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Pakistan Activities

Why study the brain?

“How can you possibly not be excited to study what the brain does?” This is what Professor Venkatesh Murthy, Professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology at Harvard, asked viewers across South Asia at SAI’s second webinar of the semester on Friday, March 14.

Using video conference technology provided by the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan (HEC), 15 universities in South Asia participated in the interactive session about the importance of studying neuroscience. Because everything we do comes down to the brain, the field has implications not just for science, but for all disciplines, Professor Murthy explained.

Murthy explained that the brain is incredibly complex. With 100 billion neurons, there are many things scientists still have to learn about the brain. Looking at just one area of the brain is like saying, “I know what the entire city is doing on a whole by looking at just one person.” We should think of how the brain works as a world wide web network: many computers talking to each other in a complex language.

Murthy predicted that in the next 100 years, we will see many advances in neuroscience. He explained that the brain’s ability to make sense of chaos can help us learn how to create things like machines and other technologies. For example, creators of Facebook’s facial recognition software can take inspiration from how the brain processes visual images. The growing field of big data can also learn from how the brain processes large amounts of information.

15 universities in South Asia participated in the webinar

Murthy answered several questions from students and faculty at participating universities, as well as questions submitted on social media. When asked about how aging affects the brain, he explained that, similar to an old bicycle, material in the brain degrades and neuron connections get worse. To counter this effect, he recommended that people work as late in life as possible, which helps keep the brain productive. Exercise is just as important for the body as it is for the brain, so we should take advantage of mental exercises that are available.

Are there differences in the composition of the brain based on gender? Murthy explained that it is “very difficult to separate brain differences form cultural differences.” The difference between genders is very subtle, so we must instead consider cultural influences to differentiate between what is learned and what is intrinsic.Several questions focused on how external factors affect the brain. Murthy explained that most scientists agree that the amount of power in phones is too small to affect neurons in the brain. Mood is clearly affected by the weather, although he said it is still unclear why this happens in the brain.

Answering a question about how someone can become a neuroscientist, Murthy commented that there is no reason you cannot change your path – just be open-minded. “It’s never too late to learn more,” he said.

The participating sites were: Agha Khan University, Institute of Educational Development, Karachi; Bahria University, Islamabad; Bahria University, Karachi;  Balochistan University of Engineering and Technology, Khuzdar; Dadabhoy Institute of Higher Education; Dow University of Health Sciences, Karachi;  Fatima Jinnah Women’s University; GIK Institute of Engineering Sciences and Technology; Institute of Management Sciences, Peshawar; King Edward Medical University, Lahore; Kinnaird College For Woman, Lahore; NED University of Engineering and technology, Karachi; Riphah international university, Islamabad; University of Health Sciences, Lahore; and University of Sargodha, Sargodha.

Click here to watch a full recording of the webinar.

The next SAI webinar ‘Women in Politics: The Case of India,’ will be Thursday, May 8, 2014.

    Pakistan summer internship and research deadlines: March 19

    SAI has extended the deadline for Pakistan-related summer internships and research grants to March 19, 2014. 


    Please note: Only undergraduates with Pakistani citizenship are eligible. Graduate students of any nationality are welcome to apply



    Application Components for SAI Pakistan Related Summer Grants

    • 750-word proposal outlining your project
    • For research grants: One-page bibliography including annotations on your research topic (disregard for language study)
    • For internship grants: Letter of acceptance from host organization
    • A current resume/CV
    • Unofficial current transcript

    Direct your recommenders to email letters directly to Nora Maginn,

    • Two letters of recommendation



    The Aman Foundation is offering 2 internship opportunities this summer at Aman Health and Aman Tech 

    Name: Aman Foundation (AMAN Health)
    Location: Karachi Pakistan
    Position: Intern
    Schedule: Up to 8 weeks in the summer

    About the Organization:
    AMAN Foundation is a local, not-for-profit trust, based and operating in Karachi, Pakistan with the mission is to champion dignity and choice for the underserved in Pakistan through Sustainable, Scalable, and Systemic development in the areas of health and education. AMAN Foundation’s vision is to be a globally recognized knowledge center for innovative social investment and a prominent catalyst for social impact in Pakistan.

    About AMAN Health Care Services:
    AMAN Health Care Services is an SECP registered company operating under the umbrella of The AMAN Foundation. Its mission is to reduce barriers to health care, primarily for the under-served people of Pakistan, by offering high quality & affordable health services, building effective advocacy mechanisms & supporting critical research. Aman Health’s vision is to provide access to health care for all in Pakistan.

    What we do: AMAN Health Care Service’s core functionality is to provide Health related services in the form of following 3 business units:

    • Emergency Medical Services
    • Aman Community Health Program
    • Aman Tele-Health

    Where we are located: Our head office is located at Korangi Karachi, Pakistan.

    What we are looking in an Intern:
    The intern will be responsible for:

    • Reviewing the existing research done on health sector & key strategic initiatives taken by Aman
    • Giving recommendation on the existing research
    • Conducting interviews of key stake holders
    • Developing reports on the basis of research done (in the form of Excel, Word or Powerpoint presentations)
    • Reviewing the grey literature related to health sector
    • Any other related task assigned by internship supervisor
    • The intern will work with Dr. Junaid Razzak, CEO  of AMANHEALTH

    Office Location – Karachi, Pakistan
    Start/End Dates – June 2 – July 31, 2014.
    Rs. 4,000 – 8,000 per month

    *Please submit a CV and Cover Letter outlining your interest to and
    *Please submit all queries to
    Deadline: Wednesday, March 19, 2014
    *Please note: Only undergraduates with Pakistani citizenship are eligible for this position. Graduate students of any nationality are welcome to apply.


    Name: Aman Foundation (AMANTECH)
    Location: Karachi, Pakistan
    Position: Intern
    Schedule: Up to 8 weeks in the summer

    About the Organization:
    AMAN Foundation is a local, not-for-profit trust, based and operating in Karachi, Pakistan with the mission is to champion dignity and choice for the underserved in Pakistan through Sustainable, Scalable, and Systemic development in the areas of health and education. AMAN Foundation’s vision is to be a globally recognized knowledge center for innovative social investment and a prominent catalyst for social impact in Pakistan.

    AMANTECH is a large-scale establishment committed to serve neglected youth. This institute will provide a mix of vocational training and soft skills, and facilitate access to employment opportunities overseas. The Aman Foundation hopes to build a sustainable future for the youth of Karachi thereby vastly improving their standard of living. It intends to create a growing force of skilled workers with a positive mind-set and a strong work ethic. AMANTECH’s goal is to help place members of this workforce in regional organizations so as to enhance their earning capacity and generate foreign currency remittances for Pakistan.

    Project or Type of Work
    To analyze the organization structure and internal systems and suggest how to (a) improve these in line with Aman Foundation’s mission and vision (b) better organizational interface. Further, to act as a consultant on data analysis and quantitative methods which may improve the reporting structure of organization and analytical skills of staff.


    • To suit requirement for above assignment.

    Office Location – Karachi, Pakistan
    Start/End Dates – June 2 – July 31, 2014.
    Rs. 4,000 – 8,000 per month

    *Please submit a CV and Cover Letter outlining your interest to
    *Please submit all queries to and
    Deadline: Wednesday, March 19, 2014

    *Please note: Only undergraduates with Pakistani citizenship are eligible for this position. Graduate students of any nationality are welcome to apply.




      Engineering Education in the 21st Century

      What role does engineering education play in our modern society? According to Venkatesh Narayanamurti, Benjamin Peirce Professor of Technology and Public Policy at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School, engineering is crucial to a well-rounded society.

      On Thursday, February 27, SAI hosted its first webinar of the semester, titled ‘Societal Grand Challenges and the role of Engineering Education in the 21st Century’ with Professor Narayanamurti, who described engineering as “the ultimate liberal art” because of its role as a linking discipline.

      Using videoconference software provided by the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan (HEC), 15 sites in South Asia were able to participate live and interact with Narayanamurti. Viewers were also able to watch the webinar live on SAI’s website, and submit questions via Facebook and Twitter.

      Narayanamurti started by describing the importance of engineering at leading universities like Harvard, saying that “we want renaissance engineers who not only know how things work, but how the world works.” He explained that all of the major accomplishments throughout history have happened because of engineering, and the economic impact of engineering is huge. “Engineering underpins the economy,” he said.

      Explaining the role of engineering as a linking discipline, Narayanamurti said, “engineering is not applied science; it is science that is applied engineering.” He made a strong case for a well-rounded education in all fields, and said that we must encourage students to learn the creativity and innovation of entrepreneurship.

      Another ‘grand challenge’ of engineering education is getting women involved, which Narayanamurti explained is vital for societies. He explained that women’s access to science education is more of a challenge in the developing world, but not one that cannot be overcome. Having women leaders in all fields is an important step: “Can women be renaissance engineers? Yes!” he said. “We need more women role models so that it is an accepted reality.”

      15 sites from South Asia participated in the webinar

      Narayanamurti spent time explaining what skills are vital to engineering education. From teaching his own class, he has learned that creativity, as well as analytic and problem-solving skills, are essential. Since Harvard has a strong global presence, it can serve to be a leader for this sort of education.

      Throughout his presentation, Narayanamurti emphasized the importance of merging the study of engineering with biology, by combining the perfection of biology with the creativity of engineering, because “nature perfected how human beings and the living world were created.” Technology is evolving to become more human-like, which means merging biology with engineering is more important than ever.

      After his presentation, Narayanamurti took questions from students and education leaders at the participating sites, as well as questions on social media from viewers in Pakistan, India, and Australia.

      The universities participating live were: Bahria University Islamabad, Bahria University, Karachi, Comsats Institute of Information Technology, Attack, Dadabhoy Institute of Higher Education, Fatima Jinnah Women’s University, Rawalpindi,  Institute of Space and Technology Islamabad, Kinnaird College For Women, Lahore College of Women University, Lahore, Lahore University of Management Sciences, Lahore, NED University of Engineering and Technology, Pakistan Institute of Engineering and Applied Sciences Islamabad, University of Engineering and Technology (UET), Lahore, University of Malakand, and University Of Sargodah, Sargodah.

      Mariam Chughtai, Ed.D. Candidate, Harvard Graduate School of Education, moderated the discussion, and Meena Hewett, Executive Director of SAI gave an introduction. Erum SattarSJD Candidate, Harvard Law School, tracked the discussion on social media.

      Click here to view all tweets from the discussion on Twitter.

      Click here to view a recording of the whole webinar.

      Click here to learn more about SAI’s upcoming webinars.

      SAI’s webinars are made possible with the support of the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan (HEC).

        Exploring South Asian urbanism in Karachi

        “An urban time-bomb.” That is how Rahul Mehrotra of the Harvard Graduate School of Design described the explosive growth of contemporary cities across South Asia.

        From January 9 to 12, 2014, Karachi became the gathering place for politicians, scholars, doctors, architects, urban planners, and citizens to explore issues related to rapid urban change at the Contemporary South Asian City Conference.

        SAI Executive Director Meena Hewett with Harvard and Aman Foundation teams

        The mega-conference, with over 3000 guests registered, took place at the historic Frere Hall, and was organized very efficiently over a three-day period. The conference aimed to generate new knowledge and insight into the driving forces, socioeconomic challenges and political implications facing the contemporary South Asian city.

        The Harvard South Asia Institute (SAI) was a sponsor for the conference, and a Harvard team participated in several panels on topics such as housing, urbanization, disaster response, mental health, and conservation. SAI’s Executive Director Meena Hewett also attended.

        Hewett said that she saw the conference as an opportunity to help form new partnerships to address old problems: “It was a unique opportunity for participants to sit in on discussions on multiple issues of rapidly growing cities across South Asia… We hope keep up the momentum generated at this event,” she said. “For me, the important lessons were to not get bogged down with finding the perfect solution that has a major impact but to take on small challenges that produce immediate results creating a culture of optimism for social change.”

        Two Harvard professors had the opportunity to give guest lectures. Speaking to an enthusiastic crowd of around 300 people, Rahul Mehrotra, Chair and Professor of the Department of Urban Planning & Design at the Harvard Graduate School of Design gave an eagerly anticipated presentation titled the ‘Kinetic City’  about elastic space in urban areas.

        Professor Rahul Mehrotra speaking at the conference

        Describing the venue of Frere Hall as a living manifestation of his theoretical ideas, he explained that the usually-vacant gardens were transformed and had become a “transient” space. He stressed that it is important to accept the evolving aspect of cities: “Change is happening rapidly… We have many cities that will soon become 1 million-people cities, and urban planners and designers can make a big difference to how things evolve in these municipalities,” he said. “Our cities are becoming complex and highly susceptible to malfunction because we are ignoring evolutionary gestures.” Mehrotra was also the discussant for the panel “Beyond the Nation-State: Emerging South Asian Urbanism,” which considered South Asian urbanism on a subcontinental scale.







        Jennifer Leaning of the Harvard School of Public Health and Director of the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights also gave a guest lecture to around 75 people about disaster response in urban areas. Describing the stressful effect of disasters on cities, Leaning emphasized that preparation is key for cities, as well as an understanding of the structure of a society.

        Jennifer Leaning

        “If you are not actually paying attention to these vulnerabilities and endeavoring to mitigate them in the context of disaster planning, then at the time of a disaster these are the people who are going to suffer the most,” she added. “In this manner, disasters reflect the underlying structures, institutions, complexities and functioning of a regular society.”

        The panels spanned three days, covering a variety of topics related to urban issues in South Asia. On January 10, Spiro Pollalis, Professor of Design, Technology and Management at the Harvard Graduate School of Design was the discussant for a panel titled “Professional Practice in South Asia,” which explored contemporary design implementation strategies in architecture and urban planning and featured leading professionals in the field.

        On January 11, Justin D. Stern, a PhD Student in Urban Planning and Design at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, was the discussant of a panel titled “Constructing the ‘Right to the City’ in South Asia: Housing, Governance & the Civic Realm,” which examined the right to the South Asia metropolises. This is a difficult issue when the population of a city is divided into two groups: those that can afford private education, health, housing and transport, and the other group that uses services from the public sector. Spiro Pollalis also participated in this panel.


        Stern noted that South Asian cities need to consider new solutions:  “We have heard and read many times that South Asian cities are resilient, but we need to question ourselves if this resilience prevents us from finding holistic solutions to our problems,” he said.

        On January 12, Ruth Barron, Assistant Professor at Harvard Medical School and Director of Outpatient Psychiatry at Cambridge Health Alliance was the discussant for a panel titled “Mental Health and the Urban Environment.” The panel featured Jennifer Leaning and Satchit Balsari, Fellow at the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard and Director of the Global Emergency Medicine Program at Weill Cornell Medical College/NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital.

        The panel examined the complex relationship between mental health and urbanization in South Asian cities like Karachi.  In general, Barron said a sense of invulnerability is normal, but episodic trauma causes us to experience feelings of anger, disillusionment and stress: “These feelings are normal in terms of an extreme event, but the episode itself is not,” Barron explained.

        “Most people do improve with time while others remain depressed and block normal feelings that are typical of our everyday lives.” Barron also discussed the importance of understanding secondary trauma, such as stress on emergency workers, doctors and nurses.

        Although there is usually a large focus on caring for survivors, there is something else to consider after disasters. Leaning emphasized that the treatment and management of the dead is also vital: “They matter as much as survivors do,” she said. “There are survivors who are traumatized by dead people.”

        “Depending on the individual’s culture, the mourning or burial should be in accordance so that the families don’t feel violated and haunted,” she added.

        Jennifer Leaning was also the discussant for a panel on January 12 titled “Disaster and Mass Casualty Response in Urban Crisis,” which addressed the best practices for urban disaster planning and response, as well as trauma care in dense urban settings. Satchit Balsari participated in this panel.

        Overall, the conference provided an excellent opportunity for experts to come together and address the most pressing issues facing contemporary South Asian cities.


        Click here to see media coverage of the conference.

        Visit the Pakistan Urban Forum Facebook page to view more photos of the conference.


        *An earlier version of this article incorrectly quoted Rahul Mehrotra as saying “We have many cities that will soon become 100 million-people cities, and urban planners and designers can make a big difference to how things evolve in these municipalities.” The correct statement has been updated: “We have many cities that will soon become 1 million-people cities, and urban planners and designers can make a big difference to how things evolve in these municipalities”

          Tackling gender violence across borders, digitally

          On November 25, 2013, SAI hosted a webinar titled “Tackling Gender Based Violence in South Asia – What Options Do We Have?” as part of SAI’s ongoing webinar series. The interactive discussion featured sites across Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh. To make the webinar interactive across the globe, SAI utilized social media to take questions and monitor the discussion online.

          The event was made possible using live conference technology with the Higher Education Commission in Pakistan, which allowed the various sites to participate in the discussion live and ask questions during the event. The participating sites included universities in Pakistan, including in Lahore, Rawalpindi, Islamabad, Karachi, Multan, as well as centers in Pune, India and Dhaka, Bangladesh. Each site had around 20 students watching live and asking questions. The event was also streamed live on SAI’s website.

          The faculty speaker was Professor Jacqueline Bhabha, FXB Director of Research, Professor of the Practice of Health and Human Rights at the Harvard School of Public Health, the Jeremiah Smith Jr. Lecturer in Law at Harvard Law School and Adjunct Lecturer in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School. After an introduction by Meena Hewett, Executive Director of SAI, Professor Bhabha gave a presentation about the issue of gender violence, and possible paths to prevention.

          Professor Bhabha touched on several methods of prevention, including better police training, which also means an increase in accountability of elected officials. “For many women, this is a form of domestic terrorism,” Professor Bhabha said. There needs to be a shift in attitude about how sexual violence perpetrators are viewed, including increased impunity for offenders. She also advocated for increased protection for survivors, including support, rehabilitation, and a recognition of the effect on mental health. Medical workers must be better trained to recognize signs of domestic violence.

          Professor Bhabha gave the example of an Indian journalist at Tehelka, who was recently accused of sexual harassment but claims to have done nothing wrong. This is an example of the social norms that govern societies in South Asia. As a political society, Professor Bhabha said it is also on the responsibility of everyone to try to change these norms.

          In order to prevent gender-based violence, social norms must change. Professor Bhabha explained that gender norms have become skewed over the century. For example, many boys in South Asia grow up with a sense of entitlement that is learned from school, movies and on the street. The burden does not fall on one particular group or sector; rather society as a whole is to blame. Professor Bhabha also addressed the education system, which is not truly coeducational. She said that from a young age, many girls live in discreet gender worlds, which makes it hard to become familiar with normal social exchanges. It is vital that both girls and boys form normal friendships at a young age with the opposite gender and develop a sense of normalcy.

          Professor Bhaba also discussed another troubling norm in South Asia: the apprehension to talk about sexual and reproduction issues, even among close family members. Discussing sexual health is seen as illicit. Sexual violence should not be seen as “a private shame, a guilty secret for the woman.” Access to contraception was also discussed, which Professor Bhaba described as an important right for a woman to be able to control her own fertility.

          The gender hierarchy also plays a factor in social norms around gender violence. From a young age in the home, boys are encouraged to play and do homework, while girls spend their time working in the home. This is especially true in rural communities. Many boys are also influenced by peer-group pressure, which can result in boys becoming violent who would have not have otherwise participated. To combat this norm, Professor Bhaba explained that it is important to “make it cool to be kind, not to be aggressive,” and incentivize good behavior by making it the cool thing to do.

          Going forward, Professor Bhaba shared several other strategies. She explained that the media can be an important ally when used correctly. For example, changing the dynamics of popular soap operas, telenovelas, in Latin America was seen as an effective way to reduce violence against women in that society. The development of new adolescent curriculum is vital, which is already underway in some areas. Professor Bhaba explained that groups of women organizing through activism can be very powerful.

          Overall, Professor Bhaba explained that change must come from within communities, not from top-down. This is why many of the policies related to gender violence has failed to change the situation. Women, as well as men in communities, must work to change these social norms. Social and economic conditions that contribute to poverty must also be addressed in order to truly combat gender violence.

          This issue, which has been making headlines around the world recently, is an important one for South Asia. This webinar helped to promote further discussion about prevention methods and showed that there are many people across South Asia who want to tackle this issue and promote change.

          Mariam Chughtai, doctoral candidate at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and SAI intern, moderated the discussion. Erum Sattar, SJD Candidate, Harvard Law School and SAI intern tracked the discussion on social media.

          Blakeman Allen, who is the director of Pakistani Educational Leadership Project at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire wrote to SAI, saying, “Thanks again to SAI for providing more opportunities that address changes in societal norms. With the project encompassing 238 alumni change agents, and focusing on grassroots mobilization through educational leadership – and with over 75% of the alumni female leaders – the webinar resonated.  And the Pakistan real-time inclusion was wonderful, too.”

          SAI will host more interactive webinars in the spring semester of 2014. Please check SAI’s website for future updates.

            Graduate Students from HKS and HLS visit Pakistan

            A group of graduate students from Harvard Kennedy School and Harvard Law School came to Pakistan for a week-long trek between August 11 and August 18, 2013. The trek, organized by the students through support from SAI in-country consultants, sought to develop a deeper understanding of issues and opportunities in Pakistan.

            The delegation comprised of 8 students, hailing from Germany, Mexico, United States, and Pakistan, met with government institutions, civil society organizations, and leaders from media and entertainment industry.

            The group visited the Aman Foundation, one of the partner organizations of SAI. The students engaged in a dialogue with the senior management of Aman Foundation and its associated companies about the role of social enterprises in enhancing social service delivery for the base of the pyramid consumers.  They toured the Aman Foundation, the AMANTECH campus – vocational and technical training arm of Aman Foundation, and the Aman Community Health Worker program community site, and met with field staff. They were deeply impressed by the on-ground presence and the lasting impact of Aman Foundation on Karachi. They discussed possibilities of internship, student projects, and long-term research engagements in Karachi with support from SAI.

            After spending two days in Karachi, the delegation continued to Lahore – the capital of Punjab and the second biggest city of Pakistan. Lahore University of Management Sciences hosted the delegation, where they discussed the unique context of providing quality higher education in Pakistan.

            The trek concluded with a excursion trip to the Himalayas in northern district of Pakistan. Through the lush planes of Naraan and Kaghan, a hike took them to the celebrated Lake Saif-ul-Mulook marked the highlight of the trip.

              Harvard Alum talk on flood risk reduction in the Indus Basin in Lahore

              On Friday, 16 August 2013, Center for Law and Policy hosted a talk by Laila Kasuri, a recent graduate from Harvard College with a concentration in environmental sciences and engineering, titled “A Decision Support System for Flood Risk Reduction in the Indus Basin.” The participants included Harvard alumni, law professors, and lawyers.

              Ms. Kasuri explained Pakistan’s water management problems during floods, which cause widespread devastation, and the opportunity Pakistan has to use the recent 2010 floods to have proper flood management regulations put in place. After describing the problems faced in Pakistan, Ms. Kasuri presented a case study on the Mississippi River, the largest river in the United States, and the U.S. government’s response to the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927. Ms. Kasuri noted that certain tools used and techniques employed by the U.S. government after the flood were instrumental in providing a sustainable framework for effective flood disaster relief for the future. These measures can be applied to address Pakistan’s water management problems with the Indus River.

              Instead of employing reactionary stopgap responses to floods, long-term government legislation is needed in order to put effective water management methods in place, such as the U.S. government did after the 1927 flood with the Mississippi River and Tributaries Project (MRT). The use of hydraulic modeling technology, used by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, can help Pakistan determine the least value lands around the Indus, which could serve as the best areas for flood water diversion. Ms. Kasuri demonstrated this by creating three maps of a sample area in Southern Punjab and Northern Sindh. The first map indicates where valuable agricultural lands are situated around the river. The second map displays population density in the sample area, and the third map shows general land use by the population in the area. By making an aggregate map of the former three, the land best suited for floodwater diversion can be pinpointed. With a diversion channel, water can be directed to low lying, low value lands in Dera Bugti, backwater areas in North Jacobabad, and to a reservoir that can be created, potentially, in Sukkur.

              Ultimately, policy makers will have to make decisions keeping in mind the rising population and monetary restraints, but the 2010 floods created an opportunity for them to readdress Pakistan’s flood management issues. To start, a centralize flood plan should be created to address where diversion channels can be created to reach lands that can more properly deal with flood water. People who live in those areas should be informed of the flood risk they are exposed to and those who relocate should be properly compensated. Better land use and improved infrastructure, especially along the Indus, will also go a long way in helping Pakistan develop their water management and flood response regulations.

              The talk was followed by a Q&A session. In the end, Syed Imad-ud-Din Asad [LL.M. (Harvard); Founder and Director, Center for Law and Policy] thanked Ms. Kasuri for sharing her views on this issue of national interest.

              View more photos on the Center for Law and Policy’s website.

                Professor Eck awarded Honorary Doctorate from SOAS

                Diana Eck receiving her Honorary Doctorate from SOAS

                On July 26,  Diana L. Eck, Professor of Comparative Religion and Indian Studies, was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Divinity by the University of London, School of Oriental and African Studies, at its graduation ceremonies in London. She was introduced to the Faculty and students by Professor Gurharpal Singh, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities and Professor in Inter-Religious Relations and Development. Her citation commended both her work on India and on the South Asian diaspora communities of America, especially the Pluralism Project and its focus on the challenges of religious diversity.

                In  her address to the graduates, Professor Eck spoke about her own time at SOAS as a Fulbright scholar and a master’s degree student in the 1960s, recalling especially the life of the Common Room, with students from all over Asia, from the Middle East and Africa. She noted how much the world has changed in the decades since then, with the revolutions in communication and all that is signaled by “globalization.” In these years, SOAS has also grown into one of the premier centers in the world for the study of Asia, the Middle East, and Africa.

                “But over these years, some things have hardly changed at all. Deep differences –economic, political, and religious—continue to fracture and divide the world, locally and globally. We understand one another too little. The globalization of our conscience and consciousness is still underdeveloped. Our ignorance and prejudice circle the globe along with our credit card numbers and our greenhouse gases.”

                “It is this,” she said, “that makes your work as SOAS graduates essential to the world we live in today and more urgent than ever before. Diversity is just a fact, but pluralism is a creation. It is the achievement of a place like SOAS.  It is forged by the engagement across differences of cultures and continents that you have found here; it is forged by the energies on display in the SOAS Common Room, by the relationships you have made, and by the intellectual strengths you have found here. In the world in which we all live today, you are lucky to be graduates of this place. Negotiating difference, creating the infrastructure of pluralism, is both a global and local challenge.  It is your challenge as citizens of a fast-changing interdependent and complex world.

                Read more.


                  Harvard South Asia Alumni Events

                  The South Asia Institute has held several alumni events this summer, connecting alums with current and incoming students and faculty in Dhaka, Delhi, Karachi, and Lahore. A snapshot of the events are below. Visit our Facebook page to see photos from the various locations.

                  Dhaka, Bangladesh

                  On July 17, SAI organized a casual dinner in Dhaka for local Harvard community with Professor Richard Cash, Senior Lecturer at the Harvard School of Public Health. Professor Cash is a visiting lecturer at the James P. Grant School of Public Health at BRAC University. Attendants included alumni Moushumi Khan (HKS), Francisco Flores (HSPH), and Hector Soliman (HSPH). Several current students are in Dhaka for the summer with exciting internships also were present, inclujding Fan Li (HLS), who working with the Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust, and Eric Duniplace and Christine Simon (both HSPH) who are with the Population Council. Maria May, SAI’s consultant in Dhaka, was also present at the event.

                  Delhi, India

                  SAI, along with the Harvard Club of Delhi and the Harvard India Student Group, hosted One Harvard Young Harvard, an alumni and current student networking night on July 18th .The evening included presentations by Pravin H. Parekh, President of the Harvard Club of India, Nora Maginn, SAI Programs Manager, Ishani Mehta, President of the Harvard India Student Group and HKS student.

                  Karachi and Lahore, Pakistan

                  SAI, along with the the HBS Club of Pakistan and the Harvard Pakistan Student Group, hosted alumni dinners in Karachi and Lahore on July 2nd and 4th, respectively. As a special guest at the dinners, Meena Sonea Hewett, SAI Executive Director, met with more than 50 alumni and current students. Attendees included SAI summer interns along with other Harvard students in the country.


                    3rd Harvard University Muslim Alumni (HUMA) Iftar in Lahore

                    On Saturday, 20 July 2013, Harvard University Muslim Alumni (HUMA) hosted its third annual iftar-cum-dinner in Lahore at Royal Palm Golf and Country Club. The event was coordinated by Syed Imad-ud-Din Asad [LL.M. (Harvard)] and sponsored by Center for Law and Policy (CLP).

                    Alumni and students from Graduate School of Education, Harvard Business School, Harvard College, Harvard Kennedy School, Harvard Law School, and Harvard School of Public Health graced the evening. The guests appreciated HUMA for organizing such gatherings and hoped that HUMA would provide such networking opportunities more frequently.

                    View photos from the event here.

                      Harvard Law School student interns at the Center for Law and Policy in Lahore

                      Aurora Sanchez Palacio, from Spain, has joined Center for Law and Policy as a summer intern. Aurora has an LL.B. from University of Zaragoza, Spain, and an LL.M. from Harvard Law School, U.S.A.

                      Aurora is interested in academia and her interests include comparative constitutional law and financial law. During her studies at Harvard, she took an introductory course on Islamic law and got interested in knowing more about the legal aspects of Islamic finance. In order to acquire a better understanding of the field, she started searching for suitable research positions in Muslim countries.Through South Asia Institute at Harvard University, she learned about internship opportunities at CLP.

                      Read more here.

                        Pakistan Fellowships

                        SAI offers two opportunities for fellowships related to Pakistan studies:

                        Aman Fellowship

                        The Fellowship Grant:

                        • Each fellowship will cover a 4 to 6 month period, beginning January 27, 2014, with a stipend of $25,000, health insurance coverage for the grantee, and roundtrip travel funds.
                        • Fellows will be provided office and laboratory space, access to the libraries and resources of Harvard University.

                        Babar Ali Fellowship

                        The Fellowship Grant:

                        • Each fellowship will cover a 1 month period over the academic year.
                        • Fellows will be provided access to the libraries and resources of Harvard University.

                        Click here for more details.

                          SAI visits Pakistan

                          SAI Executive Director, Meena Hewett, was in Pakistan last week developing our ongoing programs and collaborations with the country.

                          As special guest at Harvard Alumni Reunion Dinners in Karachi and Lahore, Meena met with more than 50 alumni and current students representing at least 10 different schools from Harvard. Attendees included SAI summer interns along with other Harvard students in the country, some of whom traveled from other cities to attend. Leadership from HBS Club of Pakistan and Harvard Pakistan Student Group co-hosted the events and offered enthusiastic support to SAI’s work.

                          Over a series of meetings, held in Karachi and Lahore, the SAI team met with academics, practitioners and experts on urbanization. The discussion sought to explore a collaborative project, the “Contemporary South Asian City”, with Professor Rahul Mehrotra at Harvard Graduate School of Design and others at Harvard along with partners across South Asia.


                          Meeting with Mr. Ahsan Jamil, CEO of Aman Foundation, and Dr. Aamir Khan, Executive Director of Interactive Research Development (IRD), to discuss collaborative research work on healthcare with Professor Peter Berman at Harvard School of Public Health. Meena also met with a number of team leaders at Aman managing a diverse set of healthcare initiatives, including Mental health, Primary healthcare and Disaster Management and Response.

                          In a meeting with Dr. Ishrat Husain, Dean and Director of Institute of Business Administration (IBA), Meena  discussed connecting universities across Pakistan. In such a collaboration, Professor Tarun Khanna at Harvard Business School would speak to students in Pakistan via a series of webinars on the topic of Social Enterprise and Entrepreneurship in Emerging Markets.

                          In a meeting with Sherry Rehman, former Ambassador of Pakistan to the United States, Meena discussed research and internship opportunities for current Harvard students with institutional partners in Pakistan, such as the Jinnah Institute founded by Ambassador Rehman and Tameer Microfinace Bank led by Nadeem Hussain. Ambassador Rehman visited Harvard in February 2012 and met with several Harvard faculty members at a SAI sponsored lunch, in conjunction with a JFK Forum event at the Harvard Kennedy School.

                          For more pictures, visit our facebook page.

                            Arif Naqvi named 2013 Oslo Business for Peace Nominee

                            Arif Naqvi

                            We are delighted to announce that Arif Naqvi, SAI Founders Club Member, has been named as the 2013 Oslo Business for Peace Honoree. The Oslo Business for Peace Award is the highest form of recognition given to individual business leaders for fostering peace and stability through creating shared value between business and society. The worldwide search for the 2013 Honorees is a joint effort led by the International Chamber of Commerce, UNDP and the Oslo based Business for Peace Foundation. There are a total of 5 honorees this year, including representatives from Denmark, Brazil, Yemen and the United States. Previous honorees include Ratan Tata (Tata Group), Mo Ibrahim ( Chairman of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation) and Jeffrey Immelt (Chairman and CEO of General Electric).

                            The independent Award Committee that selected this year’s honorees consists of Nobel Laureates such as Prof. Muhammad Yunus, winner of the Nobel prize in Economics in 2006, and Prof. Michael A. Spence, winner of the Nobel prize in economics in 2001. The Award will be presented to the Honorees at the Business for Peace Summit on May 14 in Oslo City Hall, the venue of the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony.

                            Mr. Arif Masood Naqvi, Pakistan, Founder and Group Chief Executive of The Abraaj Group, is a leading investor operating in Asia, Middle East and North Africa, Turkey and Central Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America. In 2012, Naqvi was invited by the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to become part of the United Nations Global Compact Board. His work in promoting responsible business practices by looking at the stakeholder, rather than exclusively a shareholder approach, is pioneering in the private equity industry. The Abraaj Group devotes the time of its employees and resources to mentoring social, cultural and economic entrepreneurs. The Abraaj Group, under the leadership of Naqvi, has partnered with best in class organizations focused on entrepreneurship and job creation, healthcare, education and community engagement

                            Read more about the honorees here.

                              Dr. Aamir Khan discusses mHealth

                              SAI hosted Aamir Khan at Harvard University on Tuesday, May 21. Dr. Khan is an epidemiologist based in Karachi, Pakistan where he directs the Indus Hospital TB Control Program in southern Pakistan, and additionally conducts TB research and provides technical assistance in Tajikistan, Nepal, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Peru and Indonesia. He is also the Executive Director of Interactive Research and Development,  a regional resource for innovative global health research and delivery.

                              SAI hosted a lunch with Dr. Khan and faculty from across Harvard who focus on the areas of health and health delivery models. Dr. Khan and the faculty shared their insights about the field.

                              In this TEDx talk, Dr. Khan expresses his dream to use cellphones to improve provision of healthcare in Pakistan and uses his experience in the field to share his work with technology.

                                SHAHEEN-Pakistan – Advice Portal for Pakistanis

                                Introducing a New Admissions-Advice Portal for Pakistanis: Help by Donating Just One Hour

                                THE PROBLEM: Inadequacies of guidance and counseling available to bright students across Pakistan. Unfortunately, only elite Pakistani students have access to guidance and counseling concerning higher education, fellowship, or residency programs abroad. Many bright students fail to get admissions, simply because their institutions or personal networks cannot guide them. This situation is a long-term collective loss for the entire nation.

                                THE SOLUTION: An online resource, in collaboration with GEO, providing admissions information. We are a group of students from Harvard, MIT, and other universities, who are collaborating with GEO Television Network to address is problem. We are developing a free online portal that will make available country-specific and program-specific guidance on how to ensure a strong application.

                                THE IMPACT: Increase in foreign-educated Pakistanis who become an asset to themselves, their families, and the entire nation. Shaheen-Pakistan’s online portal will help overcome the current inadequacies of guidance and counseling available to bright students across Pakistan —  wherever they may be. We strongly believe that better-educated Pakistanis will be an asset to themselves, their families, and the entire nation in the long run.

                                YOUR CONTRIBUTION: Shaheen-Pakistan does not need your money — we need one hour of your time to get your insights. Are you someone who has gone through the application process and gained admission into a university, fellowship, or residency program abroad? Are you willing to spend an hour sharing your insights? Your insights will be collected and consolidated with tips from other people in the same program, resulting in a comprehensive admissions tip-sheet for your program.Click here ( to tell us a bit about yourself and we’ll contact you soon.

                                The little time you spend with us on this project can enable innumerable other Pakistanis to avail the same opportunities in life that you have been privileged to access — bright young people who may otherwise fail to gain admission simply because there was no one to guide them.

                                Thank you,

                                SHAHEEN-Pakistan Steering Committee

                                Shaheena Raheem (Harvard). Bilal Malik (Harvard). Mahvish Shaukat (MIT). Zohaib Hassan (MIT). Ali Tajdar (Rutgers). Fatima Abbas (NUS). Rahman Saleem (LUMS).


                                  Harvard South Asia Week, April 8-12

                                  The India & South Asia Program at Harvard Kennedy School announces the Harvard South Asia week from April 8 to 12. Speakers include Cameron Munter, former U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan, Shyam Saran, Former Foreign Secretary to India, Rajiv ChandrasekaranSenior Correspondent and Associate Editor, Washington Post, Ashok GadgilUniversity of California, Berkeley, and Robert Blake, U.S. Assistant Secretary, South and Central Asian Affairs.

                                  SAI will cosponsor the lecture with Ashok Gadgil on ‘Solutions for the Bottom 2 Billion‘ as part of our Social Enterprise Seminar Series.

                                    Innovation in Education: Lessons for Entrepreneurship in Pakistan

                                    The third Video Conference of the new SAI Series of Webinars focused on ‘Innovation in Education: Lessons for Entrepreneurship in Pakistan’. Professor Fernando Reimers, Ford Foundation Professor of International Education and Director of Global Education and of International Education Policy at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and Imran Sarwar, Co-Founder, Rabtt (Connection); MPP Class of 2013, Harvard Kennedy School of Government led the discussion with academic sites across Pakistan. In addition, for the first time a Facebook event for the Webinar attracted 120 people to virtually attend the event – our partner, Pakistan’s Higher Education Commission provided a live web link for online streaming so that the discussion was available to anyone with an internet connection.

                                    Professor Reimers started his presentation on ‘Educating to Change the World’ with acknowledging how much education has changed over the last 25 years – the very fact of the Video Conference itself through which sites were virtually connected is a demonstration of how much technology has enhanced access around the world. He said we are in a new era in history when instead of top-down planning individuals and small groups of people are taking on big challenges – it’s a time of great potential change. He spoke of the fact that we need to move from teaching low-level cognitive skills that had been the focus of much formal education in the past to higher level leadership skills for the 21st century by developing adaptable skills to apply knowledge and learning in new ways. He spoke of the great work of Injaz al-Arab under the visionary leadership of Soraya Salti that he has been helping evaluate over the last 2 years and the phenomenal outcomes of the program in developing a sense of agency in youth and the ability to see challenges as opportunities. He also spoke of the ability inherent in all of us to teach and that we can’t expect professional teachers to bear all the burdens of teaching – he exhorted the audience to action. In reply to a twitter question about encouraging business and academia linkages, he spoke of an example from Monterey, Mexico about an innovative approach taken by a University president who asked local government and business leaders how his institution could help them grow – he then led the change to respond to those social demands – exactly the kind of model higher education needs to move towards to be a center for development and innovation in the 21st century.

                                    Imran Sarwar spoke of his experiences along with a friend and colleague from LUMS, Aneeq Ahmed Cheema when they formed Rabtt in the summer of 2011. Listening to his personal story of how he managed family and social expectations in going down his chosen and unconventional path to make a start at changing the reality of children who attend public sector schools was heartening. He exhorted would-be entrepreneurs to not wait to start till conditions were perfect or support was forthcoming – he said, start now and you’ll attract people who think like you to join your work – and that money and finances will also flow to the work you start! He spoke of how privileged children from elite schools live in their bubbles while children in public sector schools are very street smart. Rabtt is working on connecting these two worlds. Professor Reimers reiterated that a progressive society must be more equitable and heartily endorsed Imran’s efforts –at the end he asked us all to free ourselves from toxic mentalities and begin to take responsibility to change social conditions – now!

                                    Inspire Pakistan Interview of Imran Sarwar for Rabtt


                                    Mariam Chughai (doctoral candidate at the Harvard Graduate School of Education) ably moderated the Videoconference and handled switching between different sites enabled by HEC’s Virtual Education Project and Erum Sattar (doctoral candidate at Harvard Law School) moderated an active twitter feed on: #SAIEdInnovation

                                    Co-sponsored with the Harvard Pakistan Student Group