My career transition from a military officer to a disaster risk management (DRM) professional is a continuous journey which commenced thirteen years back, inspired by an idea of bringing positive change in DRM and emergency response (ER) systems in Pakistan. Kashmir earthquake (EQ) 2005 is amongst the worst disasters that have hit Pakistan. As a volunteer I took part in post EQ relief operations, and witnessed widespread death and destruction. Unfortunately, many avoidable fatalities ensued as a result of lack of emergency response planning skills, professional knowledge, coordination and specialized equipment. Compelled by strong realization that many lives could have been saved that day, I took the initiative of altering my career path to improve emergency response and disaster management systems in Pakistan.
It was late 2005 when I joined newly established Punjab Emergency Services; I was designated as organization’s head of operations and training. The subsequent transformation of that small team to the country’s largest emergency response service in just two years made me aware that how effectively I can apply my leadership skills and transcend my limits in pursuit of my passion to bring much needed positive change in society. During my tenure with the service, I successfully steered the initial and subsequent challenges of organizing human resources, establishing a system of capacity building and training and formulating guiding principles and service delivery standards through effective communication, teamwork, delegation of responsibilities and motivating my colleagues with positive attitude.
Another opportunity presented itself in 2007, United Nations Development Program; UNDP Pakistan was in a process of initiating a national level project for enhancing DRM and ER capacities in Pakistan. That project was a joint venture of DFID, Swiss Development Cooperation, SDC, Swedish Government and UNDP. At the inception stage of the project a series of consultative meetings were organized by UNDP with various stakeholders. It was during one of those events, where I presented the inspirational success story of Punjab Emergency Service and soon afterwards received an invitation to join UNDP as Project Manager to assist National Government to manage the same project. During the implementation phase project attracted a lot of interest from donor community through my effective promotion and advocacy efforts. These efforts were rewarded in 2008, when USAID initiated Program for Enhancement of Emergency Response, PEER in Pakistan. I also was entrusted with its lead role at national level, which was an acknowledgement of my strong commitment to cause and effective influencing and communication skills. In-spite complex and diverse implementation environments, both projects accomplished substantial headway and achieved their primary goals through teamwork, clear communication, ability to influence multiple stakeholders, building partnerships and my knack for persuading national and sub-national authorities to muster collective support for achieving common goal(s). Moreover, throughout my career, I have effectively utilized my skills to lead numerous capacity building, training and advocacy initiatives to inspire change and ensure continuity and sustainability of the new ideas.