Chitral, North West Frontier Province, 4 December 2003 - "Over the years ahead, we will be working together to change the quality and nature of the economy of Chitral."
Addressing gatherings totalling over 120,000 in rugged yet spectacular mountain settings in this remote corner of Northern Pakistan, His Highness the Aga Khan, Imam (spiritual leader) of the Shia Ismaili Muslims, today pledged to assist the population to look for new opportunities to improve the quality of their lives. Noting that "much more needs to be done for your children and grandchildren," the Aga Khan spoke during short visits to Garam Chashma and Booni, of the need to improve the quality and quantity of agricultural production, to improve access to quality health and education and to diversify the economy.
Urging the people of the region to look to commerce, tourism and other entrepreneurial activities and not to rely exclusively on agriculture, the Aga Khan indicated that institutions of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) would be increasing their support in a number of sectors, including microcredit, education and healthcare. He observed, however, that it would be vital for such development to occur in a collaborative manner involving government and the people of the region.
Noting the diversity of interpretation in Islam, the Aga Khan underlined that "anyone who recognises the shahada is a Muslim and we are all brothers and sisters who should work together to build a common future." It is essential, he stressed, that "we all come together in a common space for reflection to make solutions applicable and available to all people."
In his remarks, the Aga Khan also warned against the dangers of undesirable social habits, strongly urging people to avoid consuming or trading in drugs. Reiterating the central role of education, the Aga Khan placed particular emphasis on the need for women to seek education, on the importance of quality education, and on ensuring that education remained a lifelong process. He noted that the AKDN planned to expand opportunities, particularly for secondary education.
The Aga Khan was welcomed on arrival at Chitral Airport by the Nazim of the District, Prince Mohinuddin, local officials and leaders of the Ismaili Community. Recognising the work of institutions of the AKDN in the District over the past nineteen years, Prince Mohinudeen expressed warm appreciation to the Aga Khan for the steadfast commitment of his institutions to all the people of the region.
Making particular reference to Chitral's distinctive traditions and heritage, the Aga Khan expressed the hope that buildings, music, literature and other expressions of culture would be protected and made productive.
Some 280,000 people benefit from AKDN programmes in Chitral. These programmes include 53 schools and 49 health centres. AKRSP provides agricultural and infrastructural support services and enables microenterprise across nearly 18,000 square kilometres.
The Aga Khan continues his visit to Pakistan.
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The Aga Khan Development Network is a group of private, non-denominational development agencies whose mandates range from the fields of health and education to architecture, rural development and the promotion of private-sector enterprise. They collaborate in working towards a common goal - building institutions and programmes that can respond to the challenges of social, economic and cultural change on an ongoing basis. Active in over 20 countries in Europe, Asia, Africa and North America, the Network's underlying impulse is the ethic of compassion for the vulnerable in society and its agencies and institutions work for the common good of all citizens, regardless of origin, gender or religion. The Network's agencies have been present in Central Asia since the early 1990s and undertake a wide range of activities in several countries in the region.