• 23 Oct - 29 Oct, 2021
  • Mag The Weekly
  • Interview

In everyday life, human beings are identified on the basis of their specific habits and individual capabilities. The talent is not only distinguished from others but it also becomes the introduction. One of Napoleon's most famous sayings is, "Not gaining fame is tantamount to not being born." We consider it necessary to add that the real source of fame, good name and distinction is the personal capability.

The main reason for Professor Dr. Syeda Azra Qamar's good name, universality and fame is her talent and the abilities. Professor Dr. Syeda Azra Qamar has recently retired as a Principal from Government College for Women, Shahrah-e-Liaquat. She served there only for 14 months but her work shows as if she served for 14 years. Professor Dr. Syeda Azra Qamar belongs to a scholarly and literary family where most of the people are authors. She also has authored sixteen books. She has been nominated three times for civil award but did not receive it.

She studied at Government College for Women, Shahrah-e-Liaquat, the first and the largest women's college up to Inter-Science, while did her B.Sc. from Government Zubaida College. During this time, she won several awards in speech, essay-writing and painting. She won eight first prizes in the All-Pakistan essay writing competition.

She did M.Sc. in Zoology Parasitology from Karachi University, M.Phil. from Karachi University under the supervision of Professor Dr. Mehrunnisa Farooq and Ph.D. under the supervision of Presidential Award winning Professor Dr. Imtiaz Ahmed. She also chose her own M.Phil. and Ph.D. research titles, which amazed her supervisors as well.

Madam, what was the topic of your Ph.D.?

I completed my research on Anopheles mosquitoes and Plasmodium. During this time I also went to the University of Arizona in the United States. I am an individualist so I wanted to do unique and different work in research. This was in 2004 when PCR and ELISA techniques were newly introduced, almost non-existent in Pakistan, so I left for the US on the invitation of Dr. Theresa Marco, Director of the University of Arizona Biological Sciences USA. I applied PCR and ELISA on the supervised mosquitoes and Dr. Elizabeth, Head of the Department of Entomology, and Dr. Tom, Biological Sciences, assisted me, for which I am extremely grateful for their love and sincerity. I have not only done research on mosquitoes but also worked on the rates of different types of Plasmodium in human blood for which I have also been camping in different districts of Karachi. I am also a Homeopathic Doctor and did DHMS course from Pakistan Central Homeopathic Medical College and Hospital in 1991 while completed House job from KMC Hospital. In 1989, I did a certificate course in Cancer Cytology from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Pakistan. I personally collected malaria mosquitoes from all rural and urban areas of Karachi, numbering more than five thousand, which included PCR and ELISA experiments.

Can you tell us something about dengue?

Dengue is actually a virus which has four types; the vectors that spread it are Aedes mosquitoes. Prior to 2006, it was almost non-existent in Pakistan. We had its mosquitoes but not the virus. The year dengue spread in Pakistan, I was in Switzerland for a presentation at the Geneva Conference. Scientists from all over the world attended the conference. I had discussions with few researchers from the countries where dengue virus existed. On my return, I provided information about dengue in national newspapers and suggested that in case of deficiency of platelets, the affected patients should be given papaya leaf juice and strictly required dengue test for passengers at the airports.

Please inform our readers about your work on Corona pandemic?

I wrote a pamphlet for the complete awareness of Corona pandemic and distributed it among staff, students, the College Directorate, and a few other colleges. The first Corona workshop was specially organised in my college in which country's famous and well-known professor Dr. Syed Tipu Sultan gave a special lecture and I also presented my research lecture. I am also credited with being the first in all colleges to get Corona Test done for teaching and non-teaching staff. Moreover, in the first meeting on Corona, chaired by the Minister of Education, Mr. Saeed Ghani, I was specially invited to give a briefing on Corona.

Madam, can you please tell us about the courses that you did from abroad?

Yes, I have done three advanced courses from abroad. I did my first course from Mexico. The University of Colorado had invited research papers from Pakistani university, for which my research paper was also selected. Based on my research paper, I was selected for the BDV course in 2003. I went to Mexico to do my BDV course, while the other course was from the Model University of Bangkok, Thailand, where I was the only participant selected from Pakistan for this course. This course was also related to mosquitoes and diseases and was very informative. In 2012, I was selected from Pakistan for the third course on Infectious Diseases conducted at the University of Thailand under Oxford University and went back to Thailand to do this course. I also participated in the Visiting Research Project twice in 2005 and 2007 at the invitation of the Pasteur Institute Tehran, Iran.

Madam, kindly tell us about the foreign conferences?

Since 1987 I had been attending Pak Zoological Congress as speaker and chairperson regarding foreign conferences. I went as a speaker to Scotland, Switzerland, Italy, Australia, Norway, Thailand, Germany, Manchester and Edinburgh.

What changes did you make regarding the Practical Journal?

Journals already existed in the market but a separate book was required to work on them. I introduced a new dimension to the practical journal among the teachers and students of the Department of Zoology and Botany, abolishing the separate concept of books and journals and introduced the concept of combined book and journal at Intermediate and B.Sc. levels. The new concept was well received by teachers and students. This is my personal idea and my own creation, registered with the Government of Pakistan’s IPO.

How did you get into teaching?

I started teaching under government's education programmes. Therefore, in the regular service, I passed the examination of Assistant Professor Public Service in Grade 18 and I was the only female candidate from Karachi, Sindh who passed this examination. I have been teaching in leading colleges in Karachi. I had a happy occasion when after my promotion in 19th grade I got posted at College for Women Shahrah-e-Liaquat as an Associate Professor. Seven years later, when I was promoted to 20th grade, by the grace of Almighty, I took charge of the principal and in a short span of 14 months, I gave my 100 per cent to the college, and my achievements are acknowledged by all my friends and enemies alike.

What are some of the major landmark achievements that you accomplished after becoming the principal?

I took many new and unique initiatives in the college, the top ones being:

Construction of Quaid-e-Azam Fountain: Quaid-e-Azam Fountain which was established pre partition under the name of Bhaag Fountain. When I decided to reshape and rehabilitate, it was in the shape of a pond. I reinstalled the fountain and named it Quaid-e-Azam Fountain and inaugurated it on August 14.

Establishment of Begum Zeenat Rasheed Ahmed Park: Begum Zeenat Rasheed Ahmed was the founding principal of the college. I envisioned a park in a deserted place and named it after Begum Zeenat Rasheed Ahmed.

Establishment of Dr. Aqeela Islam Corner: Dr. Aqeela Islam was the first woman Ph.D. in Nuclear Physics and had been teaching here as a Professor. After her demise, we set up a corner in front of the Physics department and installed her biography there and it was inaugurated by her brother – the renowned intellectual and Journalist Ghazi Salahuddin. Moreover, I arranged a condolence reference to pay her rich tributes.

Record of planting more than 500 trees: To make the college greener and for the sake of beauty and climate of the college, a new record was set by installing new plant beddings, colouring and planting trees.

Establishment of Pakistan Gallery: In order to pay homage to the heroes of Pakistan Movement and to acquaint the new generation with their achievements, this gallery has been set up in which pictures of the leaders are displayed in the hall. It was inaugurated by Prof. Ghulam Mustafa Charan, DG Colleges, Sindh.

Establishment of Principal Gallery: Photographs of all the former principals have been displayed in the Principal's Office to pay homage to them.

Whiteboard installation: Whiteboard installation in all classes and labs of the college has been completed. Conducting Mid-Term Examination: Despite the Corona Lockdown when classes resumed, I decided to conduct Mid-Term Exams.

Conducting Prelim. Examination: Before the board examination, a prelim. examination was held to prepare students for the finals. Students showed great interest.

Establishment of Digital Library: Established a Digital Library at lightning speed for the female students for which I worked from dawn to dusk. I named this library after Mohsin-e-Sindh Hassan Ali Affandi. I hope the students will take full advantage of this. These are all the things that were never done before.

Although her unique work is extensive and deserves recognition, yet she wasn’t recognised for Best Principal Award.

Being such an inspirational person, what message would you give to today's young generation?

Speak the truth, work honestly whatever the field you are in, speak ethically, do not hurt anyone and do not be arrogant, respect the elders, stay away from hypocrisy, do not say bad things about anyone behind their back, do not backbite; keep your outward and inward same, keep in mind your accountability before the Almighty at all times because the funeral prayer of the hypocrites is not permissible. Avoid narrow-mindedness. Instead of criticising others, it’s better to cultivate high moral values and capabilities in yourself.