Tributes to Dr. Hamayun Mushtaq Mian

(Reproduced from Yahoo)


Tribute by Mr. Salman Ansari

It is indeed a great loss for Pakistan. One of the greatest computer scientists that I have known. So understated and so passionate about his work. We are indeed poorer today.

He told me the background story in the ’80s when I was heading CTI, about the way he created the Nastaleeq script, and gave me a paper on ‘The Mathematical basis of Nastaleeq’.  I must try to dig this out from my archives.

In our R&D section, we were trying to create a response system for the PTC 18 system (at that time perhaps it was the T&T) of an IVR using text to speech with translation.  That started my passion for wanting to see Urdu in computers.  This interaction with Hamayun has led me to meet the other Greats in this field like Dr. Sarmad and Dr. Afzal and many more.  Let us treasure them while we still have them with us…

He was also developing extensions to phonetics based search engines.  Interestingly, almost 17 years later I attended a seminar on search engines at Stanford and a young man was saying the same things that Hamayun had simply articulated so many years ago.

After the Y2K tide he joined the PITB and really tried to do something useful and laid the groundwork of the PITV that we see today.  It was only after a heart attack felled him that he slowly faded away from the hurly burly of the pressures that one has to face when one has to finish the work, since he knows that time is finite and precious.

Hamayun’s time has transformed into eternity.  May he find peace and solace where he has gone and his family – that includes us – find everlasting joy when we dwell in his thoughts and struggle to bear this really great loss…

 May Allah look after you, Hamayun and may you always be at peace.


Tribute by Dr. Muhammad Afzal

AOA.  AST may bless his soul, Dr. Hamayun Mian was a wonderful person, I met him in 1997 at Systems first time.  And later we learnt a lot from him in meetings at Urdu and Regional Languages Software Development Forum (URLSDF).

I remember in one meeting he forcefully suggested that we should go for the development of Urdu suite like Visual Basic, which should contain a complete widget set to program Urdu Applications.  And after development it should be put in Open Source and school children should be taught how to program in Urdu.  He asked for a very modest money, like 20M Ro or so, that looked a big sum to many of us, he being Chairman Punjab IT Board at that time, offered to get 50% from there and rest he wanted to come from MOITT.

He was a visionary and we could not conform to him, and he was very right in saying “if not done now, it will never be done”.

If that had been done, in a decade Urdu and our regional languages would have been at a different level now.

Al-Khawarizmi Institute is another big contribution of him.

 AST may bless him with Jannah and patience to his dear ones.


Tribute by Mr. Humayun Qureshi

Today – Saturday 19th June 2010 – Dr. Hamayun Mushtaq Mian was laid to rest in his final resting place in Lahore.  Sad news indeed.

Pakistan`s IT Industry has lost one of its great contributors.  An untiring technologist and researcher and academician – he contributed in so many areas.  He would strongly put forward his views and defended them with cold hard logic.  He would sum up well too – in the early Unix days he once said: ‘Unix is about as user friendly as a cornered rat.’

Lest we forget such great men of Pakistan (who never come on talk shows but work silently behind the scenes, and who are our real heroes), I am giving below just one of his contributions.

  1. He took 2 years off from Systems Ltd to do research on Urdu Nasta’liq script and wanted to understand why its calligraphic beauty cannot be computerised.
  2. He had a bet with CTO of Monotype Corporation who said that it cannot be done as Nasta’liq is too recursive and proportional and stylish, and hence cannot be automated.
  3. He started going to a calligraphy madrassa near Daata Darbaar Lahore, sat on the floor and did takhti after takhti.
  4. After great difficulty he made friends with the old ustaad, I think it was Ustaad Syed Nafees Al-Hussaini (Nafees Raqam), and learnt the rendering techniques.
  5. However he could not develop a rendering algorithm as yet.  So he went to Iran and visited many universities to do his research. (Nasta’liq calligraphy style is attributed to Mir Ali Tabrizi a distinguished Iranian calligrapher of 14th century – Wikipedia)
  6. It is here that he learnt of a dream the inventor had in which many birds were seen flying all round.
  7. Hamayun Mian said that he could not relate this at the time but later on realised that the tip of a bird’s wing executes an ellipse as it flies.  And an ellipse is nothing but a shape which ranges between a circle and a straight line as the distance between the two focii of the ellipse is increased.
  8. He says he immediately realised the core logic of his rendering algorithm.
  9. A few months later RAAQIM was born, the first Urdu word processor based on a pure Urdu Nasta’liq Rendering Engine.
  10. He went to UK and presented it to Monotype Corporation executives who were delighted.  Needless to say he won his bet.
  11. He would not market RAAQIM as a product, but just wanted to give it away for free.
  12. For many many years RAAQIM was a free download on the Systems Limited website.

Dr. Humayun Mian also contributed to the Urdu Code page (UZT Urdu Zabta Takhti Version 1) which was finally adopted by the Govt. of Pakistan as the standard set of Urdu characters, diacritics and Islamic symbols with its well defined collation sequence.

Such people are hard to find… unless we know more about them and emulate them.

 I encourage others who knew him to let us know more about him.