instantly. In
short, the finger print on the card is there just for the appearance.
What other IT-related project you have been associated with?
My company has done one of the biggest work in the government sector
related to law & order. We have installed the computerization of all
jails in the province of Sindh, 18 in all. We provided the entire
hardware, developed the software to centrally control and connect the
entire data/base of some 20,000 inmates in these jails. The system keep
entire record of the inmates, their finger prints, particulars of their
entire criminal and judicial records. It has helped the jail authorities
to keep complete track of the inmates records and has helped cut costs
of paperwork with matters pertaining to production dates in courts, days
remissioned, etc., etc. The system is working successfully in Sindh and
can be adopted by governments in the other provinces in a country which
has some 90 jails. The inmate population in Punjab alone is around