It was a pleasant evening of September 2014, when I was on my way to see my friend who was sick in Clifton Area. Upon reaching the place I was informed that he had shifted to Hyderabad temporarily to his brother’s house. I was disappointed, well I took the opportunity to visit another friend who lived in the close by vicinity, whom I met every Sunday in IEP Think Tank Meetings, but I knew very little about him though he also studied in Same NED Engineering College, from where I had done my graduation.
I knocked his door, Engr. Muhammad Jamil was surprised, and welcomed me, I took the opportunity to have some Gupshup, and convert this into an interview.
Here it is, I told him, Jamil, tell me something about your back ground, I want to publish it in our news letter. He started by saying. I was born in what was formerly known as East Pakistan (now known as Bangladesh) to a Memon family. I was among the lucky 3 of six siblings to have survived. As far as my background is concerned I was the only one who gained employment as my father was keen that I acquire an Engineering degree and not become a business man like others in my family.
Tell me about your School Life.
He said my formal schooling was from Ahmed Bawany Academy in Dhaka; this institution may not be familiar to us here in but let me tell you it has a very similar founding history to Ayesha Bawany Academy in Karachi. Both these institutions were founded by the Bawany Family in the 60’s. I passed matriculation in 1968 & Intermediate in 1970, from Dhaka.
The political situation of the eastern wing was deteriorating & being a non Bengali family, our future there looked bleak. My father felt that I should migrate to Karachi where my paternal grandmother resided. In the process my family became divided with my sister and I in Karachi & my father & younger brother in Dhaka. The family eventually re-united in Karachi in 1974 when my father & brother also migrated.
When and how did you join NED College?
I joined NED Engineering College in 1974 on the basis of my admission to one of the Engineering Colleges in East Pakistan. Although, Pakistan was undergoing a political turmoil, my experience of the college life at NED was very pleasant. I remember that being from displaced families we received special favors here. People were very sympathetic & accommodating. The tuition fees were also paid through a government funded subsistence allowance and further to meet my personal expenses I gave tuitions.
During 1973 a language riot also started at the college as a result of which the college was closed. Soon after the incident the Government released a list whereby over 300 Civil Servants were dismissed from Civil Service. Among those dismissed was Engr. Muhammad Khan, a Professor at NED. The college went into protests over this dismissal forcing the Government to further penalize NED students by closing the institution once again. I remember that the college was closed for six months at a stretch due to these reasons. I remember being one of the four participants of a hunger strike staged to force the government to open the college. The event was widely covered in the print media with front page photographs of the participants. We were visited in the hunger camp by a leading educationist of that time Ms. Anita Ghulam Ali.
By the time we passed our Engineering in 1976, we had lost precious time due to college closures & postponed examinations (NED students are to be blamed for such delays). NED Engineers lost couple of years of professional life whereas in comparison, other Engineering colleges rolled out their graduates in quicker time. Despite everything, opportunities were abundant in the job market. The market value of Engineers had appreciated, overseas openings were also available. I distinctly remember some my colleagues doing two jobs simultaneously at that time.
When did you join KESC?
Jamil, scratched his head, and after a pause, disclosed I joined Karachi Electric Supply Corporation (KESC) in its Generation department right after graduation. KESC was then a very rapidly growing organization. The social prosperity had just dawned, Karachi by virtue of being Commercial hub was bubbling with progress. The demand for electricity was on the rise. At that time KESC had only two Power Stations one at Korangi & the other at West wharf with a total installed Capacity of 500 Megawatts. KESC had a big plan for installing big generators at a new site, the Bin Qasim Plant which would serve as a Base load Station. The development of a big Steam Power project in those days required at least 4 years. KESC had started on two 210 Mw projects simultaneously at the Bin Qasim site. But the site was completely raw, when the detailed feasibility of the project began. Meanwhile, the demand for electricity was steadily growing such that two additional plants one each at Korangi & SITE needed to be installed. By 1979, 225 Megawatt Power were being generated out of the two Gas Turbine Projects. I was retained at Korangi Thermal Power Station 400 MW base load Plant in its operation wing. Most of my colleagues were assigned to new projects at Korangi Gas, SITE & Bin Qasim. KESC’s power growth continued at a steep rate of 10% annually during the decade of the 1990’s reaching a peak value of 2500 MW.
My duty in Operation department of Korangi Plant took place in shifts, during 1979-1985 periods. Being a bachelor, I had plenty of spare time hence I joined the evening MBA programme at the City Campus of Institute of Business Administration. While working at KESC, I completed the Masters in Business Administration programme in 1982. Thereafter, I tried to change jobs and become a part of a Bank/Financial institution. As the offers were not very lucrative, I decided to continue at KESC which offered job security and promised growth potential.
When and how did you go to Germany?
In 1985, I earned a stipend from the Government of Federal Republic of Germany for taking up an advanced course in Electrical Power Engineering. This familiarization course of the advanced technologies kept me tied up for about one & a half year. Familiarizations at three big power stations included those of new technologies in Coal fuel was of particular interest to me.
I joined the Bin Qasim Power Plant (BQPS) on my return, worked in the performance monitoring department of the Station and was responsible for analyzing, interpreting & presenting Plant Operating data to the Senior Management so that decisions could be made for better utilization of machines & maintenance priorities could be set. The size of BQPS was gradually enhanced to 1200 MW over a period of 15 years between 1983 & 1998 when BQPS attained full 1200 MW Capacity. The BQPS had no allocation of Natural Gas fuel so the entire Generation at the Plant was based on Heavy Furnace Oil. Furnace Oil is a dirty fuel and the Boilers require six monthly cleaning cycles of combustible gas passages however, the pressure of Electricity demand often caused us to postpone maintenance which culminated into bigger pressures, i.e. derating of Boiler which meant frequent shortages to meet the Grid demand of electricity. The constraint on the BQPS’ ability to supply at full Capacity Power was often the cause of KESC woes then.
In 1994 the Government of Pakistan decided to induct the Private sector in Power generation. Two IPPs; Gul Ahmed Energy & Tapal Energy were inducted in the KESC Grid. I was posted as Manager Private Power. The department functioned to administer the Power Purchase Contract for buying Electricity from IPPs. KESC was later fully privatized in 2005. My tenure with KESC continued till 2009 as Station Manager Korangi plant, and thereafter I resigned.
What did you do after resignation?
I joined the First Operation & Maintenance Company of Saudi Arabia (NOMAC) in 2010 as Sr. Technical Manager. Power Generation in Saudi Arabia was state responsibility till 2005. However, the status has been changing since then due to the Saudi Government’s Policy of inducting the private sector into Power generation. NOMAC is the first Operator Company in the Power & Desalination Business and has a Power generation portfolio of 6000 MW & 2.2 MGD Water Production Capacity for the Western Region of Saudi Arabia. The Company has several Plants, the biggest operating Plant is Shuaibah Independent Water & Power Plant (SIWPP) with a generation of 1200 MW & 880,000 cbm/day production.
I have highlighted above that KESC plants were mismanaged at important times of their operating life. This mismanagement for example arising out of deferring of maintenance on Machines was later to result into more acute problems on the machines. Such undesirable consequences were purely due to the inability of engineers to utilize managerial skills to ensure the smooth running of the plant. Our approach at that time was to seek solutions of a Management problem within technical ambits which was a wrong approach. I am glad that present day organizations are much more adept at using the services of engineers.
Tell me something about your family and present status of your activities
I married in 1988. My wife is an Epidemiologist from Aga Khan Medical College Karachi. She is currently working at Liaquat National Hospital Karachi as Controller Academics. We have a daughter who is a graduate in Master’s Programme from Queens University Kingston Canada. In fact she has completed both her Bachelor & Masters degree from Canada.
I retired from NOMAC, Saudi Arabia in 2013. I am residing in Karachi since retirement. I have not been able to find Power generation job afterwards. However, I feel the need to keep myself active. Religious education is one aspect which had been missing in my life. So I have associated myself with Dr. Israr Ahmed School of thought. The Quran Academy founded by him functions to spread the message of Quran by offering courses in Quran learning. I am a full time student of the Academy & presently in the second year of a 2 year Quran Fehmi Course.
What message you would like to give to young Engineers?
Jamil, with a smile said, I leave with one advice that as young engineers, one should aspire to become Technical Managers rather than just remaining Technicians.
Finally; I was served with, hot spicy Samosas, followed by long awaited lovely tea. I thanked Engr Jamil, to have spared time, and parted with important information, I asked him.