NED Convention's Malala Story
Back in April 2014, when Silicon Valley NED alumni started to finalize the Tenth Annual NED Alumni Convention program (held October 10-12, in the Silicon Valley, California), organizers thought about inviting a crowd-puller as the keynote speaker. Several names came up: Hamid Mir, Hassan Nisar, Javed Ahmad Ghamidi, Adib Rizvi, Ayesha Siddiqa…but one name on which all members of the Steering Committee got truly excited was that of Malala Yousafzai. Yes, it should be Malala Yousafzai. A 17-year old girl speaking to the NED alumni in Urdu/Pushto—what a show that would be! Organizers set out to contact Malala. The obvious approach was to contact Malala through either her website/fan club http://www.malala-yousafzai.com, or through her charity, Malala Fund. Email messages were sent to the addresses given on both web sites. No answer came, for more than a month! Malala was quickly losing her credibility. A few organizers knew Shiza Shahid, co-founder of the Malala Fund, from Shiza's Standford days. Shiza was approached through mutual friends. She replied, but organizers quickly learned Malala had gone out of Shiza Shahid's reach. Malala could only be communicated with through Malala's PR firm, Edelman (http://www.edelman.com). Shiza introduced the organizers to Charlotte Paton, Malala's agent at Edelman. An invitation for Malala to speak at the NED Alumni Convention was sent via email to Charlotte on June 22. Four days later, the following response came:
Thank you for your patience and my apologies again for the delay in responding. It is with regret that I must decline your invitation for Malala to be keynote speaker at the NED Alumni Convention in October - her schooling and other commitments mean she is unable to travel to the San Francisco Bay Area at this time.
Please accept my best wishes for a successful event."
Where was that decision made? Was it wise for Malala to shun Desi audience? Organizers wrote back with the following:
"Thanks for writing back, Charlotte.
Organizers of the Convention did consider all the factors related to Malala's attendance: her school engagements, her relative inexperience in life (what can a 17-year old kid possibly say to an audience many times her age?), etc. But the decision was to still seek Malala's attendance for one main reason: To make Malala more effective for girls' education in Pakistan.
Ever since the assassination attempt on her, Malala has been appropriated by the West. In Pakistan where there is growing mistrust of the US and its allies, the roundly Western adoption of this young woman has become counter-productive to Malala's cause. In order to further the cause of girls' education in Pakistan Malala needs to be seen and heard among her own people. NED Alumni Convention will provide such an opportunity, with hopefully other Pakistani/Muslim organizations following suit.
Charlotte, I request you to kindly re-consider your decision for the sake of Malala's actual mission: girls' education in Pakistan and other places threatened by fundamentalism.
Our event is on Saturday, in the evening. We can arrange for Malala's flight after her school on Friday, and fly her back on Sunday.
Looking forward to hear back from you soon."
That was June 26. The following day, a phone call was made to Edelman's office in London; an organizer talked to Charlotte and repeated organizers' message. Charlotte promised she would talk to Malala's family.
On July 9, a phone call to Edelman was followed by this message:
Left you a voice mail message yesterday.
When I talked to you on the phone almost a week ago, you indicated you would talk to Malala's family about Malala's attendance of our October event.
Hope you were able to talk to Malala's family and that there is a positive development.
Kindly write back."
Shortly, a reply was received from Charlotte.
"My apologies – I believe my colleague Daniel recently picked up a call from you.
I did have a chance to speak to the family and the wider team about your invitation and regretfully, it remains the case that Malala will be unable to attend.
Please accept my best wishes for a successful event.
Organizers were truly disappointed—more so because they could see in the media how Malala was running from one place to another to meet Western celebrities and to receive accolades. Organizers were justified in thinking that the girl attacked by the fanatics two years ago was a different Malala; one who found refuge in London was a different person; that Malala—probably through her astute father and her PR firm—had decided to walk the path of Greg Mortenson: You need to spend more time in places where you find media glitz, prestigious awards, and lots of cash—spend time on the charitable cause people are paying you for, only if and when time permits.
Malala in White House photo, courtesy of Wikipedia
Injured Malala's photo, courtesy of ISPR
Read more about the Convention, here:
NED Alumni Convention: A Torrent of Memories
can be only one reason why so many NED alumni living in North America gravitate
towards the annual NED Alumni Convention: they want to reconnect with their
college friends and remember the best time of their lives..
when repeated year after year, grow stronger.
Organizing an annual gathering of the NED University alumni in a new
city in North America, a program started in 2005 by Moin Ahmad and his
associates, has taken a life of its own.
Since 2005, an NED alumni convention has been held every year, and the
large attendance of people at the Tenth Annual NED Alumni Convention organized
in the Silicon Valley, California was a testimony to the popularity of the idea.
started as an engineering college in 1922 is now a large university spread over
three campuses. This phenomenon of
physical expansion probably explains why older NED graduates--students who
graduated in the 80s and earlier--are more keen on attending the annual
reunions than the younger ones: back then the NED University was a smaller
place where everybody knew everybody else and the sense of camaraderie among
students, teachers, and staff was very strong.
One NED alumnus remembers his time at the NED in the backdrop of a cold
war shaking the world of that time. The
country had gone through a bloody civil war ending in the loss of its eastern
limb. Within the intelligentsia there
was a romance for egalitarian ideas associated with communism and Marxist poets
promised of a revolution around the corner when 'takht giraay jaaiN gaay aur
taj uchchalay jaaiN gaay' (thrones will be turned upside down, and crowns will
be tossed in the air). A desire to make
this world a better place was seen strongly on college campuses--student wings
of left-leaning (progressive/socialist) political parties often clashed with
the right-wingers (religious/pro-capitalism/status quo groups). And there was beautiful music in the air. But Kishore Kumar and the genius of RD Burman
were not heard over the eastern border; Kishore's voice ricocheted to us from
the Gulf where Pakistanis would go to toil on mega development projects, and
bring back sofeene, western perfumes, Danish cream cheese, electronic gadgets,
and Indian music cassettes. And with
this noisy but rich background the slog of engineering studies continued:
lectures and late night group study sessions, midterms and finals, calculus and
differential equations, and a superficial understanding of Quantum Physics
reduced to a set of algebraic equations by teachers marginally more
knowledgeable than their students.
the Tenth Annual NED Alumni Convention, reception of guests and dinner on
Friday, October 10, was followed by a talent show featuring familiar NED faces
and an outstanding singing performance by Asad Abbas.
of Friday Night Talent Show is here:
NED Alumni Convention first day video highlights are here:
morning was the main conference day when people got to listen to Dr. Afzal
Haque, current Vice Chancellor of the NED University, and to Dr. Ishrat
Hussain, ex-Governor, State Bank of Pakistan, and current Director of the
Institute of Business Administration, Karachi.
Ishrat Hussain spoke eloquently and forcefully on our changing world where
knowledge and innovation of a country and its people are--and will be--considered
more precious and desirable than the country's material wealth. A video of Dr. Ishrat Hussain, truly the star
of the convention, is present here:
panel discussion on Innovation, aptly suited to the entrepreneurial spirit of
the Silicon Valley, followed. Besides
Dr. Afzal Haque and Dr. Ishrat Hussain; Dr. Mumtaz Hussain, ex-Vice-Chancellor
of the King Edward Medical University; Dr. Abbdul Ghafoor, Professor of
Mechanical Engineering, NUST; Dr.
Khurshid Qureshi of DICE, a non-profit dedicated to creating an atmosphere of innovation
on college campuses in Pakistan; and Tanvir Mallick of ALEF (NED Alumni
Endowment Fund) sat on the panel. The
panel discussion was moderated by Dr. Ali Minai, Professor of Electrical
Engineering, Univeristy of Cincinnati.
Dr. Minai was introduced by Mukhtar Zaidi, a popular NED alumnus of
Northern California. Zaidi was the force
majeure behind the 'Innovation' panel, and was responsible for bringing
high-profile speakers to the discussion.
audio of the panel discussion on 'Innovation in Pakistan' is here:
have become the mainstays of an annual NED Alumni convention? A Friday night welcome dinner, daytime
conference on Saturday, a Saturday afternoon city tour for out of town guests,
a music program Saturday night, and commemorative coffee mugs for all the
attendees. The Tenth Annual Alumni
Convention followed the regime.
night emceeing responsibilities were shared between Safwan Shah, Chairman of the
Tenth Annual NED Alumni Convention Steering Committee, and Fauzia Timberlake,
an NED alumna.
Rizvi, a powerful student orator from the late 70s, was introduced by Tanvir Mallick.
Rizvi in his speech read a short story he wrote on an NED student's requital to
of Aftab Rizvi's talk is here:
Naveed Sherwani, a noted NED alumnus and entrepreneur, was the Saturday evening
keynote speaker. In late 2007, Unicorn
Investment Bank announced acquisition of majority equity share of Open-Silicon,
Inc., for a sum $190 million.
Open-Silicon was founded by Dr. Naveed Sherwani in 2003.
of Dr. Naveed Sherwani's speech is here:
dinner was followed by a music program.
Shujat Ali Khan, and later Jawad Ahmad sang popular songs casting a
spell that attracted people to the dance floor.
Attendees danced and kept dancing.
There it was, the NED University of the 1980s again: carefree, jubilant, youthful, and very much living in
three-day convention program was supported by a large number of sponsors. Individual sponsors included Amir-Ul-Islam, Arif
Sattar, Imran Qureshi, Misbah Azam, Mukhtar Zaidi, Nisar Ali, Rashid Ali Baig,
and Safwan Shah. Corporate sponsors
inlcluded AI Engineers (President, Abul Islam), HE, JPC Holdings, Nexlogic
(CEO, Zulki Khan), Pakistan Link (Owner, Arif Zaffar Mansuri), Perkan Concrete
Corporation, Prosurance Redeker Group, Ltd., SI Engineering, P.C. (President,
Sarwat Izhar). Non-profit sponsors
included Koshish Foundation (Chariman, Suhail Akbar), NED International Alumni
Network of North America (NEDIAN-NA), NED Alumni Association of Tri-State, and
NED Alumni Association DC (NEDA-DC).
Tenth Annual NED Alumni Convention Steering Committee that put in hundreds of
hours of hard work to make the event successful comprised Ahsan Hameed, Imran
Qureshi, Fauzia Timberlake, Mike (Mukhtar) Zaidi, Misbah Azam, Nadeem Haque,
Nigar Raza, Nisar Ali, Safwan shah, and Terry Andrade.