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A Giant Development Guru in Compassionate Cry: speech of Mr. Shoaib Sultan Khan of Pakistan in Hunza Valley

September 26, 2018

By Fazal Amin Beg

In September 2012, the Aga Khan Rural Support Program (AKRSP), a Project of Aga Khan Foundation, Pakistan, organized a highly remarkable event in remembrance of its thirty years journey and in recognition of the services rendered and development projects/programs initiated and accompanied by highly impressive professionals and volunteers from various parts of Pakistan and abroad. among them were the founding General Manager of AKRSP, Mr. Shoaib Sultan Khan(a highly respected development guru of Asia Region) as well as the selfless indigenous/community leaders and activists from gilgit-Baltistan and Chitral (GBC).
I was an employee of AKRSP (serving this esteemed organization as Manager of the Emergency Field Office for Gojal, Upper Hunza from May 2012 to June 2013) the honorable Shoaib Sultan Khan visited the disaster area , particularly Sost irrigation tunnel that was constructed by the community and robustly supported by the founding General Manager of AKRSP in the second half of 1980. In addition, I was one of the participants of the grand event that took place at Duykar, upper Altit in Central Hunza and I had captured the event in voice in my digital voice recorder. I’m therefore presenting Mr. Shoaib Sultan Khan’s speech that he had delivered on September 22, 2012. the orginal speech is in Urdu but I have translated it into English. Hope the English version of his speech would be of a high interest and value of learning for those who are development professionals, scholars and researchers.
Speech of honorable Shoaib Sultan Khan
Translated in English by Fazal Amin Beg
my respected friends and sisters: Asalam-un Alaikum.
first and foremost, I’m highly grateful to AKRSP and Baltit Rurual Support Organization (BRSO) for being generous of giving me this honor. the high level of happiness for me is to see those worthy faces again who remained so pivotal for the development in whatsoever forms we evidence them today in the region have been gathered here.
it was 30 years ago (as I recollect my memories) I was serving (an organization) in Sri Lanka. it was athat time that one day Robert Shaw from Aga Khan Foundation visited me. he shared the idea (and invited me) that I should come to the Northern Areas and lay the foundation of Aga Khan Rural Support Program (AKRSP). I was so stunned that how come His Highness, the Aga Khan, knew about me. I learned that my respected guru, Akhtar Hameed Khan, recommended me for the purpose when the Aga Khan Foundation was looking for a (related) professional from whom the foundation of AKRSP should be alid. it was thus his (Akhtar Hameed Khan’s connection and) role.
when I arrived here (in Gilgit), I was curous to know the thoughts of the founder of the Program (His Highness the aga Khan). what are his visions? what does he want out of the Program? and why did he opt for me (in selection)? how come his blessings could be upon me? rather, in the first meeting with him of mine, I ventured to ask: “Why did you select me for the purpose?” and what could be the objective of the Program?
his Highness said: “I selected you because many people told me that you’ve been rendering such services in development. and that you are highly experienced and have expertise in the field.”
he further stated: “I have already different programs for the communities in the region but most of them are in social ssector development such as education and health. I wish and I am of the opinion that until and unless the peoples economic condition gets improved, there won’t come that change in their lives for which we plan.
but it’s significant that one of the key factors for selecting/hiring you is that the (rural support) programs should be initiated in the entire northern part including Gilgit, Baltistan and Chitral. because, I think that if I broght a bit of prosperity among the people, or develoed an island of quality of life, those islands would not sustain.
I asked His Highness: “Should I then go and initiate the Program in the entire region?? he replied: “Yes, of course. but keep in mind wherever you take the initiative, in those areas the Government should be ready for such Programs. the political activists of the area should also be included in the Program. and more importantly, the religious scholars should also be included in the Program.”
Afterwards, he added further, as at that time, ramzan Merchant was Chairman of the Aga Khan Rural Support Program and sitting with me while taking our breakfast with the Imam in the State Guest House, and His Highness said: “This is my Program and you are fully empowered by me that if any issue emerges, any difficulty you come across, I allow you to come straight towards me. I would not like anyone else’s interference in the middle. however, I must tell you that never I felt the need in 12 years (from 1982-1994)period that I spent (as General Mmanager) in AKRSP, that I should go to him and say I had so and so issues. the reasons were so because all helped and facilitated me whether it was the Government, or the people serving Imamat, or the workers/activists. These were the reasons that the Program (i.e., AKRSPg) got strengthened and spread its roots so quickly. today, you could witness yourselves where stands AKRSP.
it’s interesting that (before coming to Gilgit) people would ask me that: “What will you do when you would reach in the Northern Areas?” I had learned a method and technique from my sage , who would say those methods and techniques were not of him rather they were the crux out of the 150-200 years of experiments of the world. and what was the crux of the lesson? a poor or poorest ( whether a man or a woman) has the ability or aptitude to bring change in his condition. the difficulty with those people is that they do not bring in use their capacity or ability to change their condition. if the obstacles, that are on their ways but they have their understanding of bringing in use their capacity , those people can then change their conditions on their own.
I thus carried these messages with me and reached (for the first time) in a village of Ghizer district called Japuka on December 12, 1982. I met the people whosoever they were such as the religious leaders (Mukhi) and the like. as the Program was of the Imam, they thus said: “We will tell you that what kind of things need to be done in this area? I told those people (in Japuka) that the nature of the Program is so that I may need to go to each household. I emphasized that unless you help me facilitate reaching each household, this Program cannot successfully be launched.
they then asked that what I was thinking to do? I told them that if they convene/gather all households of the village, then the Program could be initiated. they replied me positively and said I should then visit them again after a week.
In brief, after a week I did go to Japuka.my key message to the community was so that I have come here not to listen your issues and problems, neither to remove your difficulties , or nor to listen your demands and act upon them. because, I don’t have the resources with me. they were so surprised to hear that I was telling them I had no resources with me despite the fact the Program was of His Highness. I added: “For what I have come to do with you people is so that I trust and assure you’ve the capacity and you could do amazing things. I have come here to discover and uncover those capacities of yours. I’ve ome here to remove those obstacles prevailing your way ways of capacity and aptitude. on these domains, the community agreed and said they would collaborate.
I made it further clear to them by saying: “Bear in mind the work that is supposed to be done is by you. if you act upon such principles then we could move ahead. yu are not supposed to build your hopes around the projects or programs. there are some responsibilities that need to be carried out by you in practical terms.
they asked what may be the responsibilities? I told them: “Look! At individual level, I cannot do anything for you each. if you organize yourself by getting together and form an organization (for men and women separately), then could be done something for you (as a village community). it’s not only so that you form (a village or women) organization but you need to identify and choose such a person (man or woman) who is honest and sincere/dedicated (for carrying out the projects/activities).”I further stated:”Look! the system in this world gets support also by the capital (money). therefore, you people also need to begin with a system of saving money for yourself in the organization. then we could move ahead. and the main thing that is before us is to build and refine capacities or abilities of those whom you’ve chosen based on their honesty and dedication (for the community). we will thus come up with a proper program and provide them trainings.”
well, you all know it better what kind of ideas were shared and what type of actions were taken. sometimes, some people will ask that what could be our (AKRSP’s) limit to help the community practically? I then responded that the limited needs to be specified by yourself in this connection. I am not going to opt for and perform that task , which you cannot do. similarly, you would not press on me to perform that task, which you cannot do. when it’s so, the limit of collaboration is then defined here.
sometimes, when I would go to those areas where the village communities were not Isma’ilis, they would ask me: “Sir, why don’t you tell Aga Khan to do so and so things for us.” I would then reply to them by saying: “Look! I have not come in your areas to listen your demands. I have come to you to know what you could do yourself but so far you could not perform or materialize them.”
anyway, it’s a long story. the main achievement before me is that the prescription or formula, handed over to me by my guru , which was about the principles of development, you acted upon the. you acted upon those principles in such a manner that you made me famous in the world. the more and more I appreciate your commitments and zeal of struggles, and the more and more I pay my indebtedness to you people, it’s insufficient, indeed. sometimes, ‘m so ashamed when my name is taken at different places with exaggeration. I contributed a very minute part of mine.
there was a renowned sculptor named Michael Angelilo, who would reply to the appreciations of people in such a manner: “I have done nothing in making the sculpture. the figure was already present within the marble. I just removed the useless matters from the top and sides.” in short, I witnessed the same experience here in (the context of) Gilgit-Baltistan and Chitral, where each man and woman possessed the image or capacity internally. AKRSP performed its vital role only in ters of enabling environment and removed the obstacles that were on the way .
my guru would always advise me that success of the Program is not connected with the secured position that you’ve become General Manager of AKRSP. or that you’ve the apparent support of His Highness for you. or that the colleagues and activists that are with you work with high zeal and enthusiasm. but rather, the success of the Program will only be (fully) dependent upon the honest and dedicated persons (men and women) who will lead the village and women organizations (at the grassroots level).
today, I witness again those people (men and women) sitting before me in this gathering, who worked with their true faith and sincerity . so, all the credits of success of AKRSP thus go to these people.
and those who pace ahead, as the General manager Malik said, that if you like to sustain the achievements of whatsoever you’ve had so far, then your own organizations and institutions, I’d like you to make the distinction between “your own organizations” and “for you the organizations.” AKRSP is an organization “for you”; while Baltit Rural Support Organization (as a Local Support Organization or LSO) is “your own organization.” there is a big difference between both the notion. therefore, the organizations that you people would form further and if they they sustain in the future, then the development activities will continue (effectively).
as Malik said that if you yourself cannot generate the budget of your expenses and for such requirements you depend on other people or organizations, then there is no point at all (regarding the respective organizations). furthermore, a highly important tip needs to be noted between your organizations and other organizations. the roots of your organizations are within your village organizations (for men and women). if the village organizations do not appreciate your performance,if the village organizations do no support your efforts, if the village organizations do not acknowledge your efforts that you people are doing something for them, you are then a dummy (mu’alaq) organization. well, you may put your efforts to mobilze resources from here and there but you won’t be able tp dproduce theintended results for which the organizations have been formed.
I’d therefore request you people, as I’ve a bit unachieved wish (qalq), that if for some years more I would have spent my time with AKRSP, I might have formed these organizations (LSOs) and have left. this is what I have a desire for which I’m a bit upset that if I had formed these organizations and would have left AKRSP so that the LSOs financial dependence should not have been left on others. when I ask the LSO officials how much could be their financial requirement for management, they reply such as fifteen thousand only per month, or twenty thousand or thirty thousand and so on. if you look at the factual figures within the village and women organizations (VWOs) , there could be two thousand or more than two and a half thousand members. if a member contributes PKR ten or fifteen rupees per month, the expenses will be met internally and you’ll be self-reliant. but I’m happy ,though late but never too late (deer oad, durust oyad), that Malik is at least driving on the same path where I had left it. I am pretty hopeful that he will complete that task.
today, it’s a day of immense pleasure for me.it’s an emotional day for mme….. (Mr. Khan weeps here at this point). forgive me please. sometimes, I cannot control over my emotion. but the reality is so that the affection which I have for you people, and all of you as you have given love to me, whose name I should take and whose could b left . all of you are sitting here and all are highly respectable for me. everthing these people have done for me. I could have not word to express. I would like to pay you all my sincere gratitude . (Khan ends with tears of cry).

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  • Reply Shadil Jan June 21, 2019 at 9:36 am

    Very well narrated sir, hats off to you,

    • Reply fazalamin June 23, 2019 at 7:47 pm

      So kind of you, Shahdil Jan. Hope the narratives and experiences of Mr. Shoaib Sultan Khan will prove themselves like the gems for professionals like you who work in rural development organization (such as NRSP).

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