Continuing spirit of close partnership can materialise major dev agenda
Says Prince Aga Khan
The Daily Star Bangladesh – Unb, Dhaka
Prince Karim Aga Khan yesterday said a continuing spirit of close partnership would be required to materialise the major development agenda of Bangladesh.
“The Aga Khan Development Network’s agenda for Bangladesh reflect your agenda. To achieve the agenda will require a continuing spirit of close partnership,” he said this while he was addressing a banquet in honour of him.
Chief Adviser Fakhruddin Ahmed hosted the state banquet at Hotel Sonargaon.
Aga Khan took note of the strides made here in controlling population growth, developing export trade, establishing micro-credit programmes, improving early childhood care, extending education, especially for women, and fighting corruption – in addition to doubling per capita GDP over the past two decades.
He said the challenge now is to make development both sustainable and equitable, so that it fairly benefits people of all classes, cultures and regions.
In a knowledge society, he said, the most productive investments ‘we can make are investments in education. And education is another priority we share with the Bangladeshi people.’
He said he thinks appropriate that one of his central purposes on this visit will be to lay the foundation stone of a new Aga Khan Academy in Dhaka.
He said this school would be one mode in a network of 18 high-quality schools located throughout the developing world, global in outlook, but deeply rooted in the local culture, providing a world-class education for boys and girls of all backgrounds, independent of ability to pay.
“It will educate promising students and develop inspiring teachers. It will be a strong educational resource for the entire country,” he said.
He mentioned that his grandfather built on this tradition by founding a network of some 300 educational institutions, including Aligarh University in India. “And we renewed this commitment more recently through the founding of The Aga Khan University and the University of Central Asia.”
Referring to celebration of a half century as Imam of the Shia Ismaili Muslims he said his visit to Bangladesh is an important part of that celebration.
“When I inherited my office five decades up from my Grandfather, Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah Aga Khan, I also inherited the special feeling he had for this part of the world.”
“I remember in particular his response to the partition of India, when he actively encouraged a large number of members of the Ismaili Community to settle in what was then East Pakistan. They found a warm welcome here, and were pleased in integrate fully into Bengali life,” he told the function.
He noted that the spirit of partnership in turn has reflected the spirit of pluralism which also characterises this society — the readiness of people to work creatively, side by side, with those who are different from them.
“As we look to the future of development in Bangladesh, it is important to be realistic about the challenges. But it is also important to remember the distance which has been traveled and the building blocks which are already in place.”
Aga Khan offers community services
Earlier, Prince Aga Khan offered his community’s services to build bridge between Bangladesh and central Asian countries for promoting socioeconomic relations.
He also expressed his interest in investing in various socioeconomic sectors, including financial services, education, and health, in Bangladesh.
The spiritual leader of the Ismaili community, who arrived in Dhaka earlier in the day on a four-day visit to Bangladesh, made the offer when he called on CA at his office in the afternoon and discussed various socioeconomic maters.
Before formal meeting, the CA and the prince had a one-to-one parley for a while at the CA’s office.
Responding to Aga Khan, Fakhruddin said Bangladesh would definitely try to take advantage of the support of the Aga Khan community in expanding trade and investment opportunities in the central Asian countries.
Prince Aga Khan, who last came to Bangladesh in 1993, said they basically focused on standard education at primary and secondary levels and try to harness talents of students to make them best educated and skilled.
In this regard, he mentioned setting up of an educational academy in Dhaka which will be centre of excellence in education where poor meritorious students will also have access.
Listing a number of promising sectors for investment, like banking, telecommunications and agro-processing industries, the CA said the members of Aga Khan Community could take advantage of investment in these areas.
He also made a request for establishing hospital in Bangladesh as it has tremendous prospects and huge number of patients.
Responding positively, the prince said they have set up world-class health centres in Kabul, Karachi and Kazakhstan.
The CA appreciated various socioeconomic activities in Bangladesh by Aga Khan Foundation (AKF) and Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN).
During the meeting the CA asked for revival of the once-popular Aga Khan Gold Cup Football Tournament in Dhaka. Prince Karim Aga Khan responded positively.
The prince said they have investment in health service, education, leather, financial service, microfinance, industry, rural development and rural energy industry.
CA’s Press Secretary Syed Fahim Munaim, who was present at the meeting, briefed newsmen about the outcome of the talks.
Shafik Sachedina, director of diplomatic affairs, and Habib Hirji, president of Aga Khan Council for Bangladesh, were present on the prince side while Foreign Adviser
Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, Principal Secretary to the CA Ali Imam Majumder and Secretary to CA’s Office Kazi Aminul Islam were on CA’s side.
On his arrival at Zia International Airport (ZIA) at around 1.30pm, a red carpet reception was accorded to the prince.
Chief Adviser Fakhruddin Ahmed received the distinguished guest at VVIP tarmac.
A smartly turned out contingent drawn from army, navy and air force gave a guard of honour to Prince Aga Khan. He took salute standing on a decorated podium at the tarmac and then inspected the guard of honour.
Later, the chief adviser introduced his cabinet members with Aga Khan on the presentation line, while other members were introduced by the chief of protocol. President of Aga Khan Council also introduced the members of the council with the prince on the presentation line.
Finance Adviser Mirza Azizul Islam, LGRD Adviser M Anwarul Iqbal, Foreign Adviser Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, Ambassador of Switzerland and Dean of diplomatic corps Dora Rapold, Cabinet Secretary Ali Imam Majumder, Quarter Master General of Bangladesh Army Lt Gen Jahangir Alam Chowdhury, Naval Chief Vice Admiral Sarwar Jahan Nizam, Air Force Chief Air Marshal SM Ziaur Rahman and senior civil and military official were also present on the presentation line.
Bangladesh’s Ismaili Muslims, carrying Bangladeshi and their own community flags in front of the VVIP terminal, greeted Price Karim Aga Khan.
Later, a ceremonial motorcade took Aga Khan to Tejgaon Old Airport from where he flew to Savar National Memorial to pay respect to the martyred freedom fighters of the Independence War.