KARACHI: Engineer Zille Ahmed Nizami, a visionary who established Pakistan’s first private engineering university, passed away early Sunday morning.
Born on May 31, 1931 in Amroha, India, the founder chancellor of the Sir Syed University of Engineering and Technology (SSUET) migrated to Karachi in 1951 after graduating from Aligarh Muslim University in India with a degree in civil engineering. He went on to become the director-general of Karachi Development Authority. In this position, he steered the city into a new era and modernised it by introducing 45 schemes.
But setting up a top-class university was his dream. In an interview with The Express Tribune last year, Z A Nizami explained that in 1947, there were only two engineering colleges in Pakistan. Because of the efforts of the successive governments, a reasonable improvement was made over the years but there was still a need for a major breakthrough in quality education. “It was because of all these factors that a move was made by former Aligarians for the establishment of SSUET in Karachi on October 8, 1993 – the first engineering university in the private sector,” he said.
Perhaps for this reasons, Prof. Pirzada Qasim Raza Siddiqui, Ziauddin University’s vice chancellor, remembered Nizami as a true Aligarian, best known for their flair to accomplish something substantial in life. “Nizami Sahab’s biggest achievement was setting up a quality university for which he had received the inspiration through his Aligarh education. His inspiration grew even stronger in the course of his relationship with the Aligarh Muslim University Old Boys Association of Pakistan (AMUOBA),” said Dr Pirzada Qasim while talking to The Express Tribune. “Nizami brought together the Aligarians for this cause. Even the land the SSUET campus has been built on was donated by the association.” Z A Nizami remained the president of AMUOBA for seven consecutive terms and held the office of SSUET chancellor ever since the university came into being.
As a custodian of Aligarh’s traditions, Nizami was one of the few people who still set store by modesty and decorum, said Dr Pirzada Qasim. “The Aligarh University instilled in its students a strong sense of brotherhood and an urge to surpass each other in helping out somebody,” he said. “I believe Nizami Sahab spent all his life under this positive influence.”
Despite protracted illness, Z A Nizami made his last official public appearance at SSUET’s 16th Convocation held on March 26 at Karachi Expo Center where over 1,100 engineering graduates were awarded degrees. Back in 2011, at one such convocation he learnt that his wife passed away, recalled SSUET vice chancellor Prof. Dr Saiyid Nazir Ahmed. But Nizami’s bond with the university was so strong that he remained composed and only left when the convocation ended.
Nizami is survived by five sons and a daughter as well as grandsons and granddaughters.
Laid to rest
On Sunday, Nizami’s funeral prayers were offered at Masjid Umer al-Khattab near his residence in Clifton, after which he was laid to rest at Karachi Milk Plant graveyard located in Gulshan-e-Iqbal. The funeral was attended by hundreds of his admirers and friends. They included ministers, former parliament members, bureaucrats, educationists, members of the civil society, members of AMUOBA and SSUET’s officials and staff.
The university will organise a session to pay homage to their late chancellor on Monday at 10am and will remain closed after offering of Fateha for the departed soul.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 8th, 2013.