NEDians Convention 2007
By Ali Hasan Cemendtaur
Haq, President, NED Alumni Association of Silicon Valley,
addresses the Convention
It is said there is a
maximum of six degrees of separation between any two human
beings of this world: take two individuals at opposite sides
of the globe, there would be a maximum of six people through
which these two human beings would be acquainted to each other.
At the NEDians Convention 2007 held in Silicon Valley the
degree of separation was at most two. Even with the oldest
graduate from 1965 and the youngest from 2002, no two NEDians
in that convention had to look for more than two contacts
in between to personally know each other.
NEDians’ Convention 2007 held on Saturday, September
8, was an all-day program. Morning session, attended by over
150 people, mostly NED alumni, was held at TechMart in Santa
Clara; evening program attended by close to 400 people was
at Crowne Plaza Hotel in San Jose.
Riaz Haq, President of NED Alumni Association of Silicon Valley,
opened up the proceedings of the convention by giving an introduction
of the program and by acknowledging the sponsors of the event.
NEDians Convention 2007 was third of such meetings of NED
Alumni being held in North America. Moin Ahmed, a 1974 graduate,
is credited with being the father of these annual events.
Allegedly, the first NEDians’ convention was held in
Houston in 2005; the second one took place in New Jersey in
2006. Unfortunately, not much was done to archive information
on those two conventions and there is precious little about
those events available on the Internet.
The keynote speaker for the morning session of NEDians Convention
2007 was Tanweer Alam Mallick, also known as Tanweer Alam
Mohammadi. Mallick who graduated in 1981 gave a speech on
"Return to Glory." In his speech Mallick portrayed
NED University as a poor mother who was constantly raising
children that were benefiting the world. But what were those
children giving back to their mother, NED University? And
Mallick’s question can be generalized for institutions
of higher learning throughout the developing world. Those
education al institutions and the countries they are situated
in spend a lot of their resources to give the best education
to their students at a minimal cost, only to later lose these
bright and educated men and women to the West. Should the
NED alumni be paying back to their alma mater in Pakistan
through money? The answer to that question came later, in
the evening keynote speech, and we will get to that in due
The first panel discussion, on the topic of "NED to Nasdaq",
was moderated by Mohammad Asghar Aboobaker, a venture capitalist
and a member of the steering committee of the NED Alumni Association
of Silicon Valley. The panel was comprised of Raghib Hussain,
CTO, Cavium Networks; Rashad Ali, CEO, FiiVeo Inc.; Ammar
Hanafi, General Partner, Alloy Ventures; Idris Kothari, Cofounder,
Vertical Systems; Rehan Jalil, CEO, Wichorus; and Amir-Ul-Islam,
CEO, Jersey Precast. The panelists shared with the audience
their experiences of entrepreneurship and building up companies
The panel discussion was followed by a lunch break.
Two groups of NEDians at the Convention. In picture
above, Dr Shamsul Haq, Pro-Vice Chancellor of the University,
is seen second from left
On the convention’s
resumption Rashid Ali Baig lead the panel on "NED: History
and Heritage." Baig, a popular student leader of his
time, was NED Student Union's president when this scribe joined
the university. The ‘History and Heritage’ panel
comprised of Sharif Ahmed, Executive Board Member, NED Alumni
of Canada; Abul-Islam, CEO AI Engineering; Ali Ahmed Minai,
Associate Professor, University of Cincinnati; Nadeem Hussain,
past president NED Student Union; Akbar Yunus Ansari, past
president NED Student Union; and Moin Ahmed, founder of NED
Alumni Association of America.
Since a number of panelists were students of NED in the 80s
the discussion was mainly focused on student politics of those
days and how NED, and in general universities in Pakistan,
became hotbeds of political activity and were later banned
by Zia Ul Haq.
The next panel discussion was titled "Beyond Engineering."
The discussion was moderated by Safwan Shah, a popular student
leader and an extraordinary athlete and orator of his time.
The panelists included writer, blogger, activist Sabahat Ashraf
(ifaqeer); Arif Mansuri, President and Managing Editor Pakistan
Link; Arif Gafur, a social and political activist; Nabiha
Mauiyyedi, ex-President of International Organization of Pakistani
Women Engineers (IOPWE), and the only woman speaker of the
convention; Rashid Yousuf, a Certified Public Accountant;
and Nadeem Moghal, an IT consultant.
The panelists talked about their beyond-engineering experiences
and how in Pakistan parents only wish their children to become
doctors or engineers -- young men and women with predispositions
in other fields end up attending engineering and medical colleges.
Not surprisingly many of Pakistan’s musicians, writers,
and artists of other fields emerge out of those professional
The ‘Beyond Engineering’ panel concluded the morning
session of the NEDians Convention 2007. A couple of hours
later the program reconvened at Crowne Plaza Hotel in San
Jose. In the evening session of the convention, a Pakistani
dinner was followed by an awards ceremony. Everybody instrumental
in making the convention a success was acknowledged and given
Needless to say that a program of this scope does take a lot
of effort from a number of people to make it successful. The
preparations for this convention started earlier this year.
The steering committee comprising of Riaz Haq, Asghar Aboobaker,
Safwan Shah, Zoaib Rangwala, Farid Durrani, Sabahat Ashraf,
Idris Kothari, Imran Qureshi and others met every Saturday.
The NED Alumni Association of Silicon Valley, an entity not
legally connected to NED Alumni Association of America, was
incorporated in California. Efforts are underway to make it
a non-profit organization.
Since childcare was provided in the evening session for the
benefit of people bringing along their children, a program
for children ran in parallel with the main program. Children
were kept busy with a magic show and continuous screening
In the main program an awards ceremony was followed by the
keynote speech given by Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy, an eminent philosopher
from Pakistan who organizers flew to the US for the convention.
Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy spoke on the “Power of Ideas.”
Given in a soothing soft tone, it was a brilliant speech that
would make you fall madly in love with Hoodbhoy’s scholarship.
Hoodbhoy started his speech making a strong connection with
his audience. He described how as a 13-year old boy he would
often visit NED’s old campus to seek advice from Electrical
Engineering students on coils and motors Hoodbhoy would tinker
Pervez Hoodbhoy said that whereas ideas did not have any physical
presence they were so powerful they could change the world.
He told his mesmerized audience that the best universities
encourage students to question everything. That in Pakistan
the rising influence of a fallacious strain in Islam was narrowing
the mental field where ideas can be entertained and questioned.
With anecdotes Hoodbhoy described how blindly pouring money
in higher education in Pakistan was proving to be the worst
use of resources. That universities in Pakistan needed an
intelligent use of the money.
You can listen to Hoodbhoy’s speech here:
After Hoodbhoy received a standing ovation at the conclusion
of his speech the stage was given to Shazia Mirza, a UK based
Humor in most parts is about putting very serious things in
a most unserious manner. These are the things that you either
have great respect for, have strong reservations about, or
are normally uncomfortable discussing in public. Consequently,
humor banks on poking fun at religion, important government
matters, and sexual mores and attitudes.
The War on Terror being the most serious stuff these days
was understandably Shazia Mirza’s one domain of humor.
There, she was original, brilliant, and very funny. She made
the audience ride a laugh train that was not making any stops.
[My grandmother is on a wheelchair. She was stopped at an
airport in the US. Looking at her in the wheelchair, they
asked, “Did you do it yourself?”
They ask me why my mother walks five steps behind my father.
I say, because my father looks better from behind.
But these days women are walking five steps ahead of their
Because of the landmines.]
Pakistanis are definitely not at the forefront of sex-related-morality
reevaluations. To state the obvious, Pakistanis are conservative
in their attitudes towards sex. Comedians performing to Pakistani
audiences are expected to pay attention to this little detail
-- and especially comedians who are from the Pakistani ethnic
group. But Shazia Mirza did not display that intelligence.
At the NEDians’ Convention her jokes on sex were devoid
of the subtlety and suavity this conservative community is
used to in regards to sex-related humor. Though this aspect
of Shazia’s comedy least bothered this scribe, some
in the audience did object to her content and the organizers
promptly informed Shazia about the objections; she was asked
to “tone it down.” The way Mirza acted after this
confrontation made it obvious she had come without a B plan.
She appeared confused on where to go from there.
One short-phrased thought on Shazia Mirza’s performance
that stayed with this correspondent was: one man not laughing.
For, a big part of Shazia Mirza’s comedy on September
8 was grade-school humor: you pick one person from the group
and make him/her the butt of the joke. Everybody laughs his
heart out, everybody but the person everybody is laughing
on. Perhaps this kind of humor displayed in comedy clubs to
an intoxicated audience that is hell-bent on having a great
time even at the expense of others, is OK but at the NED Alumni
Convention it was a different story. In NED culture where
social status of a student was determined by the time they
had spent at the University — more senior being more
worthy of respect — making fun of people on how they
dressed or on how they physically appeared did not go well
with many in the audience.
The third aspect of Shazia Mirza’s comedy that was most
problematic to this correspondent was a hint of snobbery in
her dealing with the audience. Maybe we were seeing her UK-based
understanding of her own ethnic group: people who have learned
to amass wealth, but otherwise are not too educated. This
hint of disdain was obvious in her opening note [that whereas
she had been asked to tone down her content she believed she
should be giving Pakistanis what she gives to her “White”
audience -- as if what she gives to her “White”
audience is the premier class stuff, and toning down the act
would be like giving a second class product to Pakistanis,
who, whereas are second-class people still deserve premier
stuff] or her questions meant to size up audience’s
cultural refinement [for example, if the audience knew about
‘Vagina Monologues']. It might very well be that some
of the Pakistanis are not too much into off-Broadway shows,
or operas, or NY Times bestsellers, but they definitely don’t
need a comedienne from Europe to tell them that.
Shazia Mirza’s comedy was followed by a musical show
featuring California based artists including Asif Haq (an
NEDian), Dr. Seema Minhaj, Shaiq Chishty, Nadeem Wali Mohammad,
Manesh Judge, and Noor Lodhi aka Shonu. The evening program
ended after a second stint from Shazia Mirza.
With continuous media coverage leading up to the event, a
blog initiated to dissipate information related to the convention,
conference proceedings broadcasted live over the Internet,
goodie bags for attendees with nifty brochures, commemorative
coffee mugs, etc., NEDians convention 2007 has certainly set
high standards for future NED alumni meetings to come. Let
us hope Convention 2008, the venue of which has not been announced
yet, proves to be an even bigger event, and that such conventions
do ultimately end up benefiting the institution the name of
which these programs are capitalizing on.