Over the span of the last seven decades, Ismaili Imamat has contributed immensely to improving the quality of life of the people of Pakistan. The history goes back to Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah Aga Khan III, who himself was involved in the freedom movement leading to the creation of Pakistan in 1947.
Ever since the mantle of leadership was passed on to him, Prince Karim Aga Khan IV has expanded his grandfather’s legacy and is best known for his profound and longstanding commitment to the betterment of the people of Pakistan. On a broader spectrum, an animation of the social conscience illustrated in His Highness the Aga Khan’s engagement in development is the establishment of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) which brings together a wide range of private, non-government, non-denominational development agencies that work to improve quality of life of people in the developing world. In his own words, the mandate is “guided by the ethics of Islam” to improve “opportunities and living conditions of the weakest in society, without regard to their origin, gender, or faith.”
To Ismaili Imamat, making weaker sections of the society ‘self-sufficient’ is fundamental, ‘right from the revelation of Islam’. It was back in 1976, at the International Seerat Conference held in Pakistan when the Aga Khan IV highlighted one aspect where Muslims can live in the years ahead in greater prosperity within an ‘’Islamic ethos’’ – and the only way to it, in the words of the Aga Khan, is to be sought “in the Holy Quran and the example of Allah’s last and final Prophet.”
In Pakistan, be it education, health, restoration of cultural heritage, or response to climate change, AKDN, therefore, has always anticipated in serving its people.
Aga Khan University (AKU) is conducting cutting-edge research that is relevant to Pakistan’s specific health risks. A most recent initiative mainly focused on addressing the havoc posed by Climate Change is the AKU’s Institute for Global Health and Development. It is an interdisciplinary initiative with a strong focus on research that aims to address the most pressing global health and development issues, such as achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.
Since 1982, the Gilgit Baltistan and Chitral people have benefited from the Aga Khan Rural Support Program (AKRSP), which promotes socioeconomic growth and the development of human capital (GBC). On the other hand, the Aga Khan Agency for Habitat (AKAH) has strong is working with 500,000 members of mountain communities in Pakistan with the primary goal of assisting them to develop safe, secure, and resilient habitats including seismic-proof buildings and disaster preparedness with early warning systems.
One recent example is Ismaili Imamat’s contribution of $10m to Pakistan, as the devastating floods cripple the country’s infrastructure. In response to the current flood crisis, the AKDN immediately mobilized its agencies including Aga Khan Agency for Habitat (AKAH), Aga Khan Foundation (AKF), Aga Khan University (AKU), and Aga Khan Health Services (AKHS) to provide relief to those affected by the catastrophic floods in Pakistan. This includes not only helping in the evacuation of the affected areas but also health camps and distribution of food and waterproof tents.
These many institutions and programs that bear the Aga Khan’s name and are operating across the country, are a fine example of Ismaili Imamat’s unflinching commitment to the people of Pakistan. The overall goal is to build a civil society that responds to the challenges of social, economic, and cultural progress in the country.