Asad Umar: From Engro to Imran Khan

Published: April 27, 2012
Email

Former Engro CEO Asad Umar with PTI chief Imran Khan at a news conference. PHOTO: SANA

After all the negativity attached to our trembling politics, corporate tycoon Asad Umar’s addition to the scene is a welcome surprise.

Who is Asad Umar?

Asad has been with the Engro Corporation for the last 27 years in different capacities, before he finally assumed the position of company CEO and president in 2004.

During this period, he played an active role in the complete transformation of his conglomerate, and converted it into a diversified industrial business, with interests ranging from fertilisers, foods, petrochemicals, chemical storage, energy and commodity trading. An amicable and intellectual personality, Umar has enjoyed a great reputation amongst his friends and colleagues.

A few weeks ago, he surprised everyone by tendering a request for the grant of an early retirement, and later astounded us further by joining the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf .

Asad’s gesture of tendering his resignation is an indication that he has not joined politics with the agenda to strengthen or boost his organisation’s appeal but to give politics the due attention it deserves and to serve the country and its people.

At one event, Asad claimed that when all the champions of democracy went underground during the army takeover of 1999, he was alone on the roads for the cause of democracy in the country. Considering that this effort in favour of democracy was made by a person whose father is a military man, it makes his struggle even more commendable.

Expectations of change

Asad’s move needs to be viewed carefully. He serves as a pioneer to other corporate leaders and professionals who have been thinking of toeing the same line. This unprecedented move, where he left a professional career which paid over Rs6 million per month, in favour of an activity where he will surely encounter difficulties and also have to face the wrath of other politicians, should show that we do have some selfless people left in Pakistan.

Pakistani politics revolve around a handful of families, whose affiliations (and not their intellect) are deemed worthy enough to help them inherit party leaderships and eventually take the role of leading the nation. In this situation, if a person like Asad attains success in politics, it will give others the confidence to venture into politics and mould their own destiny, rather than leaving it to those who have been running the country based on their bloodline.

This move can also be fruitful with respect to increasing tax collection. At the moment, our tax to GDP ratio is 10.2 – a relatively low figure in comparison to other developing countries. For successful economies, reliance on direct taxes needs to be much higher in comparison to indirect taxes. Asad, being a corporate personality and well-versed in taxation laws, is aware of the loopholes in our tax system and may be able to identify and correct these deficiencies so as to improve our tax to GDP ratio. This may lead to a reduction in our reliance on international donor agencies, thus putting the country on the road to self reliance.

In addition to all the above, to truly prosper Pakistan desperately needs land reforms that can free the people from the stranglehold of feudalism. India introduced land reforms immediately after independence and Bangladesh after separation. Now, it’s our turn to implement these reforms. Since Asad is not a landlord, my hope is that he will convince the party to introduce reforms that will act as a catalyst, freeing small farmers and area residents from the clutches of landlords.

With regards to education, having studied in Pakistani schools, Asad undoubtedly has a comprehensive understanding of the problems in the education system of the country. Dealing with the problems faced by our education system should also be a priority; perhaps the introduction of a uniform education system won’t be a faraway dream any more.

Asad Umar’s inclusion into politics should be seen as a positive step that could prove to be beneficial for the country as a whole and not just the party he has chosen.  I am optimistic that his admission into politics will be seen as a stepping stone for other professionals, and will encourage them participate and put the country on the progressive path it severely deserves.

Read more by Khurram here or follow him on Twitter @KhurramZiaKhan

Khurram Zia Khan

Khurram Zia Khan

The writer is the media manager of Asiatic Public Relations and tweets @KhurramZiaKhan (twitter.com/KhurramZiaKhan)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.