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August 13, 2020

Honouring engineers

Newspost

 
August 13, 2020

Every year Pakistan’s civil awards are conferred upon people achieving excellence in their professions or having influence that shapes our society and culture. Over time, people belonging to the arts, film, theatre, drama and sports dominate the list followed by bureaucrats and businessmen. Many of these awards are of late suspected to be given against merit and as a tool of favouritism. Pakistan has produced some of the most accomplished engineers but, barring a few related to the nuclear field, most have been persistently ignored. For example, out of 116 award recipients of 2019 there were only six engineers. Pakistani engineers have significantly contributed towards the planning and construction of the Tarbela Dam, Mangla Dam and other water and hydropower generation projects. Likewise, the largest irrigation network in the world is operated and maintained by these engineers. Pakistan constructed, and maintains, the Karakoram Highways, the world’s largest highest paved international road at 4,693 metres above sea level.

Our achievements in nuclear and defence areas are well-known. Pakistani engineers designed the world’s highest density media process for Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) applications with capability to handle 2,000 simultaneous VoIP calls. A reminder of some brilliant engineers who went uncelebrated: Prof Engineer Abul Kalam (late), who established the Karachi Shipyard & Engineering Works (KSEW) in the 1950s. K M Farooq, managing director of the Heavy Mechanical Complex (HMC) at Taxila, who brought Pakistan on the world export map of plant machinery by securing orders for sugar mills from Indonesia and Bangladesh. Late Engineer N A Qureshi is yet another name to be remembered. As chairman of Pakistan Railways, he restructured and rehabilitated the railway network in the 1960s with German technical assistance. Tailpiece: as chairman, State Engineering Corporation, I made the first-ever nomination from the department for an engineer of Pakistan Machine Tool Factory (PMTF) who helped the company in difficult times and even lost his life while working at the factory. The three-member committee of federal secretaries who were to select nominations turned him down because they thought he was too junior in grade to be honoured. Grudgingly, I then recommended a former chairman of the Corporation who was their fellow CSP officer. That too was turned down as the committee could see no value in honouring a dead man. Obviously, that was the end of nominations from the Corporation for the next few years that I served.

Hussain Ahmad Siddiqui

Islamabad