Engro president quits

17 Apr 2012

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Asad Umar—File Photo

KARACHI: Asad Umar, President of fertiliser-to-food conglomerate, Engro Corporation has taken an early retirement. Such an event is scarcely surprising, for men at the top of corporate ladder often do.

The Engro announcement on Monday said nothing of Asad’s plans for the future, beyond: “After more than 27 years with Engro, Asad Umar has decided to take early retirement and pursue other interests.”

Many corporate barons said they knew what those “other interests” were that Asad planned to pursue, but the majority was either amazed or amused by one of the most well-known corporate boss taking a plunge into politics.

But Asad has been seen hobnobbing with politicians and has had a close peep into the corridors of power.

Quitting what must be an exceedingly well-paid job, at one of the top corporations in the country, makes many wonder if politics was actually his first love.

A graduate of IBA of the batch of 1984, Asad joined Exxon Chemical Pakistan in February 1985 and rose to the rank of President and CEO of Engro in 2004.

The company lavished praises on the outgoing boss in a statement released on Monday: “In his eight years as President and CEO of Engro Corporation, Umar has dramatically transformed a chemical company into a major Pakistani conglomerate.”

While to the many corporate executives it was a settled issue that Asad would enter politics, the route was not quite confirmed.

But several sources informally suggested that he was most likely to embrace Imran Khan and his Pakistan Tehriq-i-Insaaf (PTI).

The likely date of announcement, some thought, could be April 21, when Asad is scheduled to speak at a seminar organised under the banner of Insaf Professional Forum--apparently an arm of the PTI. Nadir Leghari, President, PTI Sindh, would be the chief guest at the seminar and Asad would speak on: ‘what should be a national agenda of a political party in Pakistan?’

Taking his time off the corporate responsibilities, Asad has been writing for newspapers for many years. In one of his article published on March 26, 2009 and titled Ummed-i-sahar ki baat suno, he wrote: There are two different kinds of challenges being thrown at the status quo. One is from the overwhelming mass of citizens who want a Pakistan that is just, prosperous, peaceful and egalitarian, and run according to the Constitution of the country where supremacy is of law, not of persons.

The other challenge comes from a small minority with a narrow vision which is willing to use the gun to force their point of view on others.”

And he wrote: “I invite all my fellow citizens to become engaged in this process of change and the battle for the soul of the country. Remember: Khud-ba-khud toot ke girti nahi zanjeer kabhi, Badli jati-hai, badalti nahi taqdeer kabhi.”

In an earlier article on Sept 10, 2008: ‘Focus on the system’, he wrote: “Our wait for the man on horseback who will come and rescue us from all our problems and challenges is never going to end in anything but disappointment.”

For a son of a General, expression of such thoughts and spending hours in custody while hitting the road during ‘movement for restoration of judiciary,’ were already startling events.

So does he now see dust settling and that horseman come galloping in the form of IK?

Of course Asad has never been the Prime Minister, but he held the chair of “Young Presidents’ Organisation”. Also in a programme “Who will be the prime minister’ on a private TV channel sometime ago, Asad beat several known names in face-to-face arguments and was declared the PM.

It would be too ambitious to contemplate the rise to that rank so early in life for even if the party of his choice comes to power, several worldly wise-old politicians are ahead of him. And brilliance may not altogether be enough; there has to be constituency. Except for some big part of corporate sector, the number of his supporters would only be known when he stands on the dais and raises his hands.