Speech of Mawlana Hazar Imam at a public meeting at the Concert Hall - Dushanbe, Tajikistan, 27 May 1995

Your Excellency President Rakhmanov
Distinguished Guests
Dear Friends

Today's gathering is a remarkable event. It brings together people from the many parts of Tajikistan, a country that, though small, has a rich and challenging diversity. It brings together representatives of a variety of neighboring and distant countries that wish well to the people of Tajikistan. It brings together religious and secular leaders deeply concerned with the future of Tajikistanís people.

It marks the entry of Tajikistan into a world of opportunity, of competition and of rapid change. It marks the serious engagement of Tajikistan with the means of meeting those challenges and making the most of those opportunities.

I come to this visit and to this gathering with the hope that, as Imam of the Ismaili Community, I can be of some help in furthering he efforts of Tajikistanís people in improving their lives. Tajikistan has sought and doubtless will seek collaboration and help from many quarters, and appropriately so, but I should be pleased if the people of Tajikistan found me as one of the effective sources of such help.

In order to open the way to that possibility, perhaps I should not finish my visit to Tajikistan without describing something about the role of the Imam of the Ismaili Community and the principles by which the Imamat works to fulfil its role in these modern times. I suspect that if we have a shared understanding of the Imamat and its functioning, we shall find it easier to identify areas of common ground and fruitful future cooperation.

Six principles from the foundation of the Imamatís work in development : breadth of responsibility, an apolitical stance, pluralism, a long view, work across disciplinary boundaries, and work across political boundaries. The breadth of responsibility is based on the belief in Islam that people must attend to both their spiritual development and their physical needs. The apolitical stance is in recognition that there is value in listening to the widest spectrum of culture, religious, economic and political views, seeking wisdom where ever it is to be found. Embracing pluralism, I have found that a wonderful variety of people can collaborate effectively in the advancement of the well-being of people around the world. The long view is an acknowledgement that fundamental profound change are needed to permanently improve the circumstances of people usually take time, so one should not shy away from undertakings with a long time course. Working across disciplinary boundaries allows for synergy of efforts, as when improvements in health and enhancement of economic circumstances improves opportunities for better health and education. Working across political boundaries allows the crafting of regional solutions of problems that cannot be solved locally, as the Aga Khan Development Network as found in its work in East and West Africa and South Asia.

It is with these principles in mind that during this visit I have examined the situation of the peoples of Tajikistan in order to determine whether and how I might be of help, in addition to assisting the Pamir Relief and Development Program in converting from humanitarian relief to long-term development. In deed, I have concluded that some possibilities do exist. Clearly these possibilities will need to be tested carefully by the nation and regional Governments in Tajikistan, and by local institutions that would be involved, to make sure that others share my interest in them. But let me take the opportunity now to offer several possibilities.

First, in response to the need to enhance the strength of Tajikistanís universities in certain critical disciplines, I would be willing to create an Education Fund to support training in English language and Economics. Such a fund would extend over a two-year interval and be focused particularly on faculty training. It would be available to universities throughout Tajikistan.

Second, recognizing the specific possibilities at the University of Khorog, I am prepared to help fund a long-term development plan for that University. This plan would, I hope, lead the University of Khorog to a position as a major regional resource with a strong teaching and research program in disciplines of particular importance for the people of Tajikistan.

Third, convinced of the importance of opening regional transport linkages for Tajikistan, I would like to cooperate with the Government. Tajikistan through Afghanistan to Pakistan. Considerable study will be required of the technical and economic features of such a project, but the need is clear, and I shall do my best to support the efforts of the governments involved.

Fourth, in the interest of forwarding Tajikistanís efforts to participate successfully in the market economy, I offer to help create a Badakhshan Development Fund. Th is fund would be a joint initiative of the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development a the Government of Tajikistan. The activities of the joint initiative might involve efforts in industry, mining, financial services or infrastructure.

These four initiatives, and others that might be envisioned in the future, are conceived to address the needs of the people of Tajikistan in a manner consistent with the principles of action of the Imamat. If these initiatives, President Rakhmanov, are found by your Government also to be consistent with the appropriate principles of the Government of Tajikistan and institutions within its boundaries, then real progress can be realized.

This visit to Tajikistan, so kindly hosted by President Rakhmanov, has taught me much about Tajikistan and its people. I have been deeply impressed by the spirit of the people of Tajikistan, with their energy, their intelligence and their resilience.

This visit to Tajikistan, so kindly hosted by President Rokhmanov, has taught me much about Tajikistan and its people. I have been deeply impressed by the spirit of the people of Tajikistan, with their energy, their intelligence and their resilience. You are fortunate, indeed, President Rakhmanov to lead such an impressive population - and I am fortunate to have the prospect of continuing collaboration with you and them.


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