he sudden death of Hunaid Lakhani at 49 has shocked the country’s educational and philanthropic communities. He died shortly after contracting dengue fever after returning from Thatta, where he had gone to oversee flood relief work.
After founding Iqra University and serving as its chancellor for several years, Lakhani embarked on a political career and joined Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI).
As Wasim Akhtar’s tenure as mayor of Karachi came to an end, there was speculation in Karachi that Lakhani would be the candidate for mayor of the PTI. However, municipal elections did not take place immediately. Then there was the Covid-19 pandemic and speculation died down. When local elections were announced in 2022, the PTI nominated Jabbar Ashraf Qureshi as mayor.
However, it is not his political career that stands out. His accomplishments as an educator and philanthropist appear to be far more enduring than what he achieved in his political career, or what he could have achieved had he been elected mayor.
He managed, even in his political career, not to let go of decency. He has rarely released the kind of statements expected of mayoral candidates. He was more focused on his philanthropic work through politics.
He also had a distinguished career in the construction industry. Some of the important projects in Karachi built under his supervision include Hunaid City, Gulf Shopping Mall and Gulshan View.
Lakhani was born to Hussain Lakhani, a business tycoon in the real estate industry. Her mother was a housewife. The late pedagogue had a brother, Naveed Lakhani, and three sisters, Maheen Lakhani, Erum Lakhani and Sanober Lakhani. He married twice. His first wife is the daughter of a former finance minister of Pakistan. He has three children, two boys and one girl, from his first marriage.
This year in May, he contracted a second marriage. His second wife came from an educated but humble family.
University of Iqra
In 2000, Lakhani founded the University of Iqra. In several interviews, he said he had to run from pillar to post to get all the approvals and complete the formalities. He said it took him two and a half years.
The university, over the years, has grown into the largest private university in Karachi with five campuses including the main campus at Defense View. It has also spread to Islamabad and Quetta.
Although it is a private enterprise, the University of Iqra is considered affordable for the middle class. Its campuses in the North Karachi and Model Colony areas reflect that it was not meant to be a university for the elite. According to its website, a total of 6,000 students are currently enrolled at the university, which offers degrees in several engineering and social science disciplines.
“He wanted to build a university that could give the lower income class access to quality education. I encouraged him and assured him of my support,” says Professor Dr Wasim Qazi, Vice Chancellor of Iqra University..
Recalling his 25-year association with Lakhani, Vice Chancellor of Iqra University, Prof. Wasim Qazi, said Sunday news that he first met Lakhani in 1997, when the latter visited Hamdard University. “I was Hakeem Muhammad Saeed’s special assistant. One day Hunaid had a meeting with Saeed after which he came to my office. Since that day, we have become friends.
Dr. Qazi said that before establishing Iqra University, Lakhani sought his advice. “He wanted to build a university that could give the lower income class access to quality education. I encouraged him and assured him of my support,” Professor Qazi added.
After leaving the University of Faisalabad in 2004, Professor Qazi moved to Karachi. At Lakhani’s request, he joined Iqra University in February 2004. “During our two and a half decades of friendship, we have made many mistakes and experienced ups and downs. It didn’t affect our relationship.
He remembered the founder of the university as an empathetic, supportive, energetic and cooperative leader. He added that Lakhani also wanted to establish an online university for which he had completed preparations and was in contact with foreign professors.
Professor Qazi said he was against Lakhani’s decision to enter politics. “I criticized Lakhani for his political activities. He would listen to my criticisms patiently.
Lakhani used the name “Iqra” for his Sweet Home project. The first orphanage under the project was completed in 2016. Later, two other projects for orphans were completed. Lakhani personally oversaw the affairs of Iqra Sweet Homes.
In his social media tribute, Faizullah Khan, a journalist, recalled Lakhani as someone who not only cared about his philanthropic endeavors but also made significant donations to other welfare organizations, including Edhi Foundation, JDC, Baitussalam Trust and Saylani.
At the time of his death, he was also the President of Sindh Baitul Mal.
Khan said the PTI did not appreciate Lakhani as he deserved. As a result, he feels sidelined and gradually withdraws into his commercial and philanthropic activities.
His personal secretary, Waqar Lakho, told a media outlet that lately he has not been active in politics and has been focusing more on promoting education, as president of a private university and through his work. social.
In an interview published in May 2020, Lakhani said before joining politics that he felt he was a successful person. He added that politics was thankless work and harmful to health and family. He also pointed out that as a member of a political party, you not only have to fight rivals, but also deal with pressure from within your party. This, he said, was both demotivating and difficult.
The writer is based in Karachi and reports on education