Human 0011

ID : 0011

Human: Saqiba Tariq Durrani

Country: AJK, Pakistan

Domain: Information Technology Specialist , Cyber-Security Analysis and Research

Job Profile: Researcher, Educationalist , Freelancer


In the enthralling Arabian folktales , there are several mentions of Peri/Pari (پری ), the western equivalent of fairies. Such a doe-eyed ‘Pari‘ had attended this cyber-security discussion forum and enchanted half of the attendees with her knowledge and wit.

There is a saying that people walk into our lives not by chance but for a reason . Such is the story of our next human in the series : Saqiba Durrani, a motivated educationist, Information Technology major and Cybersecurity System researcher from the foothills of the Himalayas at AJK in Pakistan. She glided into our lives and left us completely in awe of her existence. Some people just have that ‘دلکش’ or charm to affect lives.

Her name in Urdu translates to a luminous source and she wasn’t very far off from her namesake. This spirited young woman is not your run-of-the-mill technologist, she has been contributing far more for her community and homeland than most of us could ever fathom. From an IT specialist to a cyber security researcher, she has dabbled in all sorts of domains. She recently joined up her alma mater as the new vice-principal and has been illuminating the cause of women’s rights and equality in education for ages. Shining her luminous light on a path that few dare to tread on.


Portrait : Saqiba Durrani

Growing up in the foothills of the Himalayas

A Jesuit Scholar and Professor we had in University had this penchant for Persian poems and he would narrate us some famous lines from his battered ‘hanging by a thread’ notebook that was simply as old as time.

He had introduced us to this famous Persian lines,

اگر در زمین بهشتی وجود دارد.
اینجاست، اینجاست، اینجاست

Gar firdaus bar ru-e zamin ast 

Hamin ast-o hamin ast-o hamin ast

If there is a paradise on earth,

It is here, it is here, it is here …’

Amir Khushrau

If there was one word indeed to describe Saqiba’s hometown would be ‘firdaus’ or paradise. The small town of Hajira lies closely to the LOC( line of control) that strategically divides the Pakistani and Indian administered Kashmir. There were periods of unrest considering its geographical location , but the town has found its own identity amidst the geo-politics its surrounded by. She fondly recalls her childhood memories of playing around scenic valleys and river banks that surround the picturesque Hajira.

قدرت , ‘Qudrat‘ or nature has indeed blessed Kashmir.

She would breathe and say, ‘زمین پر جنت’.

‘Zameen pe Jannat

‘Heaven on earth’ and this was what her homeland has been known as since time immemorial.

Innumerable poems, books and songs have been composed and dedicated to this paradise and had remained unblemished by the outside world for years. So the technological boom indeed reached the idyllic town only in the late 2000’s.

She recalls seeing her first mobile device in the 9th grade during the 2005 Earthquake that shook the Himalayan region as she and her schoolmates rush to the nearby grounds to seek shelter. The quaint little town had been developing at its own pace. This was until a few educationists and reformers wanted to bring change in their sleepy town.

She recalls her dear principal Ms. Tazeem Akhtar moving heaven and earth together to bring quality education in her hometown . She introduced different subjects to the very outdated school curriculum and successfully implemented a new path to bring in an educational reform. She recalls how it was through her efforts that computer science as a subject was introduced for the first time in her school’s syllabus.

That bright young girl with a passion for computers is now the vice-principal of the same school.


Human 0011

Her tryst with technology

When the subject of computer science was introduced in her school, she fondly recalls one of her favourite teacher, Mr. Shahid Ameer’s class on C programming. There was an illustration with the word – ‘Information Technology‘ that caught her attention in her 11th grade CS book and it was all she could day-dream of . It all made sense later on after seeing the list of subjects that she could choose for her graduation .She finally realised ‘Information Technology’ could be a career option.

She toyed with the idea for the longest time and was hesitant to ask her family’s opinion on it.

She laments and tells me , how people would often say , ‘Ye computer wagera padhne se kuch nahi hoga , doctor bano ya army mein jao’.

There is no point in studying computer science , why don’t you become a doctor or join the army instead?

The quaint little town , untouched by the technological revolution happening across the globe, still had to wake up to the opportunities provided by the tech domain. The noble profession that most people wanted to pursue was in the medical field or to serve one’s ‘Mulk’ or country by joining the Army. And here was a bright young girl trying to gather her courage to tell her family what she wanted to pursue against all norms set up by the people around her.

We were all on the edge of our seat by the time she paused to check on us.

Sensing our anticipation , she chuckles and reassures us that the story did have a happy ending.

Once she gathered her courage to face her family and tell them of her future plans to pursue higher education in the field of technology, she proudly tells me how her ‘Abbu‘ gave his consent immediately and complimented her with , ‘Ye ladki kuch naya karegi’.

This girl would do something new‘.

The next day he bought her a computer. All I could see was how her father set up a benchmark for all fathers to follow. Her ‘Abbu‘ , the formidable Mr. Tariq Mehmood Durrani, paved the way for not just her daughter but a generation of daughters to come. Change indeed begins from our households.

I see Mr.Durrani‘s strength and resolve in Saqiba’s eyes whenever she would utter ‘Mere Abbu’. She confesses that she could not be where she is today without the guidance and faith of her father in every step of her journey. It left us all moist-eyed knowing how important it is sometimes for people to believe in your dreams.

Saqiba’s journey isn’t just her own, it’s a journey enabled by incredible and trailblazing parents, teachers and mentors who relentlessly work each day for the greater good. Our journeys are never just our own and our next human in this series showed us the importance of having a good support system to be able to persevere through all odds.


Formative years in Islamabad

After her graduation from the University of Azad Jammu and Kashmir with exceptional grades , she recollects leaving her dear ‘Abbu‘ and heading to the capital – Islamabad for her post-graduation. She remembers the pangs of separation she felt staying miles away from home. The frequent calls to home were her only salvation in those initial days.

It was here at the National University of Sciences & Technology or NUST that she found a support system that would heavily influence her life and work.

The city brought in a change in her perception of the tech world and she saw how the future lies in embracing the various technological changes that has been happening across domains.

She laughs and adds that it did help that the internet speed was so much better in the capital.

The gender inequality in the world of tech is definitely no secret. I had to inquire how she faced the challenges in her way.

She remembers how there were a total of around twenty women in her class out of the eighty students that had signed up for a master’s degree on Information Security. She found a sisterhood among her peers and here was a bunch of young motivated woman trying to break through a domain that had few takers.

The determination that we see in her today was strengthened further by her encounter with some wonderful educational reformist and trailblazers in her University.

The proficient Prof. Samina Kausar, who brilliantly teaches database management systems, and the brilliant Prof. Mehreen who teaches cryptography have all influenced her massively. These are some of the women working namelessly over at Islamabad, trying to change the narrative of the tech domain in their country. Mr. Adnan Arif Butt, an assistant Professor who taught her Telecommunication at her University, was somebody who really encouraged her to forge a path in the research domain. Her face lights up as she recollects the amazing classes these wonderful professors conducted.

I am reminded of the Sufi quote, ‘The Sufi teacher’s mission is to be in the service of those who can learn.’

These are the women whose stories would never reach us all but yet they exist … inspiring an entire generation with their grit and determination not just to change their own narratives but to break the shackles of stereotypes and strive.

All of us have been wonder-eyed students at some stage in our lives. Some teachers inspire you, some teachers change you for the better, and some teachers just simply change the world you live in. And that’s when I knew the student has indeed become the teacher as I see the same sparkle in her eyes that she once must have seen in the eyes of her mentors.



Changing the education ecosystem

Having met such amazing ground breakers and change-makers, I enquired if they had any contribution to her decision to come back to her hometown.

She nods her head and tells me how she came back home and saw the changes that needed to happen around her .

I asked her why would she return to a place that may not provide her with the same opportunities with the skillsets she possesses. She narrated to me how her hometown still needed so much work and she was determined to change people’s view of technology.

She would say, ‘Kisi ko toh ye karna he.

Somebody’s got to do it’.

She remembers when she first join the school as a computer science teacher she had one female student in her class who wanted to take up the course.

Once the students saw how they could create diverse products using different programming languages, the majority of the kids in her school now wanted to pursue computer science as a career. The school saw an overwhelming response of students signing up to take computer classes and even parents enlisting their children to the course.

Seeing her enthusiasm and infectious energy, I can relate how her kids must feel each day.

The passion she exudes as she speaks about her students and school reminds me of how she must be carrying on the legacy passed down by such wonderful men and women in Pakistan who are working each day in their own way to make their world a better place.

I ask her what it would take to bring her country on par with the rest of the world.

She instantly replies that there needs to be a reformation in the books taught in the schools. She envisions a change in the curriculum to fit in the diverse technologies that have shaped our world. She happily tells me how parents nowadays encourage their children to learn ‘computer science’ and in that brief silence, I could sense how her vision to open up the tech world to the people around her has found its first sign of success.

Our boundaries or our circumstances never mattered in the world of technology. Just the way she found her ‘voice’ and ‘independence’ through her love for computers and tech, she was now paving a way for young boys and girls to dream bigger and forge their own identity.


University of Azad Jammu & Kashmir, AJK

Has it all been sunshine and hay in her life. She would nod her head and say,

Bilkul, nahi!’.

Her initial start in the industry saw her face a lot of hurdles that tested her integrity and faith. But she wasn’t one to bow down.

She narrates me about this one job opportunity that she was really keen to take on that refused her based on a dress code that dictated the workplace. The recruiter was willing to sign her up if she would comply with the terms and she recollects how she walked out of that interview with her head held high and her dignity in check.

She didn’t come that far to be judged based on her faith or her ethics.

This brave young lady was determined to do things her own way .

 She told me she felt ,’ مفت’.

 ‘Freed’

That was just one of the instances where she knew she would have to work harder each step of the way to make sure her skills could be something no one could judge on . Her efforts and determination paid off when she was chosen to be a part of this prestigious research team that looked beyond what she represented and judge her simply on the basis of her skill-sets.

The team consisted of several young and old Pakistani technologists working together for their country and creating a product that could pave the way for development in the tech domain . It really opened up her eyes to how a healthy working environment could be like.

She recalls how she grasp the fact that she could not just do research work which is her passion but also serve her ‘Mulk’ through the technical skills she possesses.

That paved the way for more freelancing work and she agrees with me that the unfortunate encounter with that one testy recruiter did make her work harder for her dreams.

She would tell me , ‘Allah does not burden a soul more than it can take’.

It’s been her guiding light through the hard times and she chants me a few ancient verses . I marvel at the beauty of her words and the wisdom she possesses at such a young age. She was indeed our Pari.

And that is also one of the reason she feels so passionately about bringing more women into tech and to bring diversity to a space dominated heavily by one gender. She represents the new breed of young talented Pakistanis thriving to change their narrative and setting foot in a domain that hasn’t reached its full potential in their hometown.


The famous ‘Noon-Chai’

Ponder upon the universe .. and think

Saqiba D, 2022

Faith and beyond

She grew up in a close-knit community that really believes in faith and God. And it has been her source of strength and inspiration. She quotes me her favourite lines from the Quran and I listened intently just in awe of how beautiful these ancient verses sound like .

‘لَا يُكَلِّفُ ٱللَّهُ نَفْسًا إِلَّا وُسْعَهَا ۚ لَهَا مَا كَسَبَتْ وَعَلَيْهَا مَا ٱكْتَسَبَتْ ۗ رَبَّنَا لَا تُؤَاخِذْنَآ إِن نَّسِينَآ أَوْ أَخْطَأْنَا ۚ رَبَّنَا وَلَا تَحْمِلْ عَلَيْنَآ إِصْرًۭا كَمَا حَمَلْتَهُۥ عَلَى ٱلَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِنَا ۚ رَبَّنَا وَلَا تُحَمِّلْنَا مَا لَا طَاقَةَ لَنَا بِهِۦ ۖ وَٱعْفُ عَنَّا وَٱغْفِرْ لَنَا وَٱرْحَمْنَآ ۚ أَنتَ مَوْلَىٰنَا فَٱنصُرْنَا عَلَى ٱلْقَوْمِ ٱلْكَـٰفِرِينَ‘ – Surah Al-Baqarah Ayat 286 (2:286 Quran)

She translates me a few lines from the verse .

Allah does not burden any human being with a responsibility heavier than he can bear‘.

How true those verses were !

What is the true meaning of life without overcoming the turbulent times?

She has finally found her ‘purpose’ by forging a career in research works on cryptography and cybersecurity as well as paving the way for more young women to get into a field that has wonderful pioneers like her.

Spring is what she describes as her favourite time of the year.

She paints me a mental picture of a pristine flowing river and Apricot blossoms and tells me how Spring makes her family head out to these beautiful isolated spots to enjoy the famous ‘Noon Chai’ and her mom’s ‘Roti Sabji’.

She promises to make the famous salty ‘Noon Chai’ for our team if we could ever get to land in her ‘Jannat‘.

Her chirpy ethereal voice trails off as she bids us goodbye.

خدا حافظ

‘Khuda-Hafiz

It gives us hope for the future that such alluring souls still exist in the world around us and she didn’t just change our lives but showed us in flesh and form what believing in your dreams could really look like.

And that was the story of our beautiful Saqiba , who somewhere right now must be teaching loops and functions to a bunch of doe-eyed students and inspiring another whole generation to come and making us all fall in love with her all over again.

Our Pari.




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One Comment Add yours

  1. Shahbaz RK says:

    Saqiba Durrani indeed is a very brilliant human in IT and as a friend she is a real “pari”.
    I have always believed she would find her way to serve this nation with what she is best at.
    Saqiba believes in “purpose” and “outcome” in the best interest of the nation and has always been thinking in a truly patriotic sense.
    I wish you a very successful and happy life.
    A strong woman like Saqiba knows she has strength enough for the journey, and as a woman of strength she always knew it is in the journey where she could become strong.
    She would rather regret the risks that didn’t work out than the chances she didn’t take at all. She did her best and to the fullest, but IT market inside the countey has a very tough experience based job placement criterias and thats where the chaos almost stopped her from persuing towards getting at the best position to serve the nation ( I mean it). I am glad that she loved and care for herself too because that’s when the best comes out.”
    IT Market outreachers and the firms are in dire need to look at fixing the flaws and related things that made vanish the league of fresh players with talent from the cast-cum-backfooting pavilion..

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