Asad Umar: From Engro to Imran Khan

Published: April 27, 2012
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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.

  • http://www.tanzeel.wordpress.com Tanzeel

    Agencies at work. Recommend

  • http://www.shahabhameed.blogspot.com Muhammad Shahab

    Wish you all the best Mr. Asad Umar. Recommend

  • toor

    some idiots are calling even this one of Agencies at work! Recommend

  • Parvez

    From what little I have seen and heard of Asad Umar, he comes across as a ‘ good ‘ man.
    He has the qualities that will benefit the PTI but more importantly will benefit our politics and Pakistan. More people like him is the need of the hour.Recommend

  • Jamil Baroucha

    our spy agency is forcing businessmen committee and corporates to support newly made imran khan party offering hefty amounts for our companies, subsidiaries and share in financial matters of the country in terms of ministries etc . I am one of the board of directors of a company and have personally declined such offer.Recommend

  • Haseeb Uddin

    I’m cautiously optimistic… but expect that Imran Khan and PTI will deliver!!Recommend

  • Ozymandias

    @Jamil Baroucha:
    SO how come there are no results when your name is googled? Unless you just came up with the world’s worst aliasRecommend

  • kamran

    @Jamil Baroucha:
    You have simply said that our spy agencies are not that strong as they couldn’t drag you to join PTI. So it is clear that agencies has no power even to put on you where nobody even knows your name then how come a big name like Asad Umer can be forced to join PTI. Recommend

  • Manni

    The Jamil Baroucha thing is a joke right?!
    Its a good one too.Recommend

  • Zia

    @Jamil Baroucha:
    Just Lolz…Recommend

  • Zia

    By saying that agencies are supporting PTI, we are actually disrespecting the sentiments of the millions of newly politicized section of the society, which , because of the incompetence of the status quo, has finally decided to take part in active politics…Recommend

  • Pak pak

    Jamil Baroucha is right She is a vary goods directorar of a companies and is a MQM warker, she has bean offared a amount of maney py pti company but she is declined as she is a honast man is theRecommend

  • Saad

    she is an honest man??? something is NOT right here! Recommend

  • PTI Troll

    Some people have beautifully hijacked this piece of writing. Don’t feed the trolls. Recommend

  • http://NewYork Falcon

    Informative article. I don’t know if he will be able to push through on land reforms because honestly having read about it in detail, I wonder if past land reforms have had any benefit as well since land lords use it for minting money by selling away least agriculturally productive land. Furthermore, as per my understanding, Govt. has not technically completed land grants that came out of land reforms 30 – 40 years ago. On top of it, after every land reform, land has ended up mysteriously in the hands of other powerful elite again rather than poor peasants. Since it is such a politically entrenched area, I would rather not get to it in next 5 years or so and allocate precious state resources to more realizable goals. Other than that, I agree with your foresight. Recommend

  • http://[email protected] Khurram Zia Khan

    I personally met Asad Umar on couple of occassions, I also get chance to listen him on different occasions and with all what I know, I am absolutely sure that he is an upright and honest person and he joined politics not because some person or agency forced him but with his own free will.This is a great decision by him. After watching his interview on a private news channel couple of days ago, my belive in him is strengthen.In my opinion he is a gem, a genuine made in Pakistan product. I wish Asad Umar all the best of luck in future for Pakistan’s sake and wish more person to follow his path.Recommend

  • Sajid Mahmood Awan

    Asad Umar Sb,

    I hope you had joined PTI after a thorough study. Inshallah it will encourage other talented and genius people like you to follow suit. Before your inclusion, PTI had a vacuum to be filled. Mashallah you have done which only selfless people can do that you resigned from a company (you served almost all your life) where you were drawing a hefty salary of Rs.6 Million and you joined a party which is still struggling to cement his place in politics of Pakistan. Only a patriotic Pakistani can do such things. I pray to Allah the Almighty for you to keep working hard to make Pakistan a prosperous Islamic country. PAKISTAN PAAINDABAD.

    Best Regards,

    Sajid Mahmood Awan
    KUFRI, Valley Soon Sakesar (Khushab)Recommend

  • M_ALI

    @Tanzeel:
    why are we in habit of involving agencies, may be we cant stand such dynamic personalities like asad umarRecommend

  • Faraz

    @Jamil Baroucha

    our spy agency is forcing businessmen
    committee and corporates to support
    newly made imran khan party offering
    hefty amounts for our companies,
    subsidiaries and share in financial
    matters of the country in terms of
    ministries etc . I am one of the board
    of directors of a company and have
    personally declined such offer.

    Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha Recommend

  • http://about.me/osman.naeem Syed Osman Naeem

    “The leadership challenge is simple. It is to maximize the probability of each member of the organization getting as close to their ultimate potential as possible” Asad Umar has been quoted about his first salary as saying, “I still remember the exact figure of my first salary: Rs 8,170 per month. My boss at the time said ‘Well, frankly they are paying you too much.” At the time he left the company, he was the highest paid CEO in the country who received Rs 5.7 million per month as salary, in addition to which he was also paid from company stocks and owns about 2 million shares of the corporation.

    PTI also appointed Dr Azeem Ibrahim as his strategic policy adviser. Born in Scotland, Dr Ibrahim, a PhD from Cambridge University, was named as one of the Top 100 Global Thinkers of 2009 by the LSDP European Social Think Tank. He has been advising leaders worldwide for last 10 years. Azeem, also a Fellow and Member of the Board of Directors at the Institute for Social Policy Understanding said he felt pleasant to be given this opportunity to serve the next Prime Minister of Pakistan.

    A leader of the people is their servant (Prophet Muhammad Peace Be Upon Him). The personally of Jinnah mirrored this Hiddah perfectly. He lived and died for his people. He served those whom he led like their true leader – a true servant. He was a leader of a different breed. He did not degrade his people or treat them as rabble. He respected them and in turn received all their love and respect. PAKISTAN NEEDS JINNAH AGAINRecommend

  • Xohaib

    Hats off to Asad Umer, May God Help him in his cause.Recommend

  • S.R.H. Hashmi

    With people of Asad Umar’s calibre, and other talented, and above honest people, joining Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, I am sure Imran Khan will have an excellent team with him by the time of elections, allaying critics fears that looking at PTI, we only see Imran Khan, and after him, Imran Khan, and Imran Khan.

    I wish good luck to PTI and its leadership which, to the best of my hope and belief, will also prove to be a blessing for long-suffering Pakistanis belonging to middle and lower classes – the top class can almost always find its way, or bribe its way, to life in comfort and style, irrespective of conditions prevailing in the country.Recommend

  • aisha rehan

    a well compiled article. Pakistan’s politics need people like Asad Umer. Its high time our nation should wake up and choose people who can make a difference. Recommend

  • http://www.corporateambassador.net Muttaghir Ahmed Khan

    So far as the person’s experience in the business and industrial corridors is concerned, he can bridge the gap between the “statesmen” and the business sphere, in addition to it, he can definitely suggest and put forward reform packages that can boost our tax collection without making businessmen angry or dissatisfied. Above alll, he can use his muscles as well as brain to set Pakistan on Industrial Progress lines. But the question is how much possibilities are there of his being in authoritative position in near future.Recommend

  • Jahangir Khan

    Bangladesh is the Best.Recommend

  • J. Tahir

    Very well written Khurram. Its a balanced piece based on optimism. Looking forward to read more of your stuff.Recommend

  • Umer Rasheed

    Imran Khan has found his Wasim Akram in Asad UmarRecommend

  • Umer Rasheed

    Idiocy at its best. Some people (read PMLN) are mindlessly beating around the bush that every support PTI is getting is because of agencies. Earlier they claimed that once Gen.Pasha would retire PTI would become an orphan. Now they do not even have the slightest evidence or argument to back their so called hypothesis. Recommend

  • Umer Rasheed

    Well after studying in a military institute for four years I can safely say that our army and ISI is highly overrated. All thanks to local and foreign media ISI is considered as a league of James Bonds with hefty amounts of cash. Though ISI has always been involved in politics I just do not buy that they can buy all these elite businessmenRecommend

  • Chengez K

    Good step…..

    Next step should be Mian Amir brings all his wealth from U.S to Pakistan.

    Time for change has come!!!Recommend

  • hawkeye

    Listening the rhetoric of equality, transparency, democracy & poverty elimination from Asad Umar sometimes puts me in great confusion, the man in his leadership role seems extremely dissimilar to all this for the reasons, first he surrendered an employee corporation to a business tycoon, the corporation owned by employees from a global giant after great efforts in the leadership of Shaukat Mirza . That took place for the first time in the history of Pakistan that a company acquired by the employees. Second the hard work he did to get a doctorial control over small salaried employees (NMPTs) by tactfully shifting them to MPTs just to seize the safeguard given by the state to protect their rights of job security and other benefits. Through this he also successfully turned down the effectiveness of employees union. Third thing he did is shocking that he restricted all managerial positions specially in his marketing divisions to two most expensive institutions of Pakistan which are offering business degrees in amount which is equal to the life salary of a middle class Pakistani. I did not include the poor because they did not “believe” in such expense only for education. He is also among the board of directors of these institutions and one is owned by the same business tycoon already pointed out. The man having strong belief in elite intellegencia closed the doors of his corporation for the poor and middle class of Pakistan. The conglomerate he has left when it is on the edge of its destruction, the fertilizer company announced the highest ever loss of 1.4 billion in first quarter and its share devalued by three times of its value in 2009. Now I am thinking, what Pakistani nation has further to devalue? Recommend

  • Awais

    @Jamil Baroucha:
    hahahaha….. OMG OMG…. so you are working for zardari or nawaz? come on people talk some sense. agencies MAY force him to join PTI but that determination you see in asad umer’s speech can’t be brought by agencies. this is shame that people are doing such negative propaganda against such a party which has challenged the mainstream parties and which, in a real sense, represents pakistani nation, not just a mere pakistani FAMILY…Recommend

  • ady

    @hawkeye:

    pls answer few questions..

    1)do you have any clue who was in charge of engro when hussain dawood started buying engro shares……do you have any idea who was the blue eyed boy of Marhooom Shaukat Mirzaa

    2)who is the current union leader?. Do you have any idea that union is bidding a farewell dinner to AU for his accomplishments in engro

    3) whats the average salary of an “F” man and when he retires, wats his average share holding?

    4) do you know who was the the previous CEO of engro fertilizers and whats his educational background?

    5) do you have any idea who turned engro from a 14 B$ company to 114B$ company??

    6) why is fertilizer business in turmoil?

    i am amazed that ppl can be so biased and illogical. Before spreading false accusations, try doing some good homework….Recommend

  • http://[email protected] Afsar Khan

    A very well written article.May we get government in future who are serious and have vision to solve country’s problems.Recommend

  • Ali

    Asad Umar’s inclusion in PTI is an amazing thing. This guy is very talented and he talk sense. I was listening to BBC Urdu talking point today. Imran answered all the key questions very wisely. For all the Pakistanis, I would say, it is now or never. Line up behind Imran Khan and I am sure, he will not disappoint us.

    Pakistan ZindabadRecommend

  • aisha rehan

    Khuda kare ke mere ek bhi humwatan ke liye,
    Hayat jurm na ho zindagi wabaal na ho

    Aur khuda kare ke meri arz-e-paak par utray
    Woh fasl-e-gul jise andeishaey zawaal na ho

    These are couple of verses Asad Umar shared with me in response to my article.I can feel he possess real desire to bring a noteworthy change in country.I hope PTI succeed in next general election but even if PTI fail to form government,person like Asad Umar should rise above party’s interest and help the government in different sectors to make Pakistan a progressive countryRecommend

  • aisha rehan

    people like Asad Umer are the asset for any organization whether its commercial or political , the vision he has and the achievements he has been awarded with by Almighty Allah are the example of a true state of affair he has been dealing with. Politics need good governance in all respect and i think by the induction of Mr Asad Tehreek-e-Insaaf will reach its highest echeleon which is the need of time. Recommend

  • Umair Siddiqui

    I am living in Texas, as a Pakistani,I care about the country and these days the stories floating about Pakistan are very disturbing.I hope we get better persons to govern the country in futureRecommend

  • Durdana Ali Malik

    Well written Khurram.
    As for Asad Umar, I would follow him blindly. A terrific non VIP culture guy. Speaks from the heart. Manages with his soul.
    I am totally sure PTI in its wisdom will nominate him for PM if it comes into power.
    My vote is waiting. Hope other voters do some homework on Umar and get him into the hot seat.Recommend

  • zaheer

    @Jamil Baroucha: What is “businessmen Committee”? the word “Committee” sounds strange.Recommend

  • Abbas

    The problem of Pakistani nation is they ain’t doing what they are supposed to do. Everyone is trying to play with the mandate others have ignoring their own at the same time.Recommend

  • Abbas

    Even the writer thinks PTI and IK to be the same!Recommend

  • hawkeye

    @ady:
    I am not surprised the way you responded because it perfectly sounds like PTI. My dear I have no personal grudge with AU, I had joined PTI when most of our youth may be you also hardly heard about this league. I have a point view and would suggest please, please come out of personality charisma, this is the thing which is established the most damaging aspect of our politics and ultimately of our nation ( in case of PPP & PMLN). Try to evaluate people on the basis of their performance/actions but not on the basis how they articulate how they look like or qualifications they have. Can you tell me something extraordinary did Mr. Javed Hashmi in his long life political career for this nation even for his constituency in his personal or party capacity, except the exile he admitted in worship of his leadership? Mr. Shah Mahmood Qureshi did something amazing for the nation in his political career? The only criterion is that they are Mr. Clean? I think if this is criteria then you can find more honest & transparent people who contributed more to this nation. I would suggest please think full of meaning & raise questions unless you get answers else I have doubt the” change” may lost once again somewhere in vicious circle you get encircled. I gave analysis on AU professional career because he has no politics line of business in past. I have not raised any question about his honesty or his state of mind for the betterment of nation. I will definitely respond the amusing answers you have given about my concerns in next episode. Tc & have a nice day.Recommend

  • ady

    @hawkeye:
    PTI??…..did i mention PTI anywhere???…..you seem tooo scared of PTI ……dont be so obsessed! Relax, take deep breaths and stop being pseudo intellect.

    I know AU since the time when you probably didnt know how to spell “analysis”, so better keep this with you…..:)Recommend

  • http://gmail ghaneemat ali

    @Jamil Baroucha:
    Wat a joke Mr Jamil BarouchaRecommend

  • Abbas

    Wait for the elections and everything will be clear from the redundant minds of PTI followers. Infact, The rural voters made the governments in pakistan and PTI has no followings in the rural areas. However, in Urban centers PTI may gather some votes but the two big parties had already laid foundations in the past two or three decades. Secondly PPP has committed vote bank, its difficult to turn their voters in one’s favor. So, PTI may have some seats but never be influential in either govt or opposition circle in the coming elections. Wait and Watch how the bubble of charisma bursts?Recommend

  • hawkeye

    @ady:
    Now chill out………in my daily life i observe ppl like you who become hostile & arrogant on personal affiliations when thay have no arguments……….

    An angry man is always a stupid man.
    Chinua Achebe (1930 – )
    Nigerian novelist, poet, and essayist.

    Keep in mind he is not a pseudo intellect
    tc.Recommend

  • ady

    @hawkeye:

    don’t call yourself stupid!…..you need to have faith in yourself…take a deep breath…..watch a good movie….go for a ride and stop commenting on things just because you have to say something as plato once said….

    “Wise men talk because they have something to say; fools, because they have to say something” Recommend

  • http://kziakhan.blogspot.com Khurram Zia Khan

    PML (N) protest Jalsa in Taxilla today, PTI to hold a rally in support of Supreme Court in Islamabad tomorrow.Seems parties are pushing for elections. Are these parties ready for election.What is the status of PTI’s economic reforms policy on which team of experts working under Asad Umar.Time now for all the parties to give solutions to overcome problems faced by Pakistan.Recommend

  • raza

    @ady:
    bro who is gonna answer these questions can u please shade some lightRecommend

  • raza

    @hawkeye:
    yes but IK has done a lot DAAAAAAAAAAAARecommend

  • http://[email protected] Mian Nafees

    Well Come in PTI ASAD Umer plz Chang in Pakistan dear member ptiRecommend