In Conversation with Khawaja Iqbal Hassan

“You can’t accomplish everything by force … you’ve got to cajole people into action and motivate people, you can’t beat them into action,” says Khawaja Iqbal Hassan talking about how an over-reliance on law enforcement can be detrimental to national growth.

The senior corporate leader started his career with Citibank, moved back to Pakistan in 1994 to set up a stockbroking and investment banking company, Global Securities Limited, and later went on to establish NIB Bank in 2003 – which in a short span of four years rose to become Pakistan’s 10th largest bank in terms of asset size through acquisitions.

Currently, he sits on the board of corporate giants such as Engro and ICI Pakistan Limited, as well as the Karachi Grammar School, LRBT, and The Cardiovascular Foundation, and has previously served on the board of the State Bank of Pakistan. The senior leader has been awarded the Sitara-i-Imtiaz by the Government of Pakistan for his meritorious contribution and dedication to national interests.

In his conversation with VCast Online, Khawaja Iqbal Hassan talks about the early days of his career, founding an investment bank in Pakistan, setting parameters for public-private enterprise, and what he considers his greatest satisfaction.

Khawaja Iqbal Hassan is a firm believer that in Pakistan, the law enforcement is largely ineffective, but at times when it is put into action, it is immensely strict. He is of the opinion that it’s because of the fear that it instills that those in positions of power, be it in the government, the business community, or the civil service, hesitate with their decision making.

“We have developed a mantra that everyone is a thief. But everyone is not a thief. Everyone in any part of the world will cut corners if you let them. That’s human nature.” He believes that the only way to move forward is to remove this ‘fear factor’ from the country’s managerial proceedings, and to allow people the liberty to make decisions, while working within the country’s legal framework, for the industries to thrive and the country to flourish.

Talking about the state of public-private partnerships in Pakistan, he highlights how the function of ministries has evolved globally, whereby the policy framework development is under their control alongside the regulators, but the sector is open for private sector companies to invest. This is not how the role of the government and ministries is perceived in Pakistan, where we take them to be the owners and managers of these assets. He is of the opinion that for more public-private partnerships to be established, the ministries in Pakistan have to follow the global model, to encourage private sector companies to come and invest in the country by making conditions favourable for them.

When asked what he would like to see more of in Pakistan, he expressed his desire for more collaboration amongst the youth. “I would like to see the younger generation be more accommodative of each other, be more respectful towards each other and work together as much as they can”. The current generation is growing up in a more connected world, a world where there’s more active communication around human rights and respect for life and nature – and he is hopeful that such conversations will soon start taking up shape in Pakistan. 

“I think Pakistanis in general are not laid back, lazy people, they are ambitious people. They can get over ambitious at times in terms of cutting corners, which has become somewhat of a DNA fault now, but overall people want to do well, and they want to progress.” As a firm believer in honest and consistent hard work as a key principle for success, he is hopeful that if we continue to work together with passion to build things on the right foundations then we’ll be able to bring about the change we wish to see for a prosperous, positive Pakistan.

Watch the full conversation with Khawaja Iqbal to hear his views on the future of banking in the country, the need for public-private partnerships, and what he would like to see more of in Pakistan.

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