Taking a dip in high octane energy at the NED Alumni Convention 2017
Yes there were challenges—a group of alumni not in agreement with the decisions of the main organizers decided to boycott the program--and yes there was a cancellation by the keynote speaker, but the 13th Annual NED Alumni Convention, riding on the momentum generated in the last twelve years and through the sheer dedication of the key members of the organization still went through, and it proved to be a very successful event.
You still look the same
The Friday night reception of the 13th Annual NED Alumni Convention was about reconnecting with old friends—observing the alluding passage of time on faces and bodies--and meeting new people. And what a wonderful feeling it is to be among people you spent the most carefree period of your life with! Let’s see if all the regulars are here. Rashid Ali Baig, Amirul Islam, Abul Islam from Tristate, check; Syed Mehdi Kamal, Arif Sattar, Dr. Asma Ali from the DC area, check; Ali Ahmed Minai from Cincinnati, check; Tanweer Alam Mallick (aka Tanvir Alam Mohammadi), Anis Paya from the greater Chicago area, check; Safwan Shah and Mike Zaidi from the Silicon Valley, check; Arif Mansouri from Southern California, check; Muhammad Haseen from Vancouver, check; Sharif Ahmed from Calgary, check; Mazhar Ali from Houston, check; Khurshid Qureshi is local this time, check. There are many other familiar faces--it is hard to remember everyone’s name. There is excitement in the air! It is hard for these middle-aged men to sit down and listen to the program. People keep coming in and everyone wants to meet everyone.
The reception dinner of the NED Alumni Convention 2017 took place at the Troy Community Center. An entertainment program featuring local singers followed a full course dinner.
Which road did you take and where has it taken you?
Saturday proceedings of the 13th annual international convention took place at the Detroit Marriott Troy Hotel.
The Saturday morning session of the NED Convention was about recent past and upcoming future; there were presentations and knowledge exchange, and future plans: what needs to be done and how to do it right.
The lives of the NED alumni are ongoing stories. And every year they meet each other, each one of them has written another exciting chapter of it. These are high-energy people wanting to explore new horizons. Their quest for a meaningful life, for adventure is contagious. Our friend, Arif Mansuri is here, with his associates. He is a multi-talented businessman. Besides running a metal company he owns the Pakistan Link newspaper. His latest venture is his TV show, The Mansuri Show, on ARY Digital. The show covers newsmakers among the Pakistanis living in the West.
There are presentations by individual chapters of NED alumni associations from all over North America.
Dr. Sarosh Lodhi, the current Vice Chancellor of the NED University is roughly the same age as many of the organizers of the annual conventions in North America. Dr. Lodhi has come from Pakistan to attend the 2017 NED Alumni Convention. He gives a detailed report of the status of the NED University. Murad Ali Shah, the current Chief Minister of Sindh, is Dr. Lodhi’s batchmate. Lodhi tells the crowd how the Chief Minister went out of his way to help NED University come out of the financial crisis the university was in, just a couple of years ago. Dr. Lodhi can feel the energy of the NED alumni. To create a stronger bond between the alumni and their alma mater, he wants to establish an alumni secretariat at the university.
There is also a presentation on “Muslims Engagement and Empowerment at State and Local Levels” by Akber Ansari and Anwar Hasan. The authors’ argument is powerful: since most of the attendees of the convention call US their new home, they should be worried about the recent developments in the political landscape and the rise of the alternate right in the US. The presenters want their children to grow up understanding who they are, along with the understanding of their rights given to them by the constitution of the United States. Immigrants and children of recent immigrants must understand that whereas they belong to a particular group of people, followers of a religion, they are not responsible for things done by other members of the group. They are individuals with their own lives and rights and aspirations. There is no reason to bear a guilt of association.
How to bring this immigrant community in the folds of the mainstream? By active participation in local and national politics, and through works of humanity and charity, the two presenters tell the audience.
There is also a presentation about Alef, an endowment created by the NED alumni active in organizing the annual conventions—the money is already being used for projects at the NED University.
NED alumni with respect to the wider world
As always, the program with the highest attendance at the annual assembly of the NED University alumni was the Saturday night dinner. The speakers at the evening program included Congressman John Robert Moolenaar, technologist Naveed Sherwani, and entrepreneur Safwan Shah.
Congressman John Moolenaar recalled Pakistan's role in bringing the US and China closer, in a bid to isolate the Soviet Union during the cold war. He also applauded the work of Pakistani engineers in in the US.
Three decades ago Safwan Shah was a name every Karachi debater hated to see in a declamation contest. If Safwan Shah was there, the grand prize was his. That yesterday’s student leader has done a lot of stuff between then and now, and is still redefining himself every day. After successfully selling his last company, Infonox, Safwan Shah’s latest venture, PayActiv, has a social mission. PayActiv wants employees to have access to the wages they have already earned-- before the payday. PayActiv has been enrolling large employers to use PayActiv’s services in making cash advances to the employees. Safwan Shah believes such an access, enjoyed by a large number of wage-earners, will ease the cash flow situation of a big chunk of the population, and will help in reducing the economic disparity in the US. He told the audience that Walmart, with over 2 million employees, had recently joined PayActiv’s program for employees’ access to the earned wages.
Where do NED’s top students go? It does not matter where they go, but wherever they go they make a name for themselves. Naveed Sherwani has been setting up businesses ever since he was a teenager. He was a model student at the NED, and is respected today as a technologist with a deep understanding of his field of work.
Dr. Sherwani explained to the audience that the NED University alumni living in North America owe more than 80 million US dollars to NED…if the alumni decide to pay for the real cost of the world class education they got at the NED University.
It was logical that after the speeches about the role of the NED University in producing so many useful and successful people and how well these graduates were doing in the US, there was a fundraiser to raise funds to help the university the alumni were from.
After the speeches, a lavish traditional dinner was followed by a music program featuring the troupe of Mehwish Hayat: the performers included Mehwish’s siblings Danish and Afsheen. And as it always happens at these conventions, the entertainment session ended with a free-for-all dance, to the beat of Dama dam mast qalander--a true celebration of life, of NED, of time before Pakistan was taken into the grip of extremism.