An exclusive Interview with Mr. Ali Nawaz Memon

Courtesy: The Capital Post

Engineer, businessman, consultant and writer, Mr. Ali Nawaz Memon, an esteemed member of the American Pakistani community has traveled across and worked in over thirty countries. He is the author of The Islamic Nation: Status & Future of Muslims in the New World Order (1995), Pakistan: Islamic Nation in Crisis (1996) and Sindh Development Thoughts. Mr. Memon shares with The Capital Post his views and ideas about the current situation in America, Pakistan and more.

TCP: Tell us about yourself, your education back ground, work area…

ANM: I came to the United States on the 31st of December, 1960. I did my undergrad from University of IL in Electrical Engineering and then worked at Motorola in Chicago. I realized I needed to learn about Business so I enrolled for the MBA program at University of Oregon and completed the degree. I was hired by the World Bank in 1967 and came to Washington DC. I worked for thirty years in the World Bank. Right now I’ve retired from there and am working as a financial and institutional development consultant. My specialization and field of work is management of utility companies such as electric power and telecom companies. Over the years I’ve worked in over thirty countries. Last month I was in Pakistan helping in the development of electric power authority.

TCP: If you could do anything else, what would it be?

AN: It would be public service activities…something related to political science and law.

TCP: What are your hobbies and favorite pass times?

AN: In my work I have travelled in most parts of the world. I have worked in about thirty countries and vacationed in another thirty. Travelling is my hobby. I want to see the world. I want to see more of U.S. even though I have lived and travelled in so many states, there’s so much beauty here. If I can’t travel physically I like watching travel channels and reading books about traveling.

TCP: Tell us about a funny incident that happened to you.

AN: Fifty years ago when I arrived in U.S., I landed in Indiana. I took a taxi to go to a college where I was going and for the first time saw a Radio Dispatch. It was such a new thing to me that I was totally confused about whom the lady cab driver was talking to. Back then life was not modernized. At that time it was a scary experience but it looks like a funny incident now.

TCP: In your opinion, what are the traits a good leader should have?

AN: A Leader is like the father of the nation. Traits should be same as a father’s in a family. The leader should be sincerely interested for welfare of people. Make sure that food, shelter and education is provided and development needs are fulfilled.

Focus should not be on self enrichment. Father is not supposed to keep money secretly rather he is supposed to use it for the welfare of family. If the father is educated properly it will help. He should be sincere to the nation and not corrupt. Leaders are those who are willing to sacrifice whatever is needed to bring the right change. Pakistan should make change, like President Obama speaks of change.

TCP: Who is your most favorite Leader? Someone whose work you admire.

AN: President Obama. I admire him for his struggle in the political process in terms of being from a mixed race. From being from a very poor family and yet coming up through the democratic process to be a president. Although I am waiting for him to complete his promises. In Pakistan, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. After six to seven years when he was in power he introduced so many great ideas that he picked up from west and the east. Out entrance into modern scientific age including atomic energy, introducing social security system, introduction of passport, etc. There was a basic emphasis on common people… the slogan of ‘ROTI KAPRA MAKAAN’ (Food, Clothing and Shelter)…This was very appropriate for Pakistan because the average Pakistani doesn’t have sufficient resources.

TCP: How would you rate President Zardari as a Leader?

AN: I am a worker of PPP and a supporter of the party. I strongly support the manifesto of the party. I strongly support the promises that have been made in the manifesto. I had a chance to work closely with Shaheed Benazir Bhutto, she had worked out a detailed program on what will be done on the assumption of government by the party and what will be done within six months, etc.

But, for reasons of international politics and the war and weaknesses in the government, I feel that President Zardari has not been able to deliver on the promises which had been contained in the manifesto. I ask the government to please stick to the manifesto. There are still few years before the next elections. I hope Zardari would be able to keep the promises.

TCP: What are your views on Pakistani Politics?

AN: We seem to have been caught from the start in the defense of our house (country). We have been so absorbed in that, we have neglected and failed in development of people who lived in that house (country). Kashmir and other tensions with India…Afghanistan has almost directed all of our attention towards fighting and military. Very less time for the development of people of Pakistan, that was the whole purpose of creating Pakistan. We have lost sight of why Pakistan was created.

TCP: What is your stance on democracy in Pakistan?

AN: I love democracy. But we have misunderstood the meaning of democracy. It means of the people, by the people and for the people…but in Pakistan democracy means people can go every five years and after that party who has been elected enriches themselves and forgets the promises that they made to the people…promises made in public speeches. In recent years we have gone to a point when criminal and corrupt people are given preference for top positions.

TCP: In your opinion, is the government headed in the right direction?

AN: I think not, from the Military side, we again are much too occupied both on eastern and western sides. Emphasis is more on war and less on education, health and welfare of people of Pakistan.

We are going through a day to day crisis. There are many misguided policies. Also inflation rate is very high in Pakistan and unemployment is very high in Pakistan. Top 10% of people are doing very well whereas the bottom 70% of people continue to live miserable lives.

TCP: How can we improve relations with the United States while also protecting Pakistan’s interests?

AN: United States and Pakistan are part of the family of nations on this earth. We are members of the same family. We have to talk to each other more openly and more sincerely. Pakistan has not been able to articulate the views in a way that we were created to develop the people not to fight. We have to be left alone or given space to work for the welfare of our people and to develop our people.

TCP: In your opinion how can the current scenario in Pakistan and even the world be improved? If you could change one thing about it, what would it be?

AN: Better understanding should be created between people of Jewish, Christian and Muslim communities. Current world situation is dominated by war and this is due to misunderstanding between the people of these three communities. There have been wars but there have also been so many periods of cooperation and co-existence. We have to learn good things and we have to learn on a daily basis. We can highlight the goodness of all three faiths since all three faiths are from Abraham and all are called Abrahamic faiths. The world will be a much better place to live in then.

TCP: What are your future plans for People in Sindh and overall in Pakistan?

AN: Before I die, I’d like to do some good in the world which will allow me to enter God’s grace and God’s paradise. Serving the people of Pakistan and Sindh is my goal. I feel that we all should help each other. My Project is the creation of 100,000 scholarships for Sindh and Pakistan. Feeding poor people has been my goal by opening soup kitchens. I must confess that these are extremely hard projects and without full support of all people cannot be fulfilled.

I hope to God I will be able to work on these projects. I hope to speak out on these issues of development of people. I am creating an active interface dialogue and working to assist the community for different things. (Such as feeding the poor, increasing services for seniors, participation in local political process, etc.)

TCP: The current situation of recession is creating joblessness and the economy is also getting hit by it. As a Pakistani Community Leader, how are you addressing this issue?

AN: In U.S. as far as Pakistani community is concerned, the community is relatively well educated and largely in professional fields. As a result, this recession has kept a large number of people intact while one may know of individual or personal suffering. There are relatively few incidents. As far as Pakistan is concerned, this (recession) has hit Pakistan and other developing countries. In Pakistan the situation was already so bad that the affect may have been on common people. Farmers in Pakistan, poor farmers from South of Punjab or Sindh or Balochistan were not making much so it was half start anyway. Because of recession, commodity prices rose up (such as of rice and wheat). They did not suffer as much one would’ve thought. The war in Afghanistan was going on. Pakistan was getting some financial aid from that side as U.S. and Pakistan have been working together. That source of funding has also helped. Poor and miserable remain Poor and miserable. Impact has not been as severe as one was afraid of.

TCP: What are your suggestions to the present government regarding education and youth empowerment?

AN: The welfare of the people is the most important thing. I see the leader of any country as the father of a family. He has to make sure that every member of family is well set, well housed well educated and given opportunities. It is like you have a nice house and your paying 60% of your income for your security and 40% on household. It won’t work out. UN says 6% of GNP should be spent on education. In Pakistan only 2% is being spent. These percentages are for billions of dollars. We are barely able to meet the salary bills of government departments plus there are reports of maybe 40-50% going in corruption. Suggestion is to increase allocation to these things and spend more of it and let corruption come under control.

TCP: What are your views on the war on terrorism?

AN: It’s an example of the difference between these three religions and if we can remove these misunderstandings. There has been the attack of 911. There has been the war in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and several other countries. I think the world has a well established judicial system, whenever a crime is committed we have world court and other institutions like the UN. Crimes should be looked in that perspective. One should see the evidence and one should punish the guilty and compensate the innocent. I would like to see the judicial process in this regard.

TCP: If you could trade places with any other person for a week, famous or not famous, living or dead, real or fictional, who would it be?

AN: President Obama. I believe presidency of U.S. has more power to do good than any other in the world.

TCP: What advice would you like to give to the youngsters who want to enter into the Professional world?

AN: My advice to them would be to acquire education, primary education then high school, college. You should study your subject well. Be number one!

For instance when I did high school in Pakistan (Matric) for the whole province there was a test. The test used to be province wise. I was fortunate to get the 1st position in that exam in 1958. It opened so many doors for me. It persuaded my father to even borrow money to send me to U.S. for further studies. It opened so many doors. If you are number one doors will open for you and you will achieve more than your imagination.

TCP: Our paper is for the youth and a large part of the readership comes from the younger generation. What message would you like to give them as someone they look up to…?

AN: Please be part of your family, of the Pakistani family, of the American family, of the mankind family. Work hard and be a good human being to your parents, neighbors and others. Be good, work hard and God will give you success.

TCP: Thank you so much for your time

From Mansoor R Qureshi

The Capital Post

Washington DC

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