ISLAMABAD: Emphasising the role of engineers in decision-making, President Dr Arif Alvi said on Monday he was quite disturbed with what he called the lukewarm attitude of the bureaucracy in clearing official files.

“I am disturbed because of the bureaucracy,” he said while addressing the second Deans International Conference organised by the Pakistan Engineering Council (PEC) at a local hotel. The theme of the conference was “Engineering Education and Practice”.

The president cited how someone had sent a file to the Presi­dent House, but the staff was unable to find it for six months; when it was eventually found, it was suggested to him that it be forwarded further to the Establishment Division for ‘rotation’. “The rotation of official files is our skill,” the president said sarcastically regarding the functioning of the bureaucracy.

President Alvi stressed the need to dispose of official matters in a timely fashion, saying: “Decisions should be made speedily in the country.”

Interestingly, some senior bureaucrats recently lodged complaints with Prime Minister Imran Khan against what they called “harassment” and a “threatening” attitude by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), as a result of which government officials are reportedly reluctant to sign official files.

On the complaint of senior bureaucrats, the government is making efforts to rein in the anti-graft watchdog and provide a better working environment to the bureaucracy and business community to ensure the ease of doing business. In this connection, the government introduced a bill last week in the Senate to curtail NAB’s powers.

While stressing the role of engineers in the country’s development, the president called upon the PEC to devise a road map for engineering education, keeping in view current global trends and matching the needs of society. “It is your duty to find solutions to people’s problems, besides imparting education,” he urged the PEC, adding “The work of the country’s engineers should be pro bono [for the public good].”

He explained that work in the field of engineering should be well-blended with current market practices and remain aware to the requirements of a country to make it more beneficial.

The two-day conference brought together experts from academia, industry, regulatory bodies and public policymakers to formulate recommendations that sync with international practices aimed at facilitating rapid growth in fields of socio-economic development and meeting the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

President Alvi urged the PEC, along with other stakeholders, to create an integrated national plan for the engineering community, one that leads towards an atmosphere of self-reliance and prosperity with developed countries as models. He said that water conservation, energy shortage and sanitation were the major areas in Pakistan that required engineering solutions as per local needs.

“Switching to solar cells instead of using fossil fuels, the construction of small dams, and coming up with effective methods of drainage could be achieved through proper engineering methods.”

The president said that with the world undergoing rapid change, several industries and professions could face challenges and thus need to adapt to contemporary trends. “Only those nations will progress that have a greater response rate towards global change,” the president said, adding that inequality in society leads to stress among its different segments. He emphasised the need to take guidelines from ethics, social values and morals.

President Alvi urged engineers to carry out their work keeping the requirements of the people in view. He expressed the hope that the conference would help frame suggestions and make achievable recommendations that could benefit practical strategy.

Minister for Science and Technology Chaudhry Fawad Hussain who also attended the conference stressed the need for changing the approach towards employment in engineering, as the government could not provide jobs to the thousands graduating every year. Instead, he said, the creation of private entrepreneurship could help support the country in the field of engineering.

“I request COAS Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa and Prime Minister Imran Khan to meet not business tycoons but the youth of the country and keep the interests of the whole nation in mind instead of 30 seths,” he said, in the context of providing more opportunity to the youth to work for the progress of the country.

PEC Chairman Engineer Jawed Salim Qureshi at the conference asked the president why no engineer was not given any top positions in decision-making body or ministries. “Simple graduates pass the CSS examination with a second division and become Grade 21 secretaries, while engineers cannot [seem to] go beyond Grade 17,” he said.

He added that engineers could change the destiny of the motherland and render it in the comity of developed states, if they [engineers] were given the chance and decision-making authority.

Published in Dawn, October 15th, 2019