by Abbas Ali
The engagement of AKDN in development process of Hunza can be traced back to the late 1940s, when it started its program to educate people of Hunza by opening up schools and offering scholarship grants for the region’s youth. The pace of development during that phase, because of the scale of AKDN’s engagement, remained slow and basic. However, since early 1980s Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) has intensified its activities in the region, covering a large spectrum of development initiatives at socio-economic and cultural fronts. AKDN has worked as a conduit for arrival of millions of dollars in this beautiful but poverty stricken region where people have lived for centuries in subsistence socio-economic conditions.
Since AKDN’s intensification of its activities the people of this area have experienced positive and progressive shifts in their living conditions during a short span of 20 years. Today, Hunza can proudly boost about over eighty percent literacy rate, low child and maternal mortality rate, control of Malaria, Hepatitis and many other rampant dieses, because of the services and strategies employed by different agencies of AKDN. The agricultural production per capita has increased many folds due to the initiatives of AKRSP through introduction of technologies, construction of water channels, introduction of new seeds, creating awareness, giving education and training to the poor farmers which they had never ever thought of before. The increased income has been rightly invested by the people of Hunza, motivated by their great leader His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan, to educate their children both girls and boys.
Establishment of women organizations (WOs) and Village Organization (VOs) served multiple purposes, at one hand where these grass root community groups have been able first time ever in their history to save and invest millions of rupees for their common benefits. On the other hand, these groups enabled the member of community to create political awareness regarding their rights, responsibilities a and provided a strong political platforms to discuss their issues and problems and put forth in front of government and other NGOs or in case of inter village based political and economic issues. These processes have created leaders at gross roots level.
Surprisingly, as in recent comments regarding the polls, someone named Durbeesh, (which may not be his/her real name but if so, an act of cowardice approaches or he may not be confident of his ideas or feel shame in his own-self about the ideas he is talking about) blames AKDN for depoliticizing the society of Hunza and creating a leadership vacuum. He tries to talk with a Marxist language in terms of classes in society and sometimes talking about religious affiliation of the AKDN with Ismaili community.
Mr. Durbeesh, perhaps, wants to put in practice the ideals of Marx in the society of Hunza, which he may have studied in pure theoretical senses of ideas. The said person does not seem to be familiar with the cultural, political and economic context in which the great Karl Marx had produced his ideas. In terms of religion when Marx is quoted saying that religion is opium of masses. Why did he say that? The idea was established against Christian Orthodoxy, where poor people were told by the church that they will get reward of oppression in this world, in life hereafter (in heaven), if they would disengage themselves from worldly and material well being.
Economically the classes based society was under ruthless capitalism of industrial Europe, where rich were getting richer and poor were getting poorer was the main cause of Marx concern. At the same time economy was base for Marx the most important factor in human life, while culture, politics and religion as super structure. For Marx, labour was mother of all cultures, and intellectual engagement was only possible when there is surplus economic production to feed those who are involved in non-productive intellectual activities, such as politician, students, intellectuals and teacher etc. These all ideas of Marx were based on his experience and study of the Western industrialized world of his time. He has not studied Islam at par with other religions such as Christianity and Judaism, neither he have been to Subcontinent, China, and vast world of Africa. We should have to keep these things in mind when trying to universalize Marxist ideology and so called leftist notions.
Let us now talk about AKDN. Doesn’t AKDN ask everyone in the community to do their best in the society in all material senses? Doesn’t AKDN ask poor communities to improve their economic conditions as one of its top most objectives? Doesn’t AKDN provide an enabling environment for the poverty stricken people at the bottom of social and economic classes?
Through helping people to create additional income and increased economic means AKDN has enabled societies it is serving to create economic surplus that is why today more than any other region of Pakistan, proportionately, people from Hunza are studying in all major universities of Pakistan – me and Durbeesh are in a positions to write and talk about the issues, economics, and society without being involved in physical productive labour.
It is important to remember that AKDN is not a political entity. Neither is its purpose is to push a political movement nor to suppress one. AKDN is to serve marginalized and disadvantaged groups of the society for creation of an enabling social environment for the people to grow.
Nevertheless, it is also important to realize that without basic education, people can not talk about their fundamental human rights in more effective manners. Are not schools the breeding ground for people who bring about social changes?
We cannot deny that the Hunza of today is more politically vibrant, dynamic and energetic than it was ever in the recorded history; our leadership is relatively more educated, aware and strong than it was 20 years back. The choice awareness of competent political leadership that we have today was never ever before.
No doubt that there is always a lot of room for improvement and we the people of Hunza will make that necessary improvement in years to come. Let’s shunt those pessimists and disoriented people and we should be thankful to AKDN for creatting role models of development based on universal and Islamic ethical values of justice, brotherhood, alleviation of poverty and equal distribution of resources in a meritocratic society.
The writer is a graduate of AKU – ISMC, based in London – UK.