Challenges for Engineers in Pakistan

A thought provoking conversation with Engr. Iftikharul Haq, Managing Director, Engineering General Consultants (Pvt) Ltd

In our quest of finding the challenges being faced by the engineering community in Pakistan, Engineering Post went to Engr. Iftikharul Haq to get his insights about the on ground situations in the market. Engr. Iftikharul Haq is serving as the Managing Director of Engineering General Consultants EGC (Pvt) Ltd, one of the largest private sector consulting companies in Pakistan with over 3 decades of experience in the engineering sector. EGC has worked on many major projects in the country including design of 1100MW Kohala HHP, feasibility of 720MW Karot HPP, supervision of three high head HPPs, feasibilities of a number of other HPP projects, ranging from 100MW to 200MW, supervision of 340 km Lahore-Islamabad Motorway Project and many others.

During an exclusive conversation with Engineering Post about the current state of affairs in the market where the quality of work has consistently deteriorated, Engr. Iftikharul Haq pointed out that the quality of work that a firm executes depends invariably upon the expertise of the team present. Managing a valuable and expert team ultimately translates to increased overhead and operating expenses for the firm which are reflected in the bids submitted for tenders. “Nowadays small firms with one or two owners having contractual employees participate in bidding and outbid the big firms. This results in decreased cost of the project but the quality of work is affected to a great extent” he said.

Another very important problem is the reliance on international firms. Working with an international firm can even be essential in some cases but we need to learn and develop our local assets at the same time “We need to decrease our dependence on international firms by increasing the standard of our local firms. That is only possible when our technology is of international standards which is not the case,” he added.

During the exclusive conversation with Engineering Post, Engr. Iftikharul Haq also emphasised the importance of bridging the gap between industry and academia. The foremost requirement for this is to focus on new and innovative research. Moreover the teaching curriculum and staff also needs to be upgraded on a priority basis “In foreign countries the teaching staff at engineering universities works in the field as well so they have theoretical as well as practical knowledge. We need in service as well as pre service training for engineers.”

Engr. Iftikharul Haq urged the bodies like Pakistan Engineering Council and Engineering Congress to help focus on research in universities and development of the students as well so the future prospect for engineers get optimistic. Currently the engineers are so discouraged due to low salary structure in the country that many talented students have stopped considering engineering as a profession. “This issue should be addressed by the PEC and other bodies on a priority basis because it is leading to demoralisation of the students”

While commenting on the financial aspect of being in the engineering business Engr. Iftikharul Haq pointed out very serious problems of delayed payments especially in the public sector. “The payment clearance process is very poor. Currently the average time is 90-200 days for clearance of payment of a project which makes it quite challenging for a firm with permanent employees,” The delay in payment is ultimately reflected on the employees with them getting delayed salaries and other financial hindrances.