INTERVIEW WITH DR. MANZOOR AHMAD LIFE CHAIRMAN EXECUTIVE BOARD USMAN INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY (UIT)
Apr 23 - 29, 2012
PAGE approached Dr. Manzoor Ahmad, for his interview on education in general and Usman Institute of Technology in particular. While talking to PAGE, he explained how UIT came into existence and what is the contribution of UIT for the promotion of education in our country. Views of Dr. Manzoor Ahmad are as under:
Usman was my student in S.M. Arts College and opted for philosophy as one of his elective subjects. I was slightly surprised that a person coming from a business background and belonging to a business community would study philosophy. He was fond of collecting books and built for himself a good library. After passing his B.A., he came to me and said that he wanted to study philosophy and become a teacher like me and that I should help him in getting admission in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Karachi. I was taken aback but I persuaded him that our industry and business also require enlightened leadership and that he should go back to his family and from being a wholesale tobacco merchant he should try to make his father an industrialist par excellence. That is what he did and eventually his family established Mughal Tobacco factory and later Mehran Sugar Mills. Unfortunately, Usman died at an early age. As a hobby, he liked horse riding and he along with his friends Ebrahim Garda and Dr. Khalid Mitha used to ride their horses around Aziz Bhatti Park situated on the University Road, which was at that time a small deserted passageway with nothing built on either side from Jail Chowrangi onwards. Sometimes, they would come riding on their horses to my house at the University, tethered their horses with the Neem tree, which was outside my house and used to have an early morning cup of tea with me. Unfortunately, one morning he fell down from the horse and had a brain hemorrhage. He was immediately taken to a hospital by his friends but unfortunately could not survive the accident. I had been waiting for them in the morning but since they did not come till noon I telephoned in the afternoon to find out if they enjoyed an off-day of horse riding. I found that he had an accident admitted to a hospital. He couldn't survive the fall because he had a brain hemorrhage. I was saddened and after sometime, I thought that a gentle soul like Usman should have a memorial in his name and that he should be remembered as an enlightened philanthropist.
I drew a draft of Usman Memorial Foundation, talked to his father that of my intention. I got Foundation registered with the government and later applied for a suitable piece of land on the University Road to build something useful in his memory. I met Jatoi Sahib, the then Chief Minister of Sindh, explained the situation to him and he very kindly allocated us a plot of 6000 sq.yrd on the University Road for this purpose. The Foundation was thus established and during its early day, it started giving some scholarships in the name of Usman to deserving students.
Usman's father, Haji Hasham, was kind enough to get the piece of land secured by a boundary wall and gates. He also built small barracks like structure consisting of a few rooms for using them as office and some other activities. Eventually, we received a proposal from a friend of Usman, Sameer Hoodbhoy, to make an institute of micro engineering. The idea appealed to me and eventually in 1995, we started Usman Institute of Technology on the premise.
Unfortunately, soon after Haji Hasham died, the family couldn't or didn't provide any financial assistance to construct the building of the institute. Only Haji Sahib in the beginning took interest and we had the beginning of the building up to the plinth level due to his benefaction. Afterwards, only God helped me and also Sattar Parekh, who wanted to build a college in the name of his wife Shaukat Surriya, gave me some money to construct the building of UIT on my promise that eventually I would return his money and we would establish the college on the premise of Hamdard University, for which I had already talked to Hakeem Mohammad Saeed. It is only by the grace of God that I have been able to continue with the building and constructed the present site, admitted 54 students for engineering degrees.
Engineering education in Pakistan is governed by Pakistan Engineering Council and we didn't have the wherewithal either to construct the laboratories or get the recognized degrees. In the beginning, we signed an agreement with the Technical University of Nova Scotia (TUNS) in Canada and later found it too expensive for us.
I talked to Hakeem Sahib and entered into an agreement with him with the consent of Haji Hasham and other members of Hasham family. I myself could only pray to God that this venture may become successful and I was not disappointed by the grace of Almighty that eventually this institution became one of the prime institutions of micro-engineering in Karachi.
Now we have 1251 students, a qualified faculty of 59 and a fully constructed building and developed laboratories for the subject that we teach. We have got recognition from PEC as a Constituent Institute of Hamdard University and the University has been kind and gracious enough not to charge any fee from UIT nor claimed any percentage of the students' fee, who are technically the students of Hamdard University.
God above and Hamdard University below have been a succor to the institute and I am grateful to them.
I, myself, a Ph.D in Philosophy from London University. In addition to providing me a good job at the University of Karachi, that has also developed in me open-mindedness and capability to do a number of things rationally.
My own educational history is also slightly peculiar. I passed my inter science in 1st division from U.P Board in India and my parents wanted me to become a doctor. Eventually after partition, we had to migrate to Pakistan and I got admission both to King Edward Medical College, Lahore and Dow Medical College Karachi, but somehow becoming doctor didn't interest me as a career and I eventually went to S.M. College and being unable to decide a subject for me I did my B.A with honors in Philosophy.
At that time, an honor course was also of two years but with six papers of the same subject. Nobody including myself knew what I would do with the degree. But, eventually I was naturally propelled to study philosophy, did my M.A but even before that I started teaching at S.M. College.
My appointment story is also a little bit peculiar. One day when I was doing my M.A in Philosophy, I went to S.M College and perchance met the then principal Syed Ghulam Mustafa Shah. I was a known student at S.M. College, have been the editor of the college magazine for two years, and always took first prize in debate all over Pakistan. The Principal all of a sudden asked me 'my dear boy, do you want to teach'? Prompt came the reply almost inadvertently 'yes sir, why not'. He said 'start coming from tomorrow' and I was later given an appointment letter as a teaching fellow since I did not have an M.A degree till that time. Eventually, when I had, I was appointed as a lecturer. I also have had some experience of educational institutions since during my early days at school in Rampur I was helping a community school voluntarily.
In Pakistan also, I eventually prepared a proposal on the insistence of President Ziaul Haq for establishing the International Islamic University. Unfortunately when established it was not the same that I suggested but like the any other ordinary university with the stereotype charter.
My experience in the field of education helped me quite a lot in the development of UIT as an engineering institution and then I have started calling myself, jokingly, as an educational engineer.
We started this institution not with the traditional engineering subjects like civil and mechanical but looking at the needs of the time. We entered into the fields of electronics, computer engineering, telecommunications, and such other modern innovations in the field of engineering.
My experience in a number of universities in the world, in some of them I have also taught for some time, helped me put this small institution on a very sound footing and believing in the motto that 'small is beautiful'. I have tried to keep it small but beautiful. A number of UIT alumni are working abroad as engineers and they find their education here at par with any other education institution in America or anywhere else. Pakistan requires a lot many more engineers if it is to develop into a modern industrialized country.
Future of Pakistan depends on two types of human resource. The first is intellectual and the second is technological. Intellectual excellence would help the country to set the goals and right perspectives and chalk out a way for positive and constructive development. Technology, on the other hand, would help Pakistan to acquire these ends and we have to make a lot of progress in this respect. Pakistan would be an ideal place if we have these two sets of intellectual expertise and also an appropriate population control. If we are able to do that, I think the future of Pakistan would be glorious. The country has all what nature could provide but requires many more things, which only the human beings could provide.