|Biographical detail : ||Former Pakistani Senator Mazhar Ali packed many careers and interests into a single life-time: civil engineer, entrepreneur, politician, educationalist and above all philanthropist. He died on 2nd May 2004 as a result of injuries sustained in a car accident near his home in Karachi.
Syed Mazhar Ali was born in Delhi in 1935. His grandfather, Maulvi Saeed Ahmed belonged to a distinguished line of Islamic scholars that include Shah Waliullah (1703-1761)amongst their forebears. His grandmother Maseethi Begum was a grand matriach of a bygone age, who presided over an impressive household in Old Delhi. His father, Major Syed Asghar Ali, served in the education department of the British Army who migrated to Pakistan. His paternal uncle, Syed Safdar Ali, belonged to the early corps of Pakistan's fledgling counter-espionage service. Syed Mazhar Ali's early years were spent in army camps, including Malir, where he distinguished himself in hockey, subsequently representing his province and university in the sport. He obtained a First Class in Civil Engineering from the University of Karachi (1958). He was awarded a scholarship to Lehigh University, USA, where he completed an MSc in Civil and Structural engineering (1959-61).
After a few years of employment in architectural practices, he established his own civil engineering company, Maymar. Amongst its projects was the construction of the InterContinental Hotel in Dacca. His astute business sense also led to the acquisition of real estate in the outskirts of Karachi, that subsequently became a show-piece town planning venture, 'Gulshan-e-Maymar'. Maymar won awards for the construction of low-cost housing in different parts of Karachi. His professional competence was recognised in his appointment as Chair of the Association of Builders and Developers, and Vice-Chair of the Natinal Housing Authority, Government of Pakistan.
Mazhar Ali found his political sympathies more closely aligned with the Muslim League, and in 1985 he successfully contested a Senate seat in Karachi on the Party's ticket. He was one of the competent technocrats advising the first Nawaz Sharif government (1990 - 1993). His most notable contribution was as dynamic chairman of the Senate 'Resource Mobilisation & Tax Reforms Commission' (1991-1994), championing the introduction of IT to improve tax collection. Mazhar Ali served in the Senate till 1994, and was disappointed for not being given responsibilities commensurate with his experience in the second Nawaz Sharif government (1997-99). He would remark that the Prime Minister was most comfortable with 'yes men' but he was not of that mould.
His reduced political commitments prompted Syed Mazhar Ali to devote more time to another abiding passion: in 1998 he embarked on an ambitious vision to create an IT university in Karachi that could compete with the best in the world. He believed passionately in providing educational opportunities to young Pakistanis and improving the quality of education. Over the next few years, he was to channel a considerable proporition of his own savings to establish the Karachi Institute of Information Technology (KIIT) located in Gulshan-e-Maymar and now offering IT degrees under franchise from the University of Huddersfield. He sincerely hoped that its staff would rise to his vision and work for the development of the nation's human resources. Syed Mazhar Ali's inspiration was the work of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, who through the establishment of the Aligarh Muslim University offered new opportunities to the Muslims of the subcontinent. Syed Mazhar Ali's mantle at KIIT was taken up by his younger brother, Dr Syed Zahir Ali, who served as its Director.
Syed Mazhar Ali maintained contacts with the political world and was respected by the MQM leadership and the Minister of Interior, Gen. (retd.) Moin Haider (1999-2003), thus occassionally serving as a trusted broker.
Syed Mazhar Ali was a charismatic personality and will be long-remembered by all those who had the priviledge of working with him for his warmth, honesty and sincerity. It was only after his death, when closing his financial affairs, that his family came to realise the extent of his quiet acts of charity and support to the needy. His wife Azra brought him life-long comfort and companionship. He also leaves a son, Syed Amir Ali and two daughters, Mona and Seher.
"Inna Lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji'un. From Allah we come and unto Him we shall return."