STRAIGHT TALK by Hafeez Khan

This piece is a journey back to the original well that quenched our thirst for knowledge 50 years ago and prepared us to face challenges of life. The Punjab University and my own Department of Economics. I must confess I am an incurable romantic. I cherish the past, live in the present and continue to hold onto my dreams for the future. 50 years on, I am back to the same well. This time to quench our thirst to pay back in our golden years in the company of friends. May Allah bless our efforts. Our intent is to share our experience, capabilities to create positive energy and dynamism for our Alma Meter. We have a vision. We intend to harness the immense capabilities of 4 million Alumni of Punjab University.

We have no illusions of grandeur. We have to take baby steps before we seek to run. We have a full comprehension of challenges ahead of us. It will take time, it will take commitment, it has to be selfless and we will have our share of rejections. I believe we can handle it. We have confidence in ourselves, a strategy and a game plan with a clear vision. We want to lay the groundwork for the future generations of Alumni. Passion has no substitute.

It all started nearly 5 years ago in a meeting in Missisauga, Canada with GA Sabri. He is a power house. He is an innovator and delivers too. A rare combination. Over 3 decades of Bureaucratic shackles did not take away his dynamism. He believes, like I do, that life begins after 65 years. I pray for his good health. On 28th April 2019 our team’s efforts culminated in holding the first AGM of Punjab University Alumni Association. Resolutions were presented and unanimously adopted by the house regarding governing laws, objectives, a vision for PUAA, and an organisational road map.

This was made possible through the unwavering support by Vice Chancellor Dr. Niaz Ahmad Akhtar, his team Dr. Khalid Khan, Registrar, and dynamic Dr. Fauzia Hadi, Director Alumni and the Dean’s committee. Amongst the Alumni Raja Munawar emerged as a top notch organiser. A team has emerged that has demonstrated total dedication and commitment. It includes, Naseem Ur Rehman, Ameer Ul Azeem, Tahir Nawazish, Founding President Provincial Chapter South Punjab Zahid Hussain Gardezi, elegant Munawar Ghafoor, and Shahid Imam. In our journey forward we have been re-enforced by joining of Hamid Mir, Dr. Mumtaz Akhtar, Saeed Syed (Lala for friends), Dr. Saleha Naghmi, Rakhshanda Naveed, Dr.Syed Aziz Haidar, and Samina Asif Shah.

What has energised me is the response of Alumni in joining a mundane affair like Annual General Meeting. I am grateful to all the attendees who will go down in history of PUAA, when recorded, as participants of the founding AGM. I would like to specially recognise the presence of my talented friend Shaheen Atiq Ur Rahman, successful businessman Jahangir Ellahi, PU icon Rao Usman, Tariq Ghazi all the way from Glasgow, Khalid Saeed from Canada, the one and only Rana Farooq Ali Khan, the reclusive Sarwar Khan, Global Citizen Khalid Mian, the eloquent Afzal Shaikh, calmness personified Naveed Aftab Ahmad from Islamabad, my buddy Basharat and Khalid Ali Shah friends since Lyallpur days, Rashid Masood, Sohail Khan, Aziz Shah, and Ali Badar the scion of my friend Jahangir Badar. This is naming a few amongst those present. I have missed mentioning some friends. Apologies.I also gratefully acknowledge the kind wishes expressed by Alumni friends who could not attend. Appreciate your support.

After completing official proceedings, the speech by VC Dr. Niaz was a high point. He highlighted the principles according to which PU operates. Commitment to merit, total accountability, emphasis on improving the quality of curriculum and educational standards. Music to my ears. I have believed in this agenda for over a quarter of century. Under his stewardship PU has been ranked amongst top 1000 universities in overall standings. What was really heartening was that in some disciplines like Agriculture, PU ranks amongst the top 200 to 300 Universities. We have to continue this journey forward. The icing on cake was when Dr. Niaz disclosed that a hostel resident student pays equivalent to $1 per month as rent! It is less than the cost of a cup of coffee where I live! If you include electricity, water, common expenses, transport and medical care it is $12 per month!! Having put 4 kids through University, the minimum rent alone was $600 per month!!! What a generous opportunity dear students. Do value it!

Prior to Dr. Niaz’s address, I presented our vision for PUAA (Punjab University Alumni Association). What are we trying to achieve? Where do we expect this effort to lead us to? It was put together in consultation with PUAA executive. It is 5 point Agenda, summarized as under:

• PU intends to launch some bold initiatives to upgrade services offered. It intends to build a hospital. PUAA will support such efforts.
• Working with the University, PUAA will organise a “Centre of Excellence” to attract top Pakistani brains local and overseas, Alumni or otherwise to become a resource centre, a brain trust, a think tank. Nations are built by thinking minds.
• Create an endowment fund to support bright deserving students. Concept “Adopt a student as their Mentor”
• Bring together Alumni entrepreneurs, professionals, business leaders to provide career support and placement to University Graduates.
• Assist in developing PU co-operation with other Universities globally. It is a joint belief of University and PUAA that it is not the Quantity but Quality of education that will propel our Alma Mater to greater heights.

An organisational roadmap was also presented and adopted summarized as under:
• Create Provincial Chapters
• Create International Chapters
• Expand PUAA membership base
• Initiate Alumni directory and a data base
• Compile a list outstanding Alumni who have achieved distinction in their fields.

An ambitious agenda but achievable if we all pull together. Inshallah we will make it possible with your help.

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