Columbia Univ. Alumni Club meets Pakistan’s commerce minister

Alumni Club

News Desk |

Islamabad: Razak Dawood, advisor to the prime minister of Pakistan – on commerce textile, industries, production and investments – talked to the Columbia University Alumni Club of Pakistan in Islamabad. Dawood is an alumnus of Columbia Business School (1968); he comes from a prominent business family of Pakistan that has worked across diverse sectors of Pakistani economy including textiles and energy.

Columbia Alumni club of Pakistan organized a meeting of its members at the local Gun and Country club. The attendees were not only from Islamabad, but the event also attracted many alumni from Lahore, Karachi and other cities of Pakistan.

Ivy League Universities & Alumni Clubs

Columbia University is one of the eight Ivy League schools in the United States. These worldwide prestigious schools belong to Ivy League Athletic Conference in North East of the United States from the middle of 19th century. Harvard, Brown, Yale, Columbia, Princeton, Cornell, Dartmouth College and the University of Pennsylvania all are the eight Ivy League schools which are considered very difficult to get in. Since these private and extremely competitive universities have become synonymous with excellence worldwide many confuse other top universities like MIT, Stanford, UCLA, New York University (NYT) with Ivy League but these are not.

Columbia Alumni Clubs exist worldwide and coordinate their activities with the office of Alumni Relations at Columbia University in New York. Such occasions – like the one at Gun Club Islamabad -provide alumni to come together for face to face meetings. They get to know each other better, understand the professional goals of others and develop a network for professional support, guidance and mentoring.

Alumni that attended the event in Islamabad came from diverse backgrounds including corporate sectors, government, media and international organizations. Most of the alumni hailed from Islamabad; some worked for Pakistan foreign office and other departments of government and many of these were graduates of the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) but the participants also included a diverse range of alumni from other schools such as Columbia Business School, Teachers College, School of Arts and Science and various other schools of Columbia.

Mr. Razak Dawood speaks to the Alumni

The club invited Razak Dawood, advisor to the PM on commerce because he himself is an alumnus of Columbia University’s business school from 1968. Dawood spoke at the occasion mostly about his personal experiences of Columbia University, of business and of initial interactions with Imran Khan, now the prime minister of Pakistan. Dawood made many laughs when he explained his sense of shock on the stringent work ethics at the university.

He had moved to Columbia University in 1966-67 from the United Kingdom where he had his first college. He found the transition initially shocking but then a fabulous experience in the end. The thing that initially shocked him most was the work ethics amongst Americans who he found far more hardworking than the British – but this mental training was a fabulous experience for his life as a business executive afterwards.

Razzak Dawood credits Columbia university for changing his world view which upon his return led him to refuse his father for working in his office in Karachi telling him about the ideals, of autonomy, he had developed over time abroad. He wanted to carve out an identity of himself in the difficult world of business. He did not want to be known merely as the son of Suleiman Dawood.

Father after much debate assigned him to Lawrencepur factories near Islamabad to prove his mettle. His first challenge was facing labour strikes. This was the time when workers and student unions, under the leadership of ZA Bhutto, had started political agitation against the government of President Ayub Khan that led to latter’s resignation in 1969.

Relations with Imran Khan: How & when?

Dawood referred to that period of his life as “continuous roller coaster” which never allowed him to relax or look back. Later he mentioned of the era, in 1990s, when he developed strong relations with present prime minister Imran Khan, who was then in the process of developing Shaukat Khanum Cancer Hospital. Imran Khan spearheaded the collection of funds from all over Pakistan and the world whereas Dawood overlooked the construction and the maintenance part of the gigantic project and stayed on the board as his executive head for 10 years.

Dawood again helped Imran Khan in the creation of NAMAL college – in Rikhi district of Mianwali, where most students get free education. Dawood also recalled the time periods when both he and Imran were heartbroken because of the shortage of finances and sponsors but God’s divine help always bailed them out when they were at their lowest and they found funding and sponsors in the places they had never hoped. Dawood was much impressed by Imran Khan’s sense of mission, determination and faith in God.

Government much difficult than Business?

Razzak Dawood admitted to Columbia alumni that government challenges are much harder and bigger than anything in the business world. Working in the government is very “hard, tough and competitive” because of the much bigger scope and risks of failure the government faces. Responding to questions, he also compared his time as a cabinet minister with the Musharraf govt immediately after 9/11 with his time with PTI government as a de-facto commerce minister and concluded that working under the Musharraf govt. was easier because the financial and economic situation of Pakistan was much better then.

Also – since Musharraf’s rule was a military regime in the initial years – the military was able to provide much better support to professional administration and management and then 9/11 really helped the Musharraf government softening America’s financial policies towards Pakistan in return for Pakistan’s help in Afghanistan.

Dawood told alumni that irrespective of all the current difficulties Pakistan and the govt. are facing the govt. is taking correct measures to curb the financial mismanagement that prevailed for the past 10 years under the Zardari and Nawaz era – both of whom were fiscally very irresponsible. He deemed next one year to be very painful for Pakistan’s middle class and the local businesses especially because the previous growth was import driven. But he promised light at the end of the tunnel saying that conditions will start to improve after one year.

The outgoing president of the club, Pervaiz Khan, former CEO of Uch Power, and the Vice President of the club Dr. Moeed Pirzada was present on the occasion along with many other key members like Faisal Cheema and Ehtasham Haq. Dr. Moeed, who is a prominent TV anchor also spoke on the occasion welcoming all the members and introduced the commerce minister, Mr. Razak Dawood and invited him to speak and later promised that Columbia alumni club will soon to be starting series of meetings on issues of national importance.