London, United Kingdom: His Highness the Aga Khan attended The Pakistan Society’s 65th Annual Dinner in London on Thursday 25 October. Founded in 1951 and based in London, The Pakistan Society is an international organisation that aims to increase public knowledge in Britain of the arts, history, geography, economic life, and institutions of Pakistan. Its patrons are HRH Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh, and HE the President of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
His Highness the Aga Khan has previously attended the Society’s annual dinner in 1962 and again in 2003. Acknowledging Aga Khan’s support for the Society, and his presence at the dinner, Sir William Blackburne, Chairman of the Pakistan Society, commented, “If there is one person above all others who personifies what is best about the world of Islam, it is Your Highness. That you are the spiritual leader of what is numerically a relatively small subset of Islam, speaks volumes for your achievements during your 60 years as its Imam. Likewise, for the very positive impact that your Ismaili followers have had on the communities in which they live, not least in this country.”
HE Muhammad Ayub, Acting High Commissioner for Pakistan to the United Kingdom, said of the Aga Khan: “The people of Pakistan admire your visionary leadership with great respect and affection. We are deeply indebted to the Aga Khan Development Network that continues to play an active and positive role in our society under your able stewardship. Through its programmes, the Network has provided opportunities for the local population.”
During the event, The Pakistan Society Award was presented to Shoaib Sultan Khan, the founding General Manager of the Aga Khan Foundation’s notable Rural Support Programme (AKRSP). As the guest of honour, His Highness the Aga Khan presented the award to Mr. Khan. The award recognises those who have contributed significantly to the advancement of public knowledge and understanding of Pakistan in the United Kingdom.
Shoaib Sultan Khan is considered a pioneer of rural development programmes in Pakistan, having served the government of Pakistan for 25 years, the Aga Khan Foundation for 12 years, and various agencies of the United Nations for 14 years. He also became a board member of the AKRSP in 1992, and is the only person to have served on the board since then.
AKRSP was established by Aga Khan in 1982 to improve the quality of life of local village communities, primarily in Gilgit-Baltistan and Chitral. Speaking of his experiences with AKRSP, Mr. Khan noted that the World Bank assessments of the AKRSP had shown that in the first 10 years, AKRSP had led to a doubling in the average income of the million people in Northern Pakistan. The approach is community-led, and encourages equitable social and economic development in the region. Today, AKRSP projects and programmes contribute effectively to sustainable development with a special focus on poor and vulnerable sections of society in Pakistan and elsewhere.
AKRSP’s past efforts have led to many notable achievements in Pakistan. Key achievements include manifold increase in incomes, construction/rehabilitation of 4,419 small infrastructure projects, the planting of tens of millions of trees, the development of hundreds of acres of marginal lands, mobilisation of nearly $5 million village savings, and the establishment of more than 5,045 community organisations.