Reason Before Passion

Sindhi, Pakistani and a Sufi Muslim

Pakistan’s First Ever Hackathon

1SZABIST Karachi organized Pakistan’s first ever Hackathon where 100+ computing/IT students from 7 different institutes stayed at SZABIST for 3 days and attempted to automate the manual processes of Pakistan. SZABIST Karachi is the institute from where I completed by MBA degree specializing in Marketing and I am proud of their achievement. Following is the Press Release of the event.

[48Hour Hackathon] Press Release

IEEE-SZABIST Student Branch is a non-profitable student branch at SZABIST of the international organization IEEE, which works to promote technological and industrial market by organizing various seminars, conferences and workshop catering students from all over Karachi.

From the 22nd to the 24th of March 2013, IEEE-SSB (SZABIST Student Branch) organized a 48-Hour application development event, HACKATHON at SZABIST 154, Clifton, Karachi. This event provided a forum for the students of Pakistan to collectively come up with creative ideas and provide technological solutions to real life problems.

The theme that we selected for the HACKATHON this year was ‘To Automate Any Manual Process of Pakistan‘.

IEEE-SSB molded this event to fit best at national level. It was platform and technology independent; the teams comprised of 2-4 participants and were allowed to work on web, mobile or desktop applications. There were a total of 26 teams and overall 118 students that registered for the event from 7 different universities all over Pakistan (SZABIST, FAST-NUCES, University of Karachi, ISRA University Hyderabad, DHA-SUFFA, SSUET, MAJU) who stayed at SZABIST 154 Campus for 3days. Participants were provided with all the necessities to make their stay as comfortable as possible.

There were 3 judges that were there to evaluate the projects of the participants at the end of the third day. The judges were from renowned industries and well reputed personalities including Mr. Syed Asif Shah (CEO, IT Minds), Mr. Owais Sheikh (CTO, Lutebox), Mr. Amir Ali Jivani (CTO, Pi-Labs). The judges were very fair in their judgment and gave ample time to every team to explain their projects in detail.

At the end, all the participants were awarded with a certificate of participation. The top 3 teams, all from FAST-NUCES received shields and cash prizes i.e. the team that came in first position received Rs. 20000, the team that came in second position received Rs.10000 and the team in third position received Rs. 5000.

For accomplishing all expected objects we have with us ICT R&D Funds & KMC, Thank you everyone for everything.


April 1, 2013 Posted by | Events | , , , | Leave a comment

Symmetry Shines at “Agency of the Year Awards 2012”

Symmetry Group has brought some much needed success for Pakistan at the prestigious “Agency of the Year awards 2012” that were recently held in Singapore. The Symmetry Group, comprising of Symmetry Digital, Creative Jin and Iris Digital, bagged 4 awards.

In the press conference held at Southend Club on February 2, 2013 the management presented details about the event and shared their success story. The “Agency of the Year” is a prestigious award that is well recognized internationally. Digital agencies from round the globe participate and there is a comprehensive screening process that ultimately leads to final selection. There are various categories, including a Pakistan specific sub-category within South Asia that was completely dominated by Symmetry Group. The group not just bagged all three awards from Pakistan category but was also awarded “South Asia Digital Agency of the Year”. Continue reading

January 7, 2013 Posted by | Events | , , | Leave a comment

Dear USA, Please Stop The Aid

Dear USA,

It’s been over 60 years since the first official contact between Pakistan and USA took place and our founding father, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, made a blunder for which our nation is still paying the price.

He asked you for ‘Aid’ !!

The requested amount totaled $2 Billion of which you provided ‘Aid’ amounted to $10 Million, just 0.5% of the requested assistance. It was American money, so you were fully in your right to refuse any more help. It set a precedent that haunts us to this day where our politicians and establishment elements look for more aid, loan and grants from you and refuse to clean up the mess created in our own backyard. Continue reading

June 12, 2011 Posted by | Current Affairs | , , , , | 3 Comments

Dear Jon Stewart (Regards, Arsalan Shaikh)

Dear Jon Stewart,

I used to think of you as one of the good guys. It always seemed that you were a one-man rallying cry for peace and understanding in the US media. You had taken it upon yourself to stand up to the right-wing bigots in your midst when it came to the New York Islamic Cultural Centre, Guantanamo, the invasion of Iraq and countless other instances where US citizens and Governments have acted in a reckless and arrogant manner.

As a Pakistani progressive, I find it increasingly more difficult to rally against the right-wing bigots that are increasingly taking over the agenda in my country. I would say to them that as a practicing Muslim I have more in common with someone like Jon Stewart, an American Jew who believes in equality, tolerance and understanding between different faiths then a jihadi who wants to kill people simply because they disagree with them. Continue reading

May 25, 2011 Posted by | Current Affairs | , , , , , | 8 Comments

Pakistan’s First National Anthem

A good friend Mobeen Ahmed Chughtai brought my attention back to our National Anthem which we spend every school day reciting in the morning and forget it altogether as an adult. Like many problems of Pakistan attached with languages, so is our National Anthem.

Pakistan’s Lingua Franca is English, the national language is Urdu, the provincial languages are Sindhi, Punjabi, Balochi and Pushto and National Anthem is in Persian. What is comical is that a common Pakistani doesn’t know more than three languages listed above on the average.

I found this post from Abdul Haseeb on the First National Anthem of Pakistan and it proved to be very interesting. I had read something similar before but his post is much clearer and gives some more in-depth details along with highlighting the poet who wrote it on none other than Mohammed Ali Jinnah’s instruction, Jagannath Azad. Continue reading

May 7, 2011 Posted by | Chronicles of Pakistan | , , , | 2 Comments

Osama Syndrome cured?

The month of May 2011 started off with a bang as people all over the world were startled with the news of great success …

The death of the infamous Osama Bin Laden.

As the information trickled in, we found that US Navy Seals conducted a secret operation during the night at a city called Abbottabad which is very close to the capital city of Pakistan. The night raid left Osama and his comrades dead, his sons and wives captured. The news further said that the dead body was offered to Saudi Arabia for burial, but they refused and the body was buried at the sea.

It was celebratory atmosphere in America as I watched on TV plenty of people waving hands and cheering at news, hoisting flags and claiming the end of evil. The biggest manhunt of modern times came to an end.

But what now? Continue reading

May 3, 2011 Posted by | Current Affairs | , , , | 1 Comment

The Woes of Business Education

Published here on Express Tribune.


It came as a shock to me when I read somewhere that Tokyo city alone had over 200 universities. If we check the list of most populace cities in the world, Karachi is included in the top 5 while Tokyo not even in top 10. Considering the huge difference in the population and education facilities, no wonder we have so many fake graduates ruling us.

When deciding to apply for graduate and post graduate programs, the youth find themselves extremely limited with the available choices. If we consider the business schools only, the top business school in Karachi doesn’t really live up to its name as the top, however the environment provided and the competitive nature of class tends to keep their students sharp. Having a 50 year history of producing business graduates who now dominate the market also greatly impacts with recruitment drives from known and respectable brands.
If you fail to get in due to competitive test, there is still a college and an institute that have developed reputable standing over the past couple of decades in business studies. They have their own specialties to offer and some of the program structures are not found in any other institute. There has been a growing number of people who actually target these institutions for admission rather than going for the best due to cost, location, environment, studies and various other factors.
Practically all other business schools position themselves after them, to catch those who fail to get into the top 3 of Karachi. Many might offer some argument in defense of their institutions but being a graduate from a “Navy” university myself and having a wide social network that spreads in all business schools of Karachi, I say with sadness that number of business schools can be counted on fingers irrespective of their quality level.
With such a low ratio of institution to students, no wonder business schools fail to take market studies and updating coursework seriously. Majority of them have teachers who had long ago memorized the text books to pass their exams and now follow the pattern to teach their classes, ever improving the art of “rattafication”. Some institutes are hell-bent on hiring those who recently graduated from that very institute, effectively killing the possibility of including fresh perspective and experienced faculty staff. The students are now so thoroughly trained in memorizing that even slight deviation becomes a nightmare, especially critical analysis. Teachers favoring free thought, open ended discussions and questions in the tests and exams end up receiving negative feedback from the class, nailing the coffin of ‘creativity’.
The institutions still have course books written by American, Canadian and British authors that are focused on business markets of their respective countries. Pakistani market, being an amalgamation of East-meets-West on many fronts (or simply compare Clifton with North Karachi), requires market understanding at an entirely different level. With the western coursework we are trying to imitate western market philosophy which does not properly apply to our business needs.
No local author has come up with satisfactory work in any sector of business which could be used as course book by local institutions. The business schools fail to take in market experts and leading companies as focus groups to understand market demands, improving quality of graduates, increasing depth of their major courses, draft conclusions, take in recommendations, implement them, perform follow-up meetings, check progress and call upon new focus group to understand the current market trends, gauge the effectiveness of previous focus group and asses the need for future.
There is a greater need to increase the number of higher education institutions in the country, let alone in a single city, but that is something which requires time and risk management. We still have current problems to face and resolve them somehow. Until the institutions take it seriously to improve their curriculum with the help of market experts and greatly enhance their graduates abilities, the students will always find a great disconnect between what they were prepared for and what they ended up facing in job market. If the talented students want to study and work abroad and immigrate to western nations on first chance, who can blame them when we ourselves are responsible for ongoing ‘brain drain’?

October 23, 2010 Posted by | Published Articles | , | 3 Comments

Politics: “Personality Based” or “Party Based”?



Published here on Express Tribune.


Politics in Pakistan is a well known tangle of confusion, lies, deception, favoritism and broken promises. Anything that goes wrong, be it your boss really angry at you when a colleague revealed your secret or you’re next in line for team’s captaincy and someone ‘less worthy’ is favored over you, politics is to blame.

In my experience of both urban Karachi and rural Sindh I came across two distinct forms of commercial politics (politicians are contractual employees, aren’t they?). The personality based politics has strong roots in the countryside where, in a given area, a certain landlord will hold most influence. No matter which party he chooses or even decides to stand as an independent candidate, the votes in his locality will go to him (debatable if it’s by love or by force). This gives the candidate bargaining power and he chooses party that benefits him the most or to whom he’s most loyal.

In similar fashion the party based politics has strong base in Karachi and maybe urban centers like Lahore as well. The party chooses its candidates and probably the seats as well on which they fight during elections. How much the people have their say or how much the candidates have the bargaining power, it is debatable since every party has its own rules and policies. Whether in your locality an unknown person rises up to participate in elections or a personality you know very well and respect, it is up to the party to nominate the candidates.

We have seen effects of both political styles on local, national and international level and have examples to show who people vote and who they would not when given the choice. We have seen ‘Jamshed Dasti’ winning election from Southern Punjab again after resigning despite having fake degree, and we have seen an unknown figure ‘Syed Mustafa Kamal’ rising out towards fame when MQM nominated him against the veteran politician ‘Naimatullah Khan’. Despite having no distinguished record of politics and Naimatullah’s recent completion of term as Mayor Karachi, Mustafa Kamal became second mayor of Karachi in an era of construction blitzkrieg which he further sped up, resulting in a change of face for several areas of the largest city of Pakistan.

Both politicians were supported by their respective people that prove the distinct forms of political practices prevalent in their respective constituencies. Comparing to other countries we often find some similarities and many differences to the way politicians are recognized. Very few people must have missed ‘Barak Obama’s’ rise to presidency where he had charmed the American people so much that he earned victory against ‘Hillary Clinton’ to become lead nominee for ‘Democratic Party’ and faced the ‘Republican Party’ nominee ‘John McCain’ in the final showdown. From his early days as community organizer and civil rights attorney to state senator and then President, a clear line of political ascendance can be traced down to its roots. The U.S political system comprising of Senators might be slow but has the clarity to rip the politician down to his/her bare essence.

In Pakistan however, our Presidents are military usurpers, backdoor entrants, puppets and ceremonial figureheads chosen to smile and nod to show ‘aal iz vell’ in the country. Can there be a possibility for evolution of Pakistani politics where politicians are ripped to their essence and their worth is judged by 180 million (and counting) Pakistanis? If so, will it be the urban ‘Party based’ or rural ‘Personality based’ that will dominate the field?

October 20, 2010 Posted by | Published Articles | , , , | Leave a comment

People of Pakistan: Anyway to Satisfy?

Recently a friend asked me:


“waka, bhai mere tell me ONE way Pakistan can run and people wud be satisfied. I don’t say happy or delighted just satisfied”

The question put me in a difficult position. Most of the literate and educated youth are, sadly, ignorant of ground realities of Pakistan. They might be well versed with Democratic definitions, latest fashion trends, technology changes, industrial development, government corruption and situation of corporate market. Most of these youth probably spent 500 to 5000 rupees a week and their awareness radar operates as far as limits of their urban centers allow.

Beyond that, these youth are dependent on whatever news is brought to them through internet and media. It is good to see youth getting vocal on national issues which is the macro vision of Pakistan, however majority of the youth fail to understand the micro level when asked about tribes, villages, towns, peasants, farmers, landlords and countryside bureaucracy. The latter constitute above 60% of Pakistan geographically, a huge reality that cannot be ignored yet the cage of their cities don’t allow them to properly explore what majority of their country offers to them.

Therefor, with a heavy heart, I gave him the following answer.

People will NEVER be satisfied. Rural side wants traditional PPP and PML governments, they want to have government jobs, they want development work and agricultural friendly policies. Last but not the least, they want Education even though it’s their least priority.

Cities want diverse groups in government, they want more opportunities, private sector seeks growth, industrial expansion, business safety, urban center development, investment friendly policies, fair market practices, law and order safety and more privatisation of government assets.

Human rights groups want more emphasis on basic rights, provision of water and electricity to furthest corners of Pakistan, reduction in human rights abuses including household “zulm” on wives and daughters in our male dominant society, improve police attitude and cooperation, abolition of laws violating or hurting humans in anyway and public awareness campaigns from the government.

The Expats want our currency to remain devalued enough so that they can send sufficient money to their families in Pakistan. The exporters also want the same so that they can export more to foreign countries.

The importers want increased value of money so that they can import more.

The west, quite frankly, wants us to remain beggars with their constant support of military dictators which hurts Pakistan in the long run.

The Indians wants us to forget Kashmir and be happy buddies forever.

The Chinese wants us to stay supportive all time and help us with everything from small needle to Nuclear reactors. US, Japan and India do not like China and that’s a fact hard to miss.

The average urbanite in Pakistan wants beer, booz and every ‘Haram’ thing to enjoy the adult life.

The Mullahs want Shariah and complete Nakaab culture.

The Taliban wants beheading of every person they deem un-Islamic.

The non-Muslims want a greater share in governance, possibility of having a non-Muslim President, safety of life, freedom to practice their religion and equality on all fronts.

Shia Muslims want their fair share in religious practices.

Sunni sect itself has various sub-sects as contenders to dominant Sunni faction.

Punjabi wants greater availability of water for better agriculture.

Sindhi wants more water in River Indus for the crops of Sindh.

and the list goes on and on and on …

Tell me, can ANYONE even possibly satisfy half of them?

It is a sad reality, one that we cannot ignore. No matter what we do, there is no way to satisfy everyone. However, we can compromise for national interest and compromise comes through consensus. Dictators do not compromise. They either bow or crush, there is no middle ground to track on and this is the result of their life long military training.

Our political parties, even if corrupt, at least represent the far flung areas of Pakistan where few, if any, urbanites have ventured. Unless people and youth of urban centers venture out of their concrete cages, spend some time with nature, speak with people in regional languages of Pakistan (Punjabi, Sindhi, Pushto, Hindko, Balochi, Saraiki etc), understand them and their plight and work accordingly to educate them and their children, Pakistan cannot progress and will remain in suspended animation of a wounded falcon that can neither fly, hop or crawl and wait for a slow death.

October 19, 2010 Posted by | Current Affairs | | Leave a comment


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