Princess Zahra Aga Khan in Pictures

Our sister website Barakah presents a special pictorial biography of Princess Zahra Aga Khan highlighting her contributions in healthcare, education and social development that have impacted hundreds of millions of people around the world. Princess Zahra is fully dedicated to the cause of the Ismaili Imamat and the Aga Khan Development Network that seek to improve the lives of the marginalized and bring them hope. The Network is also a builder of beautiful physical and cultural spaces in Canada and around the world for citizens to enjoy. Please click MORE or on the photograph below.

Princess Zahra Aga Khan. Please click on photo to read article.

Date posted: September 18, 2022.

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Before departing this website please take a moment to review Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to hundreds of thought provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a few. Also visit Simerg’s sister websites Barakah, dedicated to His Highness the Aga Khan, and Simergphotos. The editor may be reached via email at mmerchant@simerg.com.

Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif Expresses Indebtedness to His Highness the Aga Khan for Contributing $10 Million for Flood Victims; Sharif Has Telephone Conversation with Prince Rahim, the Aga Khan’s Eldest Son

Photo Credit: Featured photograph at top of post — the Government of the UK.

In a Tweet dated September 4, 2022, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has expressed his indebtedness to Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, for contributing US $10 million for relief efforts following the severe flooding in Pakistan. He said on his Twitter page:

“Deeply indebted to His Highness the Aga Khan for contribution of $10 million for the flood victims in Pakistan. In a telephonic chat with Prince Rahim Aga Khan today, I requested His Highness to play his role in raising awareness about flood situation in international community.”

The announcement of the contribution was also reported in the media. Bol News in a report dated September 4, said:

“The son of Prince Karim Agha Khan, Prince Rahim telephoned Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and conveyed the message of good wishes of Prince Karim Agha Khan to him.

“The prince also expressed his sorrow over the losses of human lives and properties and devastation caused by the floods….All institutions of the Agha Khan Development Network have been instructed to fully participate in relief and rehabilitation activities in flood-hit areas.”

On Tuesday August 30, 2022  the United Nations and Pakistan issued an appeal for $160 million in emergency funding to help millions affected by record-breaking floods that have killed more than 1,150 people.

The websites of the Aga Khan Development Network and the Ismaili community both published the following press release regarding the Ismaili Imamat’s donation to Pakistan’s flood relief efforts.

Ismaili Imamat Donates US $10 Million to Pakistan Flood Relief Efforts

Lisbon, Portugal, September 4, 2022: The Ismaili Imamat has announced it will be donating US$10 million to support relief efforts following the severe flooding in Pakistan. $5m will be donated directly to the Government of Pakistan while a further $5m will be provided to the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) agencies in the country, which are engaged in the relief efforts.

The donation comes following a discussion on Sunday between the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Mr. Shahbaz Sharif, and Prince Rahim Aga Khan, Chair of AKDN’s Environment and Climate Committee and eldest son of His Highness the Aga Khan, the 49th hereditary Imam of the Shia Ismaili Muslims.

Prince Rahim said “I am deeply concerned about the impact of the current floods in Pakistan, which have been intensified by the effects of climate change. These floods, and the many other weather events we are experiencing around the world, require us all — governments, businesses, communities, and individuals — to redouble our efforts to combat the climate crisis which threatens to engulf us.  The institutions of the Ismaili Imamat have been mobilised to support the government in its relief and rehabilitation efforts.”

During the discussion, the Prime Minister expressed appreciation on behalf of the people and Government of Pakistan for the unwavering support of the Ismaili Imamat and the AKDN institutions.  He also expressed his deepest respects for the work that the AKDN institutions have been delivering in Pakistan since its independence.

The Aga Khan Agency for Habitat and FOCUS are AKDN’s lead response agencies for relief efforts. To date over 8,000 people have been successfully evacuated from affected areas while more than 4,000 families have been provided with food packages since the start of the flooding. Healthcare camps have been set up in several parts of the country by the Aga Khan University and Aga Khan Health Service where over 2,000 flood affected people have been given assistance.

HBL Bank and Jubilee Life Insurance, both part of the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development portfolio, have been active supporters in the relief efforts providing food rations and waterproof tents to over 12,000 families. Additionally, social safety payments by the Government of Pakistan are being disbursed to over 1 million people through HBL’s Konnect platform.

AKDN Helicopter operations have also been assisting in rescue missions and supporting the delivery of food items and medicines to remote areas in Chitral and Gilgit-Baltistan.

Date posted: September 4, 2022.

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We welcome feedback/letters from our readers; please click Leave a comment. Your feedback may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation. We are unable to acknowledge unpublished letters.

Simerg’s editor Malik Merchant may be reached via email at mmerchant@simerg.com.

Aga Khan University Sets Up Pakistan Flood Response Fund as UN Secretary General Declares “Pakistan is Awash in Suffering, People Facing a Monsoon on Steroids”; Please Donate in Pakistan’s Hour of Need

AGA KHAN UNIVERSITY FLOOD RESPONSE FUND

Seal of the Aga Khan University
Seal of the Aga Khan University

The Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) in Pakistan has mobilised its agencies to provide relief to those affected by the catastrophic floods in Pakistan. The Aga Khan Agency for Habitat’s early warning system and a team trained Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) volunteers helped safely evacuate more than 8,000 people in the catastrophic floods.

The Aga Khan University has set up a Flood Response Fund. Please click HERE and joins hands with the AKU in supporting the citizen’s of Pakistan in their hour of need. Your contribution can be made in any one of the following currencies: Pakistani Rupee, US and CDN Dollars, British Pound, Euro, and United Arab Emirates Dhirham.

Again, click DONATE NOW to make your donation via the website of the Aga Khan University.

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[Much of the material that follows below is reproduced from reports by Voice of America’s Lisa Schlein who is based in Geneva. Her full reports on the floods can be read HERE and HERE — Ed.]

“Pakistan is Awash in Suffering”

“Pakistan is awash in suffering. The Pakistani people are facing a monsoon on steroids — the relentless impact of epochal levels of rain and flooding,” warned U.N. Secretary General (UNSG) Antonio Guterres in a pre-recorded video message (read transcript). He continued, “Millions are homeless, schools and health facilities have been destroyed, livelihoods are shattered, critical infrastructure wiped out, and people’s hopes and dreams have been washed away.” The U.N., together with the Pakistani government, launched a $160 million flash funding appeal on Tuesday, August 30, simultaneously in Islamabad and Geneva. Guterres said the U.N.’s flash appeal will help provide 5.2 million people with food, water sanitation, emergency education, protection and health support in the South Asian nation.

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Displaced people float belongings salvaged from flood-hit homes through a flooded area, on the outskirts of Peshawar, Pakistan. Photogrpah: AP via the Voice of America “Day in Photos

The UNSG said that South Asia is one of the world’s global “climate crisis hotspots” and people living in these hotspots are 15 times likely to die from climate impacts. “Let’s stop sleepwalking towards the destruction of our planet by climate change. Today, it’s Pakistan. Tomorrow, it could be your country,” Gutteres warned. Torrential rains have been pounding Pakistan since June. The government estimates some 33 million people have been affected and that more than 1,000 have died, among them hundreds of children. Jens Laerke, spokesman for the U.N. office for the coordination of humanitarian affairs, said nearly one million homes have been damaged, and more than 700,000 livestock lost in what is seen as the worst flooding in decades.

“Some 500,000 people displaced by the floods are sheltering in relief camps, with many more living with host families,” he said. “Access to assistance is difficult due to the flooding and landslides, with around 150 bridges washed away and nearly 3,500 kilometers of roads damaged.”

Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), leading the country’s response in coordinating assessments and directing humanitarian relief to affected people, has listed 72 out of the country’s 160 districts as calamity-hit. More than 33 million residents there have been affected, tens of thousands of others displaced, with massive losses inflicted on key cash crops. Pakistani officials informed Tuesday’s event that the economic impact of the flooding could reach at least $10 billion, and may require years to rehabilitate victims. Some countries, including China, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates, have already sent cargo planes that are carrying tents, food, medicines and other relief supplies, and rescue teams. More relief aid is on the way, according to Pakistani officials.

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Displaced families line up to receive food as they take refuge on a roadside after fleeing their flood-hit homes in Sohbat Pur city, a district of Pakistan’s southwestern Baluchistan province, Aug. 30, 2022. Photogrpah: AP via the Voice of America.

The International Rescue Committee anticipates a sharp increase in food insecurity and a severe impact on the national economy. “Our needs assessment showed that we are already seeing a major increase in cases of diarrhea, skin infections, malaria and other illnesses,” the group said in a statement.

Pakistan is home to more than 7,000 glaciers, but experts warn rising global temperatures are causing them to melt fast, creating thousands of glacial lakes. The South Asian nation says it is responsible for only less than 1% of greenhouse gas emissions but listed among the top ten countries suffering from the climate change effects.

The International Water Management Institute (IWMI) said it was working closely with Pakistani authorities to help assess the flood damage using remote sensing and satellite imagery to support prioritization of humanitarian responses. “The unprecedented and early heatwave this year also accelerated the melting of glaciers in the Himalaya, Hindu Kush and Karakoram mountain ranges, creating thousands of glacial lakes in northern Pakistan, around 30 of which could cause a deluge,” said Mohsin Hafeez, the country representative for the IWMI.

In the meantime, the World Meteorological Organization forecasts the heavy rains are set to continue. WMO spokeswoman Clare Nullis said the worst rainfall in decades follows the worst drought in decades, and the worst heatwave in decades. “Even before the latest flooding incident, Pakistan and northwest India had been witnessing above average monsoon rainfall.…This is the footprint of climate change,” she said. “The weather is becoming more extreme.”

The World Health Organization warns of disease outbreaks, such as cholera and diarrhea because of the flooding and lack of safe drinking water. WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier said at least 888 health facilities have been damaged, including 180 that have been destroyed. He said this will make it difficult for anyone affected to receive treatment.

“All the noncommunicable diseases will severely lack support,” he said. “People cannot reach health facilities for simple things like diabetes. Women in pregnancy or giving birth have immense problems having safe access to health facilities or even having safe hygiene situations.”

The country is in a state of emergency, with Federal Minister for Climate Change Senator Sherry Rehman describing the situation as a climate-induced humanitarian disaster. She tweeted on August 28: “Pakistan has never seen an unbroken cycle of monsoons like this. 8 weeks of non-stop torrents have left huge swathes of the country under water. This is no normal season, this is a deluge from all sides, impacting 33 million plus people, which is the size of a small country.”

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AGA KHAN UNIVERSITY FLOOD RESPONSE FUND

The Aga Khan University has set up a Flood Response Fund. Please click DONATE NOW and joins hands with the AKU in supporting the citizen’s of Pakistan in their hour of need. Your contribution can be made in any one of the following currencies: Pakistani Rupee; US and CDN Dollars; British Pound; Euro; and United Arab Emirates Dhirham.

Date posted: August 31, 2022.

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We welcome feedback/letters from our readers. Please click on Leave a comment. Your feedback may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation. We are unable to acknowledge unpublished letters. Simerg’s editor Malik Merchant may be reached via email at mmerchant@simerg.com.

Readings on His Highness the Aga Khan: Part 1 in a Weekly 5 Part Series

Featured photo above: The Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, the oldest humanities research institute in Canada, on May 20, 2016 conferred an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Letters upon His Highness the Aga Khan, in recognition of his work to advance, and advocate for, pluralistic societies across the globe. Richard Alway, Praeses of the Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies congratulates the Aga Khan upon conferring the honorary degree. Photo: AKDN/Zahur Ramji.

THE AGA KHAN’S DUAL MANDATE IS TO INTERPRET ISLAM AND TO IMPROVE THE QUALITY OF LIFE OF HIS ISMAILI FOLLOWERS AND THE POPULATIONS AMONG WHOM THEY LIVE

Readings on the Aga Khan Simerg and Barakah
The Aga Khan

Times of India: What is our most precious asset as human beings?

The Aga Khan: A value system that is both time-resistant and time-adaptable.

Times of India: And the worst?

The Aga Khan: Killing, indeed all violence. Going by the record of the last 50 years, this is what offends me most.” (READ MORE )

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Readings on the Aga Khan Simerg and Barakah
M. Hamilton Morgan

In this vast tapestry of the interaction of Muslims with each other, and with other cultures and faiths, there is one tradition that unfailingly continues the progressive heritage of classical Islam — profoundly intellectual, open, tolerant, pacific — and in particular one leader who has made it especially attuned to the many difficulties of the world today. That would be Ismailism and its revered Imam, the current Aga Khan IV — Michael Hamilton Morgan (READ MORE)

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Readings on the Aga Khan Simerg and Barakah
James Wolfensohn

“….It is the extraordinary sense of humanity that he [the Aga Khan] has. The great depth of real feeling for real people wherever they find themselves in society. He is a holy man. He is the leader of his faith. He’s a man who represents the very best in Islam.” — James Wolfensohn (READ MORE)

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Readings on the Aga Khan Simerg and Barakah
Andrew Kosorok

As Imam for the Nizari Ismailis, the Aga Khan’s responsibility and sacred calling is to provide for the security of his people, guide them in interpretation of the Faith, and do everything possible to ensure for them a worthwhile quality of life….the Aga Khan sees his responsibility in a more expansive way.  If good can be done for the sake of the Ismaili family, that good is also extended to the areas within which the Ismailis are found — and by extension, to the world — Andrew Kosorok (READ MORE)

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Readings on the Aga Khan Simerg and Barakah
Mohamed Arkoun

“If we speak with our children with heresiographic mind we are totally lost. We are totally away from the humanistic representation like His Highness the Aga Khan is insisting to have among us. So this is a very important issue on which we have all to reflect and to develop our endeavor.” — Mohamed Arkoun (READ MORE)

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Readings on the Aga Khan Simerg and Barakah
Nizar Motani

The Aga Khan projects Islam’s best principles and practices. Consequently, many like-minded institutions have rewarded him with an impressive range of honors, elevating him to the status of a distinguished, globally respected visionary leader — Nizar Motani (READ MORE)

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Date posted: August 24, 2022.

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We welcome feedback/letters from our readers. Please click on Leave a comment. Your feedback may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation. We are unable to acknowledge unpublished letters.

Simerg’s editor Malik Merchant may be reached via email at mmerchant@simerg.com

Simerg’s Special Series on Books by Ismaili Authors: “Humanizing Medicine: Making Health Tangible” by Dr. Azim H. Jiwani of Vancouver

By MALIK MERCHANT
Publisher/Editor SimergBarakah and Simergphotos

Simerg’s series entitled “Books by Ismaili Authors” continues with Vancouver based Dr. Azim H. Jiwani’s book “Humanizing Medicine: Making Health Tangible (Memoirs of Engagement with a Global Development Network).” We follow the same Q/A format as our earlier presentations of books written by Naznin Rahemtulla Hébert, Shairoz Lakhani, Shelina Shariff Zia, Ali Lakhani, Nizar Sultan, Nargis Fazal, Nazlin Rahemtulla, Azmina Suleman, Alnasir Rajan, Shafeen Ali, Mansoor Ladha, Zeni Shariff and Shamas Nanji. We invite Ismaili authors around the world to participate in this series, regardless of when their books were published. See details of the series HERE and submit your responses to Simerg’s editor, Malik, at mmerchant@simerg.com.

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THE PROCEEDS FROM THE SALE OF DR. JIWANI’S BOOK “HUMANIZING MEDICINE” WILL SUPPORT THE PATIENT WELFARE PROGRAM OF AGA KHAN HOSPITALS FOR NEEDY PATIENTS

Simerg’s Interview with Dr. Azim Jiwani

Simerg: What is behind the naming of the title of the book? 

Azim H. Jiwani: I think readers will perceive levels of meaning embodied by the title. Each reader will draw meaning from the title after reading the book since it can have multiple interpretations. This reflection on implications is what I intended.

Today, many people perceive medicine and health care as cold, selective, fragmented and profit and technology-driven. It seems to lack the human touch, warmth, and empathy. Hence, many, particularly in the developing world, feel a lack of “tangibility” of competent, contextual, compassionate and affordable health care available to them. The health status of large segments of populations in many parts of the world is not improving, and gains in some instances are reversing. Never have so many had such broad and advanced access to sophisticated care, but never have so many been denied access to even basic health care.

Simerg: Why would you want me or my family members to read the book, and what will we all learn from it?

Azim: Rarely in recent times has the world found itself gripped in conditions that pose substantial existential threats to lifeforms on earth, destabilize societies, impact health, quality of life, economic and cultural survival, and engender greater inequality and divisions between and within countries and regions.

The ideal of health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being envisioned by the WHO, not just the absence of disease. Hence, health is composite of a myriad of determinants, all constantly in a state of flux. This utopian state of health is unlikely to be achieved, but one can reimagine global health and its foundations and moral imperatives.

The recent onset of the Covid-19 global pandemic and the accelerating but belatedly acknowledged climate crisis and its devastating effects on human health have laid bare the historical, political, policy, and institutional deficiencies in health systems worldwide. The vast disparities in availability, accessibility and affordability, quality and equity are glaring in parts of the world, especially when comparing low-income countries of the global South to rich and industrialized countries of the North. This void is more apparent when healthcare systems worldwide are under tremendous stress. During the current pandemic, many in developing countries are denied access to even primary and essential care due to myriad reasons – a dearth of human and material resources, drugs, vaccines, deficits in health policies and local and geopolitical tensions.

I think one thing readers will learn is the complexity and challenges of the development process. The book traces efforts of large non-profit global development organizations — the Aga Khan University and agencies of the Aga Khan Development Network — mainly in the domains of education, healthcare, institutional capacity-building and the empowerment of civil societies. It underscores the mission to anticipate and respond to foreseeable effects of unaddressed inequalities, the poverty, program and leadership deficits in some of the most challenging regions of the developing world. It endeavours to enhance institutional capacities, establish collaborative networks, and promote best practices and international standards of excellence.

Simerg: What inspired you to write the book?

Azim: I had the good fortune of engaging with the early development of Aga Khan University and the Aga Khan Health Services internationally and its programs in medical education and fostering affordable, ethical and quality health care since the early 1980s.

I held various leadership roles in academic, administrative, clinical and planning positions in several major organizations within and outside the AKU and interacted with some outstanding leaders and thinkers. Early in my medical career, I developed an interest in the global arms race’s health, social and economic impacts, particularly on developing countries. This interest and other public health and justice questions led to a life-changing meeting with Prince Sadrudin Aga Khan at his chateau in Geneva in 1983. I was deeply inspired by his efforts and roles to foster a more just and equitable world.

As narrated in the book, the impetus and inspiration essentially derived from our faith’s essential ethical and moral foundations, as articulated by Hazar Imam in his numerous utterances. The lockdown periods of 2020/2021 finally induced me to chronicle almost four decades of engagement in aspects of medical education, global health, development, marginalization, and comment on historical imprints on development and questions of justice and human dignity. It was impressed upon me that the experience and skills I acquired over decades of engagement in global health and medical education were too valuable to be wasted. My friends and colleagues strongly encouraged me to chronicle my observations of the times and places, ideals and realities of just and compassionate societies and my wide-ranging engagements.

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Ismaili authors Series by Simerg Front cover of Dr Azim H. Jiwani's book "Humanizing Medicine: Making Health Tangible", Friesen Press
Front cover of Dr Azim H. Jiwani’s book “Humanizing Medicine: Making Health Tangible”, 300 pp., Friesen Press, August 2021.

Simerg: How can I purchase the book and what are its available formats?

Azim: The book is available in hardcover, softcover and e-books, e.g., Kindle, Nook, Apple Books, Google Books. It is widely available directly from the publisher FriesenPress and Amazon, Chapters/Indigo in Canada, Barnes & Noble in the U.S. and many other retail outlets. It is also available in many countries like the U.K., Australia, Europe and India.

Simerg: How did you find a publisher for the book?

Azim: As I was writing, I received many unsolicited offers to publish the book, mainly from the U.S. and Canada. I ignored these until towards the end of the initial draft. I decided to pick a large, established and reputable Canadian publisher, as I was aware of some of the books published by them. They were expensive but of high quality. The publisher FriesenPress partners with a large American publishing and printing house called Ingram; hence the book is printed in the U.S., the U.K. and Australia.

Simerg: Did you hire an editor, an illustrator or did you do all the work by yourself?

Azim: Basically, the publisher provided the editorial services, printing and distribution, but I selected the photographs and illustration with the kind permission of the AKU and the United Nations. Not being very tech-savvy, I needed some technical help from friends for this.

Simerg: How long did it take you to write Humanizing Medicine from start to finish and to begin marketing it?

Azim: I think the whole process of writing, editing, printing and distribution took about eighteen months of hard work since I could only focus on the book a few hours a day. The book was published in the Autumn of 2021 and launched in Washington, D.C., about three months ago.

Simerg: Tell us something more about your book.

Azim: The book interweaves three stands. Since it is essentially written from a personal perspective, it tells a unique story spanning almost five decades. It intertwines this strand with the efforts and the ethos of the AKU/AKDN in empowering civil society, human development and equity, the global conditions over the last century, and the historical and national and regional evolutions in health care and development. It includes many short anecdotes and vignettes set in various world locales, from Morocco to Cambodia, illustrating many of the points. I hope that the book provides a longitudinal perspective of global challenges and their relevance in today’s uncertain and trying times. I believe it could be informative and inspiring to professionals and volunteers who seek to broaden their careers and horizons through engagements globally in an interconnected world.

I should inform you that all proceeds from the global sale of this book are donated through the Aga Khan Foundation (AKF) to support the Patient Welfare Programs of the Aga Khan hospitals to care for needy patients.

Date posted: March 9, 2022.

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We welcome feedback from our readers. Please complete the LEAVE A REPLY form below or click Leave a comment. Your letter may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation.

Ismaili author Dr. Azim Jiwani Humanizing Medicine Simerg special series
Dr. Azim Jiwani

Dr. Azim Jiwani worked in health care and global health development for several decades, holding various leadership positions in academic, hospital, and community settings. His work included teaching, research, medical administration, strategic planning, advocacy, consultancies, and advisory roles. Dr. Jiwani held senior faculty positions with the Aga Khan University (AKU) and at the University of British Columbia in the Faculty of Medicine as a clinical professor. He interacted with many local, national, and multilateral organizations, including the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations, universities, and global health institutions-and he continues to play a consulting and voluntary advisory role in health care, education and international development.

As an avid traveller, Dr. Jiwani’s journeys have taken him to locales in Europe, Asia, Americas, Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia, Australia and New Zealand, where he explored local cultures, traditions, social, historical and environmental aspects of life and development. He has lectured at many higher learning institutions, professional organizations, civil society groups, and community groups. His interests include natural sciences, moral philosophy, architecture, civilizational histories, and anthropology. Dr. Jiwani lives in West Vancouver, British Columbia, with Nilu, his wife of 45 years. They have two daughters and five grandchildren.

Calling all Ismaili Authors

We encourage Ismaili writers to introduce their books in a similar format as has been done in the post above. Please also see the series launch article and submit your responses to Malik at mmerchant@simerg.com. All submissions will be acknowledged. If a writer has published multiple books, each book will be highlighted in a separate article, and not combined with other books into one post. All writers should include a brief profile with a portrait photo.

The Ismaili Authors’ Series so far (in chronological sequence, oldest article first):

  1. “Justice Bertha Wilson Pushes the Boundaries of Humanity” by Shamas Nanji (series start, February 10, 2021)
  2. “Little One, You Are The Universe” by Zeni Shariff (February 25, 2021)
  3. “Memoirs of a Muhindi” by Mansoor Ladha (March 6, 2021)
  4. “To Be One With God: Seven Journeys to the Meaning of Life” by Shafeen Ali (March 25, 2021)
  5. “Invisible Birthmarks” by Alnasir Rajan (April 13, 2021)
  6. “IN THE NAME OF JUSTICE – Portrait of a ‘Cowboy’ Judge” by Azmina Suleman (April 28, 2021)
  7. “RSVP Rice and Stew Very Plenty” by Nazlin Rahemtulla (May 28, 2021)
  8. “Coughdrops” by Nargis Fazal (June 12, 2021)
  9. “The Roots and the Trees” by Nizar Sultan (June 25, 2021)
  10. “Faith and Ethics: The Vision of the Ismaili Imamat” by M. Ali Lakhani (July 4, 2021)
  11. “Nairobi Days by Shelina_Shariff Zia (July 21, 2021)
  12. “Shine Brighter” by Shairoz Lakhani (December 8, 2021).
  13. “This is My Life” by Naznin Rahemtulla Hébert (February 26, 2022)
  14. “Humanizing Medicine – Making Health Tangible” by Dr. Azim Jiwani (March 9, 2022)

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Before departing this website please take a moment to review Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to hundreds of thought provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a few. Also visit Simerg’s sister websites Barakah, dedicated to His Highness the Aga Khan, and Simergphotos.

The editor may be reached via email at mmerchant@simerg.com.

The AKU Global Convocation: Text and Video of Speeches by Trustee Princess Zahra Aga Khan, Climate Scientist Peter Kalmus and New Aga Khan University President Sulaiman Shahabuddin

Compiled and prepared by MALIK MERCHANT
Publisher/Editor SimergphotosSimerg and Barakah

1. Video and Text of Speech by Princess Zahra Aga Khan, Trustee, Aga Khan University

“….the hope we feel today is warranted by you, the graduands. By your hunger for knowledge. Your compassion for your patients. Your joy in sparking curiosity in your students. And your zeal to find the facts and share them with your fellow citizens, without fear or favour” — Princess Zahra Aga Khan (watch video and read speech excerpts, below)

“The graduation of the Class of 2021 is a watershed in the lives of its members and their families. And the installation of President and Vice Chancellor Sulaiman Shahabuddin is a milestone in the history of the Aga Khan University. This is therefore a doubly joyous day – the kind that comes along once in a very great while.

“I will be speaking today on behalf of the University’s Chancellor, His Highness the Aga Khan. I would like to convey the Chancellor’s deep gratitude, and my own, to the Government of Kenya and the Commission for University Education for granting AKU its Charter. I am also delighted to welcome the founding members of the new AKU Kenya University Council, which will provide oversight of the University’s operations in Kenya.  

“Today, I am filled with hope for the future. How could anyone not be, knowing what this day represents?

“President and Vice Chancellor Shahabuddin brings to his position a wealth of experience and a lengthy record of success in both East Africa and Pakistan. His career embodies the themes of opportunity, cross-cultural connection, and commitment to improving quality of life that define AKU and the Aga Khan Development Network. 

“Already, he has begun to build on the strong foundations laid by former President Firoz Rasul. Moreover, he now enjoys the wise counsel of University Council Chairman Moyez Alibhai and of the new Chairman of the AKU Board of Trustees Zakir Mahmood. 

“It is therefore with great pleasure that I welcome President Shahabuddin to his new role; thank former President Rasul; and congratulate Chairman Alibhai and Chairman Mahmood on their recent appointments. I also wish to thank our retiring Chairman of the Board, Dr. Haile Debas, for his extensive contributions to the University’s development for the past 12 years.

“It is with equally profound pleasure that I welcome each of you, our graduands, to the ranks of the alumni of the Aga Khan University. Your fellow graduates are changing lives from rural clinics and classrooms to the laboratories of world-renowned universities. I know how proud you are to be part of this illustrious tradition, and how proud your families are to be watching you today.  

“This AKU class has worked harder for this moment than any other ever has. The last two years challenged you with lockdowns, quarantines, and isolation. But you found new ways to learn, to connect, and to maintain your motivation amid each new wave of the pandemic. 

“The diplomas and degrees you are about to receive testify to your fortitude and agility. In the years to come, you will always be able to look back and draw strength from your achievements during this momentous period. 

“Convocation is a celebration of individual accomplishment. But it also reminds us of our connections and our dependence on one another. Each of us is a link in a chain that extends backwards and forwards in time, and outward across borders and boundaries. That is especially true at AKU, as this globe-spanning event testifies. 

“With these bonds in mind, I wish to thank all those who have made it possible to send these 664 women and men into the world to educate, enlighten, and care for their fellow human beings. Our faculty and staff have demonstrated extraordinary dedication to our students and to our mission. Our front-line health professionals have displayed exemplary courage in the face of Covid-19 – I cannot thank them enough and on behalf of the Chancellor for their many sacrifices. We are grateful to our alumni, partners, and volunteers. And we are profoundly thankful for the generosity of our donors. 

“I began by speaking of hope. The hope I refer to is not an idle wish. It is the hope one feels when there is strong evidence for optimism. It is the hope our Chancellor, His Highness the Aga Khan, has called “probably the single most powerful trampoline of progress.” 

“That is the hope that I believe unites us today. It is warranted, first, by the history and impact of the Aga Khan University. AKU will mark its 40th anniversary next year. From a seed in the mind of our Chancellor, it has blossomed into an institution that spans three continents and stands at the heart of the AKDN’s unwavering commitment to the countries that it serves. In Kenya, that commitment is vividly symbolized by AKU’s towering new University Centre in Nairobi — a world-class academic facility that is one of the largest investments in higher education in the country’s history.  

“Globally, AKU has educated over 18,000 individuals. It cares for more than 2 million patients every year in internationally accredited hospitals, and was recently ranked among the top 100 universities in the world in public health. It also serves as a trusted advisor to government and is a powerful advocate for pluralism and for women’s empowerment. 

​”During the pandemic, the value of the University’s capacity for cutting-edge inquiry has never been clearer. Its researchers have made important contributions to the fight against Covid-19. And AKU is also contributing to another crucial battle, one that our Chief Guest Peter Kalmus will be talking about shortly – the battle against climate breakdown. Along with the AKDN as a whole, AKU has committed to becoming carbon neutral in its operations by 2030 — making it one of the first institutions in Pakistan and East Africa to do so.   

“In short, the University’s record is surely one to instill hope. 

“But most of all, the hope we feel today is warranted by you, the graduands. By your hunger for knowledge. Your compassion for your patients. Your joy in sparking curiosity in your students. And your zeal to find the facts and share them with your fellow citizens, without fear or favour. 

“I have no doubt that the hope that fills our hearts, and the pride that swells our chests, will be amply confirmed by your achievements in the years to come. On behalf of the Chancellor, my thanks to all of you.”

Read full speech by Princess Zahra Aga Khan at SOURCE.

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2. Video and Text of Speech by Chief Guest, Climate Scientist Peter Kalmus

“We need to help each other wake up, and quickly. We need a billion climate activists. We need a huge number of engaged, passionate, courageous climate activists. We need to come together, with courage, conviction, and creativity, to stop the meteor that’s hurtling toward us” — Peter Kalmus (watch video and read speech excerpts, below)

“Greetings and congratulations! What an honor it is to address you today, on this joyful occasion! Great job to all of you! I ​share your commitment to improving the lives of all beings on this Earth. I want to acknowledge AKU’s work to improve quality of life in the developing world, as well as the leadership that Prince Rahim and the AKDN are demonstrating in addressing climate change and environmental degradation.

“Now, this strikes me as a strange time in our planet’s four-and-half-billion-year history for giving convocation speeches. 

“As a climate scientist, I see a meteor hurtling directly toward our achingly beautiful planet, and I don’t yet see society or world leaders mobilising to stop it. Fossil fuels are heating our planet at a rate of a tenth of a degree Celsius every five years. This may not sound like much, but for an entire planet to heat this quickly is both astounding and terrifying. 

“The disasters we are living through now are just the beginning. At every additional fraction of heating, climate disasters will come faster and hit harder. Like gut punches to our global society, they will increasingly stress infrastructure systems, economic systems, energy systems, food and water systems, political systems and ecosystems. 

“The proximal cause of climate destruction is burning fossil fuels. Before we had a fossil fuel industry, the planet was in energy balance. The same amount of energy came in as sunlight as went back out to space, so it stayed at a constant temperature. Burning gas, coal, and oil has changed that. It continues pushing our planet further and further out of balance, forcing it to heat up. 

“The crisis has been overwhelmingly caused by the Global North, with impacts hitting the Global South soonest and hardest. And powerful vested interests are doing what they can to block action. So, what can we do?

“This is a question I’ve been grappling with for a very long time. 

“Sixteen years ago, I was a physics PhD student in New York City, in love with the universe and its mysteries, overjoyed to finally be part of the noble quest for human knowledge. I was interested in cosmology — the big questions, where we come from, and where we’re going.

“The year 2006 brought two big changes to my life. First, I became a dad, which was expansive. It connected me to the future. And second, I heard a lecture about how the Earth was out of energy balance and heating up. This lecture rattled me. Earth is out of energy balance? This is absolutely monumental news, literally the biggest story on the planet. It was then, and it’s even more so today.

“I started learning about climate change. I tried to get my university to switch to electricity that came from wind power. I could only find one other person on campus who supported my cause – and not for a lack of trying, because back then, hardly anyone cared about climate change. Social norms around climate hadn’t started to shift. 

“Now, social norms are unspoken but very powerful shared beliefs. They’re like society’s subconscious mind. For example, the belief that it’s normal to burn fossil fuels. Sure, it’s destroying our planet — but it’s a normal thing to do. Everyone’s doing it. 

“Social norms are like the water surrounding a fish. We swim in them, every moment. They create society, they shape its systems and its power structures, but most of the time, we don’t even notice them. They are partly responsible for climate and ecological breakdown, as well as humanity’s breathtaking lack of response. How much we can still save will be largely determined by how quickly we can shift these norms.

“Now, as the years ticked by, I grew ever more alarmed and frustrated about climate inaction. By 2010, burning fossil fuels had become deeply upsetting to me. The connection between fossil fuels and worsening climate impacts was just too clear. So I started reducing my emissions systematically, scientifically, starting with the biggest things first: giving up air travel, biking instead of driving, and slashing my energy use at home, among many other changes. This taught me three valuable lessons. First, for me it was fun to live with less fossil fuel. It engaged my curiosity, led me to new hobbies and caused me to make new friends. Second, I experienced how we all rely on vast impersonal systems for all of our daily needs – food, water, clothes, streets – everything. To be able to get to zero fossil fuel use, all those systems are going to have to change. And third, very few people were actually willing to follow me in these sorts of changes. 

“When I started, I hoped my actions would inspire other people. But I’d say roughly maybe one out of a hundred people are willing to systematically reduce their emissions. So, while I think it’s a great thing to do, it simply isn’t enough on its own. 

“By 2012, I’d become so alarmed that I couldn’t focus on astrophysics any longer, so I switched into climate science. I also started speaking out as much as I could. I was told that scientists aren’t supposed to speak out, but I did it anyway. How could I not speak out, seeing what I see, and knowing what I know?

“We need to help each other wake up, and quickly. We need a billion climate activists. We need to build a global climate movement that’s even stronger than the fossil fuel industry. We need a huge number of engaged, passionate, courageous climate activists. We need to come together, with courage, conviction, and creativity, to stop the meteor that’s hurtling toward us. No one is safe from global heating. There is no hiding from it on this tiny, connected, pale blue dot of a planet. The only safety will come from stopping it, and doing this will require deep changes in how humanity organizes as a society, and how we live upon this Earth. 

“Climate work will be humanity’s main task for the rest of this century: healing the Earth, restoring wild places, adapting to new disasters, and figuring out how to live side by side with each other and all the other species here, who have just as much of a right to be on this planet as we do. There’s infrastructure to build, technologies to invent. There are new legal and moral and even spiritual frameworks to come up with. There is new art to make, new economics to devise, and new stories to tell. We need institutions to devise new disciplines and new ways of thinking, rapidly reduce their emissions, educate the public, and create social change. AKU is already playing a hugely important role in the Global South and must keep going. 

“We also need you, the graduates of the Aga Khan University — among the best and the brightest the world has to offer — to devote your lives to solving the greatest crisis humanity has ever faced. Contribute to global knowledge and innovation. Demand climate justice. Have the courage to cause good trouble. Be the voice for the voiceless, for all the species that are going extinct and for future generations. 

“Climate disasters will get worse before they get better. But we could stop all of this, if we would make the collective choice to treat climate breakdown as an emergency. Imagine in the future that we’ve turned this corner, that the living Earth is in the process of healing, that our species was on the brink of destruction but came to its senses at the last moment. I foresee that this will bring a tremendous feeling of global solidarity, of cosmic solidarity with life in the universe. My dream is that I will live to experience a time when we are finally on the right path, toward a more mature humanity, a kinder and more grateful humanity, full of joy simply to be here, on this Earth – one strand in the tapestry of life. 

“I know that a much better world is possible. No law of physics prevents it. It’s up to us. It’s the journey of a lifetime, and it beckons to each and every one of you. Go out there and do it.”

Read full speech by Peter Kalmus at SOURCE

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3. Video and Text of Speech by Aga Khan University President Sulaiman Shahabuddin

“We continue to believe, as we always have, in the power of knowledge to solve humanity’s biggest problems. And we continue to believe that AKU, as a powerful creator and disseminator of knowledge, can make an extraordinary contribution to improving life in Africa, Asia, and beyond.” — Sulaiman Shahabuddin (watch video and read speech excerpts, below)

“I am profoundly honoured to have been chosen to serve as President and Vice Chancellor by our Chancellor, His Highness the Aga Khan. As this medallion reminds me, I have been entrusted with a great responsibility. I am humbled by His Highness’s confidence in me. I pledge to do everything in my power to prove that it has been well placed.

“What a day this is! I am profoundly honoured to have been chosen to serve as President and Vice Chancellor by our Chancellor, His Highness the Aga Khan. As this medallion reminds me, I have been entrusted with a great responsibility. I am humbled by His Highness’s confidence in me. I pledge to do everything in my power to prove that it has been well placed. 

“I am deeply grateful to you, Princess Zahra, for honoring us with your presence. Your participation speaks to the bright future of our graduands and our University. It adds luster to an already brilliant day. 

“Most of all, I am excited by the opportunity I have been granted to carry forward the Chancellor’s vision, by AKU’s role as a powerful force for good in the world, and by the tremendous potential of all of you, our graduands. 

“I remember watching my daughter, Anjiya, graduate from AKU’s Medical College. By my side was my wife, Zeenat, herself an alumna of the School of Nursing and Midwifery. Little did I know that I would be standing at this podium a few short years later while they and my son Basim look on. Certainly, when I stepped onto the AKU campus as a 22-year-old purchasing officer and a newly minted MBA, I could not have imagined that one day I would return to the University in my present role. 

“But that just demonstrates the transformations that AKU makes possible.

“Each of you, our graduands, has taken your own unique path to this moment. Some of you are the first in your family to attend university. Others are carrying on a family tradition as the sons and daughters of teachers, nurses, or doctors. For some, our campus was their first home after leaving home. For others, AKU represented a return to academia after years in the workforce. 

“I want to take a moment to acknowledge your individual journeys. The moments of doubt – the first time you got back an exam paper covered in questions and comments and you thought to yourself, “I’ve got work to do!” The moments that galvanized your confidence – that day in the classroom, in the newsroom, in the library or in the clinic when you achieved a new level of insight or excellence. 

“I also want to recognize that you are part of a collective – one that stretches across three continents. As members of the Class of 2021, you have forged lasting relationships, supported one another’s academic development, and built a shared commitment to helping those in need.

“And now you are ready to make your mark on your professions and the world. 

“This is a time of transition for our graduates. It is also a time of transition for AKU. But a change in leadership does not mean a change in the University’s guiding principles.  

“We continue to believe, as we always have, in the power of knowledge to solve humanity’s biggest problems. And we continue to believe that AKU, as a powerful creator and disseminator of knowledge, can make an extraordinary contribution to improving life in Africa, Asia, and beyond.

“As our Chancellor, His Highness the Aga Khan told the Class of 1994, “At its best, the university is linked to the welfare of the society in which it is based. While taking knowledge from all quarters, such a university applies that knowledge to the solution of the pressing problems of the world, both at home and abroad.”

“That is, in fact, what AKU is doing. Allow me to elaborate: 

“In East Africa, AKU and the University of Michigan are using cutting-edge artificial intelligence to identify individuals at risk of future health problems. We are not the only ones who think that project has tremendous potential – it just received more than $6 million in funding from the National Institutes of Health in the United States.

“In Pakistan, AKU reduced newborn death rates by more than 15 percent in eight rural districts that are home to 14 million people. How did we do it? By sharing our knowledge with hundreds of public and private health facilities and thousands of community health workers. 

“AKU researchers are using stem cell science and gene editing to develop new treatments for blood disorders and cancers such as leukaemia. They have analyzed the test scores of 15,000 students to show which factors improve performance in math and science. They are studying indigenous efforts to protect the rights of minorities in Muslim-majority countries.

“As Princess Zahra highlighted a moment ago, we are also working to slash our carbon emissions and become one of the few universities in the world to achieve carbon neutrality. It is an ambitious goal that will require tremendous innovation. But we are committed to achieving it, and to helping other universities to follow in our footsteps.

“In the coming years, we will launch new undergraduate medical and nursing education programmes in East Africa. Build a new University Center and Hospital in Kampala. And open our Faculty of Arts and Sciences in Karachi to prepare young men and women as leaders with a unique education that spans the social sciences, natural sciences, and the arts. 

“As all these examples show and as AKU approaches its 40th anniversary, we remain faithful to our founding vision, while acting boldly to meet new challenges.

“I am grateful to all those who make our success possible. The policymakers who create the enabling environment in which we work, among them our guest of honor, East African Community Secretary General Dr Peter Mathuki. Our generous donors, volunteers, alumni, and partners, including our fellow agencies of the Aga Khan Development Network. Nothing has given me more pleasure in my first months in office than getting to know and working with the diverse members of the AKU family. 

“Ladies and gentlemen, the University’s biggest contribution to the countries we serve will always be our graduates. 

“Graduands, our alumni – your predecessors – walked the same corridors and courtyards that you have walked, and learned in the same clinics and classrooms. They wore the same green and gold that you wear now. And every day, they are proving just how powerful an AKU education can be.

“They are founding schools and clinics in underserved communities. Winning international recognition for their teaching, research, and leadership. Serving in government and shaping public policy. Launching high-tech startups and writing award-winning poetry. Here at AKU, they are among our most valued leaders, scholars, and practitioners. Their record proves that you can achieve your most audacious ambitions. 

“Today is not an end. Your journeys are just beginning. Now is the time for you to show the world what an AKU graduate can do. Thank you.”

Read full speech by Sulaiman Shahabuddin at SOURCE.

For complete coverage of the 2021 Global Convocation, please click HERE.

Date posted: March 3, 2022.

Featured image at top of post: The Seal of Aga Khan University is a visual representation of the principles which underlie the founding of the University. The circular form of the Seal, with its different levels of imagery contained in concentric circles, has its visual roots in the rosettes of early Islamic periods. The circle also symbolises the world and reflects the international presence of the University. At the centre of the Seal is a star, or sun. Light is a universal symbol for the enlightenment that education provides. The light emanating from the star is also symbolic of Nur (Divine light). The star incorporates 49 points to commemorate the University’s founding by His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan, the forty-ninth Imam of the Ismaili Muslims.The outer ring circumscribes a Quranic Ayat rendered in classic thuluth script and reads as follows:

“And hold fast, All together, by the rope
Which God (stretches out for you),
And be not divided among yourselves,
And remember with gratitude
God’s favour on you:
For ye were enemies
And He joined your hearts
In love, so that by His grace
Ye became brethren” — Sura 3, Ayat 103

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Before departing this website please take a moment to review Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to hundreds of thought provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a few. Also visit Simerg’s sister websites Barakah dedicated to His Highness the Aga Khan, and Simergphotos.

Taliban Deputy Prime Minister -- Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan -- with Aga Khan Development Network representatives AKDN Simerg Malik Merchant

Afghanistan Update: Taliban and Aga Khan Development Network Discuss Future Development in Country

Compiled and prepared by MALIK MERCHANT
(Publisher-Editor, Simerg, Barakah, and Simergphotos)

Sputnik, a Moscow based news agency, reported on November 6, 2021, that The Taliban represented by the deputy prime minister, Abdul Salam Hanafi, met with Akbar Pesnani, the envoy of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) to Afghanistan, to discuss a comprehensive development strategy for the country. The Taliban government calls itself as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.

The meeting was confirmed by the government spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid in a tweet, which is as follows:

Article continues after tweet

Translation of Tweet: Maulvi Abdul Salam Hanafi, Deputy Minister of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, met with Ali Akbar Pasnani, Aga Khan’s Special Envoy to Afghanistan, and discussed the activities of the Aga Khan Development Network. To invest in parts……

(Photo Credit: Featured photo at top of post is from the Official Twitter Account of the Spokesman of Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, Zabihullah Mujahid)

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Hanafi said that the Taliban-led Afghan government was ready to assist AKDN in its mission in the country. ANI, South Asia’s leading multimedia news agency, further added to the Sputnik report by stating that the joint activities should focus on the development of the health care and education systems in Afghanistan. And, according to a report published in Pakistan’s SAMAA TV website, basing its sources on Afghanistan’s Pashto language website Nunn Takki Asia, the deputy prime minister urged AKDN to build a hospital in Afghanistan. Pesnani was assured that the Taliban would provide the necessary conditions and facilities for the Network’s activities.

Afghan media reported Pesnani as saying that that the AKDN’s aim was to build human capacity and focus on girls’ education, in response to which Hanafi said that education is essential for all and the ministries of education and higher education were working on a mechanism and creating conditions’ for girls education in the country.

According to Chitral News of November 7, Hanafi is said to have extended a formal invitation to His Highness the Aga Khan to visit the country. Simerg could not confirm the invitation through other independent sources.

Date posted: November 12, 2021.

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Simerg has created a special page on Afghanistan where you will find links to all our posts published on Afghanistan since the Taliban takeover. Please click AFGHANISTAN.

Afghanistan Update: Nature Journal’s World View – The Incoming Afghan Government Must Allow Immunizations

“I am optimistic that Taliban Leaders could be persuaded to permit vaccinations again” — Professor Zulfiqar Bhutta

Aga Khan University's Professor Zulfiqar Bhutta
Aga Khan University’s Professor Zulfiqar Bhutta. Photo: Aga Khan University. Click photo to read article.

“The world must work with Kabul’s new rulers to get polio and other diseases under control….The Taliban now running the country has an opportunity to show a pragmatic, reformist face to the world and people of Afghanistan: it needs to run the health system, to care more about protecting women and children….and for the polio-immunization programme to resume.” — Zulfiqar Bhutta, writing in Nature…. READ MORE

Zulfiqar A. Bhutta of the Aga Khan University and The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) is the Founding Director, Centre of Excellence in Women and Child Health at the Aga Khan University in Karachi, Pakistan, which includes a teaching hospital in Kabul. He was recently honoured the 2021 Roux Prize for his tremendous impact on maternal and child health, as a researcher and a leader as well as his commitment to reducing health inequities. READ PROFESSOR BHUTTA’S SEPTEMBER 23 PIECE IN NATURE.

NATURE is a weekly international journal publishing the finest peer-reviewed research in all fields of science and technology on the basis of its originality, importance, interdisciplinary interest, timeliness, accessibility, elegance and surprising conclusions.

Date posted: September 28, 2021.

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We have created a special page on Afghanistan where you will find links to all our posts published on Afghanistan since the Taliban takeover. Please click AFGHANISTAN.

Chihilsitoon Garden and palace rehabilitation in Kabul, Afghanistan. AKDN / Simon Norfolk featured image

August 25, 2021: Aga Khan Development Network’s Commitment to Afghanistan and Its People; and Overview of AKDN’s Work in the Country for the Last 25 Years

Compiled and prepared by MALIK MERCHANT
(Publisher-Editor, BarakahSimerg and Simergphotos)

PRESS RELEASE

In a press release issued in Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 25, 2021, the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) stated as follows:

“The Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) is firmly committed to its core mandate of undertaking a range of innovative programmes and projects to improve the quality of life of communities in many parts of the world.

“In Afghanistan, AKDN agencies have a longstanding engagement with a wide range of activities including healthcare, education, early childhood development, agriculture, rural infrastructure and economic opportunity, energy provision, climate resilience, telecommunications, cultural heritage conservation, and hospitality.

“AKDN’s operations are designed to adapt to evolving contexts and circumstances to ensure sustainability, effectiveness, and efficiency. Based in Kabul, His Highness the Aga Khan’s Envoy, Akbar Pesnani, and the President of the Ismaili National Council for Afghanistan, Amir Baig, also appointed by His Highness, will maintain ongoing co-ordination with the authorities, local communities, donor agencies, and other stakeholders who have supported AKDN’s programmes and initiatives over the past several decades.

“AKDN looks forward to continuing to work for Afghanistan’s peaceful and prosperous future, and to improving further the quality of life of the Afghan people.”

The press release also included the following contact information for further inquiries:

(1) Office of the Envoy of His Highness the Aga Khan to Afghanistan (Akbar Pesnani): Envoy.Afghanistan@AKDN.org

(2) Office of the President of the Ismaili National Council for Afghanistan (Amir Baig): eo.nc@iiafg.org; and

(3) Media Enquiries: Media.Afghanistan@AKDN.org.

Note: For Farsi version of the press release please click HERE

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AFGHANISTAN MAPS
(Provincial and Country)

Provincial Map of Afghanistan
Afghanistan is divided into 34 provinces The provinces of Afghanistan are the primary administrative divisions. Each province encompasses a number of districts or usually over 1,000 villages. Population 2020, estimate): 32, 890,171; Largest city Kabul (capital), population 4.6 million. At left, Provincial map of Afghanistan. Key (alphabetical order): Badakhshan (30); Badghis (4); Baghlan (19); Balkh (13), Bamyan (15), Daykundi (10), Farah (2), Faryab (5); Ghazni (16); Ghor (6), Helmand (7); Herat (1); Jowzjan (8); Kabul (22), Kandahar (12); Kapisa (29); Khost (26); Kunar (34); Kunduz (18); Laghman (32); Logar (23); Nangarhar (33); Nimruz (3); Nuristan (31); Paktia (24); Paktika (25); Panjshir (28); Parwan (20); Samangan (14); Sar-e Pol (9); Takhar (27); Uruzgan (11); Maidan Wardak (21); and Zabul (17). Credit: Joshbaumgartner via Wikepedia, Public Domain. Right: Map of Afghanistan with key cities. Credit: Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection, University of Texas. Click on image for enlargement.

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COMPREHENSIVE OVERVIEW OF AKDN’S WORK IN AFGHANISTAN

(1) ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

AKDN Afghanistan, Simerg Overview Malik Merchant
n Afghanistan, the village of Khaftar Khana, with the support of AKF, built a micro-hydel unit that provides electricity throughout the night to 23 households. Photo: AKDN/Sandra Calligaro

To stimulate long-term economic growth in the country, AKDN operates across the spectrum, from working with women and youth in isolated rural communities to help create their own start-up businesses, to building micro-hydroelectric plants that help light homes, schools and health facilities in these remote villages, to investing in large-scale mobile phone services that provide network coverage to more than 6.5 million Afghans across the country’s 34 provinces. In cases like the latter, because of its institutional background and ethical framework, AKDN’s criteria for making commercial investments are not those of a typical investor.  Investment decisions are based on whether a particular investment will improve the quality of life of those affected by it, not simply on bottom-line profitability. Profits that are generated are then reinvested in development initiatives….MORE

(2) PARTICIPATORY GOVERNANCE

Natural Resources Management (NRM) Заседание CDC (Совет по развитию населённых пунктов на уровне кластеров) в Джурме, Афганистан. Участники обсуждают острую необходимость привлечения добровольцев для помощи в ремонте системы водоснабжения, размытой проливными дождями. Эта система была создана благодаря коллективной работе нескольких сообществ, предоставивших денежные средства и рабочую силу. AKF оказывал техническую поддержку. AKDN / Sandra Calligaro
Photo: AKDN / Sandra Calligaro.

Since 2003, the Aga Khan Foundation (AKF) has worked on building human and institutional capacity as a Facilitating Partner for the National Solidarity Programme (NSP), a government programme that establishes Community Development Councils (CDCs) across Afghanistan. The programme is intended to empower local communities to identify and implement their own development projects…..MORE (Under Agriculture and Food Security)

(3) NATURAL RESOURCES MANAGEMENT (NRM)

Photo: AKDN / Sandra Calligaro

With around 80 percent of the Afghan population dependent on agriculture, interventions in this sector are central to reducing poverty rates.  Over the past 10 years, the Aga Khan Foundation (AKF)’s agriculture and NRM programme has transitioned from distribution of agricultural commodities to more sustainable activities that have led to increased production, improved food security, and stronger connections to markets for local farmers….. MORE

(4) CULTURAL DEVELOPMENT

AKDN’s cultural development activities are aimed at conserving and restoring Afghanistan’s cultural heritage, while stimulating local economic development and improving the quality of life for people living in surrounding neighbourhoods in Kabul, Herat and Balkh

Chihilsitoon Garden rehabilitation in Kabul, Afghanistan. AKTC / Simon Norfolk

KABUL: Since 2003, war-damaged quarters of the old city of Kabul have been the focus of an AKDN programme (the Aga Khan Trust for Culture) to conserve key historic buildings, including houses, mosques, shrines and public facilities.  Upgrading works have also improved living conditions for some 15,000 residents of the old city in the neighbourhoods of Asheqan wa Arefan, Chindawol and Kuche Kharabat… MORE

In 2008 the AKDN, in partnership with the Afghan Government, began the restoration of the Ikhtyaruddin Citadel in Herat. AKDN / Simon Norfolk

HERAT: Herat has long been a city of strategic, commercial and cultural significance. It came under the rule of the Abbasid caliphate at the end of the eighth century and was renowned for the production of metalwork.  At a crossroads between competing armies, traders and cultures, Herat was home to Persians, Pushtuns, Uzbeks, Turkomans, Baluchs and Hazaras.  In the fourteenth century, it was sacked by Timur, only to experience a renaissance under the rule of his son Shah Rukh.  Though repeatedly ravaged by war throughout its history, many significant Islamic monuments have survived.  Beginning in 2005 and running over the course of the next decade, the Trust worked hard to safeguard this unique heritage…. MORE

Restoration of Noh Gunbad Mosque, Balkh restoration projects, Aga Khan Historic Cities Programme, Afghanistan. AKDN / Simon Norfolk

BALKH: With the help of a number of partners, the Aga Khan Trust for Culture helped restore the Khwaja Parsa Shrine Complex and the Noh Gumbad Mosque in the northern province of Balkh…. MORE.

(5) HABITAT

akdn AFGHANISTAN
A water pump constructed by AKDN agencies to provide villagers in Gazar, Doshi District, Afghanistan with access to clean water. Photo: AKDN / Jean-Luc Ray

In Afghanistan, the Aga Khan Agency for Habitat (AKAH) − previously Focus Humanitarian Assistance − engages with communities living in remote mountainous areas to increase their resilience to natural disasters and complex emergencies.  The Aga Khan Agency for Habitat also supports communities to utilize an enabling habitat to enhance their health, education and economic development. 

The approach is to predict where possible potential emergencies may impact homes and livelihoods, identify structural and non-structural interventions that can prevent or mitigate the impact of those hazards, and to build the capacities of communities and local and national governments to reduce their vulnerability to risk and to increase their capacities to help their neighbours.  

To enable this, AKAH implements a wide range of disaster prevention and response initiatives in local communities, including disaster preparedness trainings, vulnerability assessments, risk mitigation activities and disaster relief efforts…. MORE (includes sections on Disaster Risk Reduction, Capacity Building, Community-based interventions, Water and Sanitation, and External Partnerships).

(6) HUMANITARIAN ASSISTANCE

AKDN Afghanistan
On Friday 7th October 2016, AKAH donated 125 tents and 100 Non Food Item packages to the Governor of Takhar to support 750 Internally Displaced People (IDP) in Kunduz. Photo: Focus.

Afghanistan is highly prone to multiple natural disasters including earthquakes, landslides, flooding and avalanches.  Earthquakes occur frequently, particularly in the mountainous north and north-eastern areas of the country, and often trigger landslides.  Floods are common in the spring when snow begins to melt and rainfall is heavy.  Many of the communities at risk are located in remote areas, and disaster relief efforts are made more difficult by the volatile security situation.  The Aga Khan Agency for Habitat (AKAH) – formerly Focus Humanitarian Assistance – has been active in Afghanistan since 1996, when it was set up to respond to the acute food shortages caused by the ongoing conflict.

Emergency Management teams train to respond to disasters while conducting hazard and risk assessments.  They also work to improve risk anticipation through the establishment of Early Warning Systems.  AKAH has so far trained tens of thousands of volunteers for disaster response and management across Central and South Asia…. MORE

(7) MICROFINANCE

AKDN Afghanistan Aga Khan Development Network
A baker from Pul-i-Khumri is happy to be able to set up his business, thanks to a small loan from Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development. Photo: AKDN / Jean-Luc Ray

The microfinance sector only reaches about 227,000 borrowers in the country, less than 1 percent of the adult population. AKDN established microcredit programmes as early as 2002.  In 2004, it launched First Microfinance Bank, the first of its kind under the country’s new regulatory structure. AKDN has pioneered the provision of innovative and flexible microfinance products in the country, which play an important role in driving economic development in rural areas…. MORE

Date Posted: August 26, 2021.

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