Monday, October 12, 2009

Endless Supply of Energy For All of Us and Our Grandchildren

In the past new discoveries and inventions have altered the economic topography of the World. The discovery of metal made obsolete the stone age. The discovery of coal eased pressure on forests and the invention of steam engine and the automobile ushered in unprecented growth and economic booms on our planet. Our curent age has been recently under pressure due to declining supplies of oil and gas, the two main ingredients that presently fuel our economic engine. However, now it appears that there is no need to worry. Recent new discoveries of gas reserves have changed the balance of energy on our planet. Waning supplies of oil are not going to be a cause for worry in the near future. Please copy and paste the link below in your browser search bar to read more from the article published in The Telegraph on October 11, 2009

Thursday, October 8, 2009

A View of Urbanization in Asia

Singapore: A fully urbanized city

In the past two years I have visited Dhaka, Karachi, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. I have lived in New York, San Francisco and Seattle and have spent my vacations in London, Frankfurt, Munich, Zurich and Tokyo at one time or another. Therefore, I believe I can to some degree consider myself qualified to talk on the subject of traveling in urban cities of the developing countries. I will not delve into the technical aspects of urbanization as others have amply expounded upon it in other blogs. My goal is to try to shed some light on a few cities by comparing some similarities and differences. Though my comments are mostly subjective they are meant to provide insight to future travelers visiting these exotic areas.


I define urbanization as the adoption of technological structures in an attempt to improve the life of a people. Urbanization is not to be confused with civility and civic sense as they are distinctly exclusive and independent of each other. Civility in my mind is showing respect for other human beings in the day-to-day course of life. Civic sense on the other hand, is possessing a deep sense of preservation of one’s heritage and culture and awareness of the environment we live in. A city or town does not have to be urbanized to display characteristics of civility and civic sense in its population and like wise it is possible for a highly urbanized city to have a population lacking civility and civic sense.

Appreciation and Preservation of Cultural Heritage

In Eastern Europe, even when it was behind the Iron Curtain, the people of these cities and towns displayed a great amount of civic sense. They rebuilt the cities that were totally destroyed in WW ll. Instances of looting of the historic artifacts or furniture from the government and military buildings that were destroyed were rare. If you visit any of these cities now, Prague, East Berlin, Warsaw etc you will not believe that these were the same places that were destroyed by the ravages of WW ll. They have completely rebuilt their cities. They have even restored their old Plazas and market squares to their former glory. Possessions of their former Monarchs (who they hated) have also been preserved (not destroyed and looted) and put in Museums. Even the officials who were corrupt stole only money but did not steal and plunder what belonged to the city and its people as they considered it as part of their history and culture. Paintings and sculptures of the hated tyrants and rulers were also preserved and or restored with great care. As a result of the efforts of its citizens these highly urbanized centers have become a showcase of their glorious past-where the ancient and the modern live side by side in complete harmony.

Civil Etiquette

The polite mannerisms of the royal courts in Europe got transferred to the general population when education became open to the public. This is why we find the Western societies, in general, to be civil and polite in their day-to-day interactions with others. The same thing happened to the people living around the Moghul capital of Delhi. Even to this day they are very polite with each other and there is a lot of ‘aap’, ‘janab’ and ‘pehley aap’ in their language. With the exception of North India most of India escaped the direct exposure of the Moghul Courts. Lahore was basically a distant outpost remotely managed from Delhi. This is the reason, regrettably, even the highly educated people in many parts of Pakistan and India do not possess the basic civil etiquette that is inherent in most other societies outside of the Sub Continent.

Hybrid Cities
Dhaka: A partially urbanized city

Both Dhaka and Kula Lumpur have a population that is not only civil in their manner but display a lot of civic sense. Yes, there are dirty and filthy areas in both cities but that is due to the inability of its local governments to handle the exploding sanitation issues due to a meteoric rise in population in the past two decades. What has happened is that parts of Dhaka and Kuala Lumpur (Downtowns, business centers, areas surrounding government buildings etc) are urbanized in the sense that they have roads, train stations, bus stations, mono rails, malls, hi rise office and apartment buildings etc. but a few miles from these locations vast areas exist that cannot be classified as urban.

So, these are hybrid cities consisting of rural and urban patches where majority of the people work in urban centers and enjoy the urbanization of their cities and come home to a lazy sleepy village-like locality where they actually live.

Psyche of the People Makes a Difference

Both in Dhaka and Kuala Lumpur the people are very mild in nature, generally, and deal with life’s issues with a sense of stoic understanding. Kula Lumpur, due to its affluence, is cleaner than Dhaka. I saw in Kuala Lumpur scores of sanitation workers who show up early in the morning in each neighborhood and sweep and clean all the public areas including roads. And take the trash away in trucks. (Just like it was done in Karachi when I was in school and Karachi was very clean then) Even though a great majority of the people in Kuala Lumpur is Muslim the Hindu and the Buddhist minorities enjoy the same amount of freedom and are considered equal as citizens. The Hindu minority in Dhaka is treated similarly and holds many respectable positions in private and public offices.

My Impression of Dhaka
A city growing in a giant delta of some of the world's largest rivers

Dhaka, on the other hand has its shortfall in its weather. It is at the mercy of nature every year. Numerous hurricanes rip up entire neighborhoods and shantytowns and floods wipe out large chunks of the city each year. All is quickly cleaned up and rebuilt after each destruction. People are forced to live in the low-lying delta areas only a foot or so above sea level because they have nowhere else to go. For these people who live on a season-to-season basis sanitation is not an issue or a priority. They live off the river. They wash in it. They bathe in it. They do their laundry in it. They eat from it. They dispose of their garbage in it. You have to see it to believe it. These people are so intertwined with the water that surrounds them that it has become part of their daily environment and they are like fish out of water without it. To an urban dweller they may appear primitive and perhaps they are in an economic sense. But educated or uneducated I found them to have a great sense of appreciation for art, music and crafts. In their spare time a lot of them paint, practice music and dance, read poetry and attend local theatrical shows and performances. Generally, men and women are treated equally. And the practice of purdah is not common. However, respect for women and girls, by men and boys, far exceeds anything I have seen in Pakistan. In a textile factory that I visited men and women worked together just like you would see in any office in USA. And I guess the number of men and women in this particular factory were nearly equal.
Life on the banks of the Sitalakha river

I also visited a slum and an industrial area in Dhaka. I found the slum to be fairly cleaner than I expected. Sure there was some filth and flies etc. But the residents themselves had relatively clean clothes and were very well behaved. As camera toting tourists we were not surrounded by a mob that would be following us had we been in the slums of Karachi or Bombay. No one begged for money or food. They went about their daily chores of cooking, cleaning etc while we walked around and took pictures. I was surprised to learn that they had pooled in money and installed two tube wells for their clean water supply. With the help of a local charity they had also built some shared squat toilets. Separate ones for men and women. I was told that community hygienists regularly visited them to teach them cleanliness and hygiene. The open mindedness of these poor people to learn new things and a desire to better their environment amazed me. As we were leaving a woman jokingly asked us, “When are you going to give us electricity?” When our guide angrily responded, “What are you going to do with electricity?” she quickly responded, “I will cook rice with it. I do not want to use wood for fire. It causes too much smoke. Electricity is better, right?”

Life in a Dhaka slum: a woman preparing lunch for her family
Even areas where factories and industries exist conscious consideration to the environment have been given and a heightened awareness of the surroundings is apparent. Several of the factories have wastewater treatment plants, flower gardens and shade trees to soften the industrial setting and workers are encouraged to plant vegetable gardens on the factory grounds. Material was kept in organized piles and scraps and waste were quickly disposed off for recycling. Generally, the factory workers appeared to be in good health and I did not see signs of abuse or harsh labor.

Lotus field in the back yard of a tea factory

One textile factory I visited was immaculately clean, had fire extinguishers, proper signage, child care facility for working mothers, an infirmary and adequate lighting on the work floors. This factory could easily serve as a model for many US and European cities.


My 2008 visit to Karachi did not impress me with any kind of a positive feeling. It did not appear to have changed much in character (despite the flyovers and new roads) from my 2003 and 1989 visits. On the contrary, it appeared to have gotten much dirtier. Clearly the meager resources of the Sanitation Department were unable to cope with the tons of garbage generated daily by the citizens of Karachi. Streets and back alleys were littered with piles of debris and garbage surrounded by swarms of flies.

Residents of Karachi are rough, impolite, and ready to cheat and hustle. I had to be cautious and wary all the time. It does not have the characteristics that would attract the tourists and foreigners. Safety is a big issue here. In the 70’s lots of tourists from the Middle East used to visit Karachi and would send their children to study in the schools and colleges there. Now, for tourism and education, they are bypassing Karachi and going to New Delhi, Bangkok, and Kuala Lumpur etc. Also in the 70s it was very common for people from the Middle East to come to Karachi for medical treatment. Now, they too are going to India, Thailand and Malaysia bypassing Pakistan altogether.

Communication is another issue. Most people in Karachi do not even have the ability to help someone needing directions. They have a tough time being polite and patient guiding someone from out of town. Most will try to avoid conversation with a stranger (or a tourist) and say they cannot help them even if they can. I do not know if it is out of shyness or fear. Even storekeepers are short and would rudely say, “Go to the next store and ask there.” Perhaps, one would have greater success if they spoke in English. Language of the Farangis, I found commands a lot of respect and attention, especially with government officials. Speaking in Urdu puts one at a lower rank in their minds. Speaking in English at the expense of Urdu tells these officials that you are at a much higher social status than them and they have been trained for decades to be subservient to people of higher social class than themselves.


Singapore is the jewel of S.E. Asia. It beats any N. American or European city hands down in technology, education, civic and civil sense, and urbanization. Among the top 10 most attractive cities of the World it ranks as #8 or #9 in my mind. I did not give it a 10 because of the year-round hot weather, which I do not like.

Essential Ingredients

In summary, if certain key ingredients are missing any one would be hard pressed to call a city civilized no matter how urbanized it may get. The main ingredients of a civilized urban center being: safety, communication, respect for other people and other cultures, good public transportation, proper sanitation and a passion for its cultural heritage.

In the Developed countries the cities became urbanized over a long span and had the advantage of growing with and around new technologies as they came about. However, in the Developing countries urbanization in several cities is taking place at a break neck speed and often without much planning and consideration to infrastructure necessary to support such a change. With the exception of Singapore, the cities that I recently visited, Dhaka, Kula Lumpur and Karachi, were missing some or all of the essential ingredients cited above.

You can take the Paindoo out of Pind but you cannot take the Pind out of a Paindoo

I tend to think that Pakistan’s cities in particular are nothing but large villages as the people choose to live like villagers in them. I have personally witnessed residents of fancy hi-rise apartments throwing trash out of their windows and beetle leaf chewing men regularly spitting the brown colored liquid in corners of stairwells and elevators. Let us not forget that Karachi was always a haven for tourists and out-of-towners. Yes, these were and always will be the people from NWFP, Punjab, Baluchistan and interior Sind. Why does it need tourists from anywhere else?

Future of these New Urban Centers

Emulating its Southern neighbor, Singapore, I do not see any hindrances in the way of Kuala Lumpur becoming a successful Urban Center in the near future. But I have my doubts about Dhaka. The love of its people for their village life, the annual toll taken by nature on this city and the political instability that has dogged Bangla Desh since its independence may all keep it from getting fully urbanized for few more decades. This may surprisingly turn out to be a good thing for Dhaka as it will help it preserve its original character for much longer. Karachi on the other hand being a near 100% immigrant city is embarking on an urbanization experiment of its own. Its multi lingual and multi cultural population of about 15 Million, consisting of 9 Million original immigrant families whose parents came to Karachi from India after Pakistan’s independence, and its 6 Million migrants from other Provinces that have settled there for better economic prospects, gives it a unique blend of chaos and confusion not found in any other city. Ten years from now, assuming it can solve its infrastructure problems, Karachi may become a nice gleaming metropolis of S.E. Asia with a grid of criss-crossing highways and freeways, ritzy hotels, and tall glass and metal hi-rise towers vying Dubai where it will not be out of the ordinary and even considered acceptable to see in the financial district a Lala Bhai urinating on the fa├žade of Al Burj Karachi.

Moin Ahmed

Related Links:

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Remembering Dr. Akhtar Hameed Khan

Dr. Akhtar Hameed Khan is one of the unsung heros of the Indan Sub Continent. To hes credit he was one of the first to start a real rural development program in Bangladesh that was effective and lasting. What he founded in 1958 as Pakistan Academy for Rural Development still exists as Bangladesh Academy of Rural Development. He is also credited as one of the first to have introduced micro credit in Comilla.

The below article first apeared in Asian Tribune on Oct. 7th., 2009

By Nasim Yousaf

Dr. Akhtar Hameed KhanDr. Akhtar Hameed Khan, social scientist, was born into a cultured and noble family on July 15, 1914 in Agra, India. He was the eldest son of Khan Sahib Amir Ahmad Khan.

After completing his education in India, he joined the Indian Civil Service (I.C.S.). After joining the prestigious group of government servants, Dr. Khan went to Magdelene College at Cambridge University for two years, from 1936 to 1938.

In 1939, Dr. Khan married Hameedah Begum, the oldest daughter of the famous leader from South Asia, Allama Inayatullah Khan Al-Mashriqi. Their Nikah (Islamic marriage) ceremony was held at the end of 1939, and their Rukhsati (bride’s departure from parent’s home) was held in May 1940. After Hameedah’s death, he re-married. From his first wife, he had three daughters and a son and from his second wife, he had a daughter.

Dr. Khan was the founder of the Pakistan Academy for Rural Development, Comilla (now known as Bangladesh Academy for Rural Development, BARD) and the Orangi Pilot Project (OPP), Karachi. The BARD was started in 1958 whereas the OPP was launched in 1980. Dr. Khan achieved global recognition as a result of his work on these exemplary community development projects.

In the early 1960’s, Dr. Khan formally introduced microfinance / microcredit through the Comilla Co-operatives scheme (also known as Comilla Model or Comilla Approach); he demonstrated to the world that microfinance / microcredit models could work and could be applied on global scale. Today microcredit is a buzzword in the world of economic development and poverty alleviation.

Crediting Dr. Khan on microcredit, Louis A. Picard, Robert Groelsema, and Terry F. Buss wrote in their book entitled, Foreign Aid and Foreign Policy: Lessons for the Next Half-Century: "The village small cooperative loan system set up through Comilla was a forerunner of the Grameen Bank, now considered a major breakthrough in terms of microcredit."

Microcapital Monitor (Massachusetts, USA) wrote in its issue of May 2008 under “Pioneers in Microfinance” (under written by Deutsche Bank): “…Khan is the originator of two development exemplars: the Comilla Model and the Orangi Pilot Project. Dr. Akhtar Hameed Khan help lay the basic foundations of the microcredit movement through his work on the Comilla Model of rural development in the 1960’s and the Orangi Pilot Project in the 1980’s.”

Under the Comilla Co-operatives scheme, Dr. Khan also introduced microsavings. Initially the villagers could not grasp the concept, and Arthur F. Raper wrote of these villagers in his book: “‘What does the man [Dr. Khan] mean — telling us [villagers] to save?’…‘When we tell him we are too poor to save, he says that is why we must save.’” Raper went on to write in reference to said scheme: “The savings in the early days appear tiny indeed. During April, savings of the first seven agriculture societies ranged from Rs.12.00 to Rs. 65.00. The per-member monthly savings ranged from Rs.0. 60 (12 cents) to Rs. 2.65.”

Recognizing Dr. Khan’s overall achievements at the Comilla Academy, the Board of Trustees of The Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation (Philippines) honored him with the Magsaysay Award, also known as Asia's Nobel Prize, in August 1963. In 1964, Michigan State University awarded him with an Honorary Doctorate for his works and accomplishments.

In his lifetime, Dr. Khan was also given many other awards for his innovative ideas, tremendous achievements, and contributions towards economic and human development. Among these were the Nishan-i-Imtiaz, Hilal-e-Pakistan, Sitra-i-Pakistan, and Jinnah Award.

Dr. Khan was also invited to speak at various forums and he shared his ideas at various institutions around the globe. Dr. Khan was a visiting professor at many distinguished universities, such as Harvard, Princeton, and Michigan State Universities in the USA, Lund University in Sweden, and Oxford University in England. Dr. Khan was also on the boards of various educational institutions in Pakistan.

Throughout the course of his lifetime, not only did he establish himself as a social scientist but also as a scholar and a poet. Dr. Khan possessed an immense amount of knowledge, and we could have learned much more from him, but his time came to depart. Dr. Khan left us on October 09, 1999; he died in the USA where he was visiting his family.

Today, Dr. Khan’s ideas and works are quoted in books and journals and are not only globally recognized but replicated in various countries of the world. Millions of unprivileged people are benefiting from these projects in Pakistan, in Bangladesh, and across the globe.

May Dr. Akhtar Hameed Khan rest in peace and may God bless his soul.

A web site has been dedicated to Dr. Khan:

- Asian Tribune -

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Summary of my November 2009 Meeting with NEDUET Vice Chancellor, Abul Kalam

Meeting Summary

2008 Alumni Convention in Hartford

1. 2008 Convention Report and Convention souvenirs were presented to the VC.

NEDAA VP, Moin Ahmed meeting with VC & his Faculty
2. Apologized to the VC that we could not play the VC's Welcome Speech during the 2008 Alumni Convention due to technical difficulties. Informed him that it has now been posted on the NEDNEC website. [The VC Speech CD was specially hand delivered by Prof. Rafeeqi for the 2008 Convention.]


The main drawback that NEDUET faces in the accreditation process is that their graduates lack the 20-25 % Humanities credits that foreign Institutions require at graduation. Introduction of new Humanities courses to increase the Humanities vs. Tech portion to 20-25% will certainly help with the accreditation process. Most undergraduate US schools require about 28-32 Humanities credits out of a total of 128-140 credits required to graduate. By offering increased number of Humanities Courses favorable results from the accreditation agencies can be expected. Furthermore, similar to the Mathematics Department NEDUET may want to look into establishing additional Departments that deal with Humanities subjects. For example a Dept. of Language Studies, a Dept. of Religious Studies, Dept. of History, Dept of Design and Graphics etc. From these Humanities Departments the students can chose whatever Humanities courses they were interested in. All students may not end up taking the same Humanities courses as long as they meet the 28-32 credit requirement.

1. Some subjects could also benefit by renaming them with little or no modification to the course content. For example English can be offered thru Dept of Languages as English Language or English Literature or English Writing. Islamiat can be offered thru Dept. of Religious Studies as Islam - the Religion of the World, or Islam in the 21st Century. Similarly, Technical Drawing can be offered as Graphics Design. Some effort can also be made to offer French and German Courses along with local languages such as Urdu, Sindhi, Pushto etc.

2. In conformance with the status of a University it would be beneficial for NEDUET to separate its Undergraduate programs from Graduate programs. Separate Undergraduate and Graduate Schools should be created. This separation will not only play a positive role in the accreditation process but will also lend great credibility to the MS and PhD courses.

3.. Result sheets and Transcripts can prove to more useful if both marks in percentage and GPA were indicated. Other than helping in the accreditation process this will greatly benefit students applying for studies abroad.


NEDUET agreed to take part in all international ranking surveys.

TEPS (Technical Education Program Series)

1. Discussed the MOU that was signed between NEDUET and NEDAA to jointly host Seminars, workshops and lectures by distinguished alumni. It was agreed that changes need to be made to the MOU to allow NEDAA to facilitate in collaboration with the Local Associations to select Alumni desirous of participating in this Program

2. TEPS is a collaborative effort between the NEDUET and NEDAA to transfer technological and state of the art knowledge to the Pakistani Engineering community by NED Alumni residing and working in North America. Our Alumni will conduct lectures, workshops and Seminars during their visits to Karachi.

3. TEPS will also conduct workshops and seminars thru Video Conferencing. NED has developed brand new facilities for Video Conferencing that are to be utilized for this purpose.

NEDAN (NED Alumni Network)

1. NEDUET has created a new Alumni Website known as NEDAN. This was also announced in the 2008 Alumni Convention in Hartford by Dr. Shams, Pro VC.

2. NEDAA supports the formation of NEDAN Website and has already provided valuable input. This Website will be supported and managed by NEDUET with input from Faculty and Alumni.

3. The main purpose of NEDAN will be to authenticate Alumni status, offer a place for job postings, collect

4. All Alumni endowments to go thru NEDAN and will be deposited in the Endowment Account.

5. NEDAA to assist NEDAN in ironing out difficulties in the use of Credit Cards and Charge Cards.

Governing Body

1. All affairs of NEDAN including endowments to be managed by an advisory panel that will be known as the Governing Body.

2. The proposed Governing Body structure to be composed of 10 Faculty members, one to two Alumni from each of the five Regions of N. America and 10 Alumni from NEDAA Executive Council.

MS and PhD Program Status

1. Currently 400 students are enrolled in the MS program and 11 in the PhD.

2. To date 1600 students have received MS Degrees and 4 have received PhD degrees.

3. About 45 Faculty members are abroad and in the process of obtaining their PhD degrees.


A great deal of research work is taking place at NEDUET. Here is a summary by Departments.

Civil Engineering including Architecture, Urban Planning and Environmental Department

1. Currently CE Department has a $1.4 million NSF grant to do research study on Earth quakes.

2. CE Department publishes two Journals per year

3. Old NED Campus located at Burns Rd is now known as the City Campus & is also the UNESCO Office for Architectural Restoration. Dr Noman who runs the City Campus works with UNESCO in identifying buildings that can be classified as Heritage Buildings and later works with various agencies in restoring these Buildings to their original glory. City Campus itself is currently undergoing historic restoration under this program.

CE Department is currently doing research on the following projects:

              1. Earth Quakes

              2. Construction Management

              3. Intelligent Transportation Systems

              4. Seismology

Mechanical Engineering Department

Following Research Projects are currently being pursued by the ME Department that is being headed by Dr. Nazim

             1. Computational Fluid Dynamics

             2. Desalination

             3. Supply Chain Management

             4. Wrinkle Free Printing for Textiles

             5. Fuel Cells

             6. Biodiesel

Computer Science Department

The following Research Projects are currently being pursued by the Computer Science Department.

               1. OCR

               2. Quantum Cryptography

               3. Computer Vision

Electronics Department

Following Research Projects are currently being pursued by the Electronics Department :

              1. Muti Core Multi Threading Parallel Processing

              2. Chip Design

              3. Zinc Oxide Photo Voltaic Cells for luminaries

Other Research Projects

              1. Small scale De-Salination Plant already built and functioning on Campus

              2. Campus wide Waste Water Treatment Plant already built and functioning on campus. Used   for irrigation water for grass and trees on campus.

              3. Solar Project already built and functioning on Campus. Used to supply hot water to Mosque.

Coordination with Local Industry

The University works closely with the Industry around the Karachi area. Most of the Undergraduate Projects come thru the Telecomm, Electronics Companies, factories and manufacturing sector.

Many of the undergrad students also receive Internships in the various industries around the Karachi area.


The curriculum and courses are thoroughly discussed with experts inside and outside Pakistan to ensure that they are at par with competitive Engineering schools worldwide. Discussion also takes place on the quality of the courses in the Academic Council and the Syndicate Meetings. The Syndicate is the equivalent of Campus Trustees.

Keynote Speaker for the Convocation

Suggestion was made to invite prominent academicians and personalities from neighboring countries like India, BD, Sri Lanka, HK, Singapore and other SE Asian Countries for the Keynote Speech during annual Convocations instead of from inside Pakistan. This will help spread the reputation of NEDUET in SE Asia and may attract foreign students to NEDUET. Distinguished Alumni in USA and Europe should also be considered.

NEDAA Recognized as the Central Body

1. NEDUET has recognized NEDAA as the umbrella organization that will be the liaison between NEDUET and other Alumni Associations. This will prevent all local Associations from individually bringing up the same issues to NEDUET.

2. NEDUET recognizes NEDAA as the National Association that will be providing coordination and guidance to all the local Alumni Associations in N. America.

Submitted by:

Moin Ahmed

NED Alumni Association

Clockwise from left, Moin Ahmed with VC, NED Admin Building, Prof. Rafeeqi and Moin Ahmed wiith portrait of founder of NED, Nadirshaw E. Dinshaw