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Visionary educationist


July 17, 2020

After the sad and sudden death of Nisar Ahmed Siddiqi, the vice chancellor of IBA-Sukkur, jockeying for a replacement has begun and there are a myriad of candidates being considered for the coveted post at one of the rising educational institutions in the country.

IBA-Sukkur shot to prominence within a short span of time as a top-notch institution due to the dedicated and visionary leadership of Mr Siddiqi, who as a top bureaucrat had multiple choices, like others bureaucrats, to live a life of great luxury and amass wealth but instead chose differently. He chose a path that involved bringing socioeconomic transformation in our society through education. To him education was a game-changer, an equalizer and an ability-enhancer.

Hailing from humble beginnings, he grew up in the small town of Piryalo in the Khairpur district and started his career as a school teacher. He recognized the value of bureaucratic power in changing the social and economic equilibrium. For this purpose, he wanted to be a part of the power structure in Pakistan. He passed the CSS exam with flying colors and joined the District Management Group (DMG).

Reforming education was an unshakable commitment of his. In the 90s, copy culture was at its peak and posed a serious menace to the good cause of quality education. During his position as commissioner in Sukkur, Nisar Siddiqi grabbed the copy mafia by its horns and frequently raided exam centers to stop students from cheating.

His devotion to quality education did not stop here. Realizing the importance of business education in the 90s, he notioned the idea of establishing a business school with the sole purpose of imparting quality education at the doorstep of poor children in rural Sindh who could not afford to travel to Karachi, Lahore or Islamabad. The result was the establishment of IBA-Sukkur.

The evolution of IBA-Sukkur has been very interesting. It was launched and housed in two rooms at Public School Sukkur but eventually grew to a grand campus, equipped with state-of-the-art physical, technological and human infrastructure with many individual characters in its story of growth. One such character is Prof Shah Mohammad Luhrani, former chairman of the Department of Business Administration and Dean Faculty of Management Sciences at Shah Abdul Latif University (SALU), Khairpur.

According to his narration on social media, his association with Siddiqui started in 1993, when he started teaching macroeconomics and finance as a visiting faculty member at the Department of Business Administration at SALU. According to Prof Luhrani, Nisar Siddiqi wanted to establish a high-quality institution in Sukkur and in 1995, he as commissioner in Sukkur visited his department along with three deputy commissioners and sought help in the establishment of a business institute. In 1995, on Siddiqi’s request , Prof Luhrani prepared a project proposal, eventually received approval, and established IBA Sukkur as a separate wing of Public School Sukkur offering a Diploma of Business Administration.

In 1996, Siddiqi and Prof Luhrani met Prof Dr Wahab Siddiqui, the then director of IBA Karachi, and proposed institutional affiliation, with the support of Syed Khurshed Ahmed Shah. The meeting was arranged with the then governor Kamal Azfar for this pitch. Shortly after, IBA-Sukkur received affiliation and started offering BBA and MBA degree programs, and in 2000 the campus space shifted to a newly constructed campus with multiple buildings accommodated within 20 acres of land.

In the early years of IBA-Sukkur, major support came from Syed Khursheed Shah, an MNA in Sukkur and Khalid Mehmood Soomro, the then commissioner in Sukkur. Both played a key role in the establishment of IBA-Sukkur. Without their support, it would not have been possible to develop the academic institution in terms of acquiring funding and land. Siddiqi, being the home secretary, exercised his influence in amassing funds and speeding up construction work, says Prof Luhrani.

No doubt Nisar Siddiqi provided the lifeblood in developing IBA-Sukkur and has left behind a very strong and rich legacy in terms of developing a cutting-edge campus with modern physical and technological facilities.

According to Dr Waheed Umrani, associate professor at the Department of Management Sciences, IBA-Sukkur in the span of 15 years has produced 91 PhD scholars, and around 73 PhD scholars are currently pursuing their doctoral degrees abroad. According to IBA-Sukkur's website, there are six faculty departments: management science, electrical engineering, computer science, education, mathematics and supporting faculty. Each faculty possesses highly-qualified teachers who impart quality education. It is interesting to note that IBA-Sukkur has developed its own indigenous faculty; most teachers are from adjoining areas.

Being mindful of the institution’s geographic surrounding, an area dotted with poor students who cannot afford to pursue higher education on their own limb, Nisar Siddiqui arranged funding for scholarships. Today around 70 percent of the total students on campus are studying on a scholarship. He developed the National Talent Hunt program funded by the Oil & Gas Development Company (OGDCL) under which fully-funded scholarships are available for students from each province, leading to a diversity of students on campus from every corner of the country.

Nisar Siddiqi’s legacy needs to be continued, not wasted. All fate lies on the incoming vice chancellor. According to press reports and social media, there are certain names being considered and amongst those at the top are Dr Samreen Asim, and Naheed Shah, a grade 21 officer in the Sindh government. Other names being deliberated are Dr Raza Bhatti, the vice chancellor of Shaikh Ayaz University, Shikarpur and Dr Syed Madad Ali Shah, vice chancellor of Mehran University, Khairpur Campus, and some names of senior faculty members at IBA-Sukkur – one of them being Prof Dr Mir Mohammad Shah who has already been appointed as the acting vice chancellor.

Regardless of whatever decision is taken, it seems to be a herculean task for the government of Sindh to find someone that can fill in the shoes of Mr Nisar Siddiqi. However, the Sindh government has to be extra cautious in filling this role. Merit should be the only criteria. I hope the chief minister of Sindh, being a Stanford graduate, will continue commitment to academic excellence and honour merit.

The writer works as professor in the department of management sciences at SZABIST, Karachi.

Email: [email protected]