Item(s) for the ‘Ismaili News’ Category

Jul 9,2007

Spiritual leader’s 50 years of guidance recognized with events throughout the year in Calgary

Graeme Morton, Calgary Herald
Published: Saturday, July 07, 2007

Calgary’s Ismaili Muslim community is ready to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the ascension to the Imamat of their spiritual leader, the Aga Khan.

While the actual anniversary will be marked at five local Ismaili jamatkhanas (places of gathering) next Wednesday, events are planned throughout the year, says Sameera Sereda a volunteer with the Shia Ismaili Muslim Community of Calgary.

Born in Switzerland in 1936, the Aga Khan became Imam to the world’s Ismaili Muslims on July 11, 1957, succeeding his grandfather. He was a 20-year-old Harvard University student at the time.

For Ismailis, the Aga Khan is the 49th hereditary Imam and a direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad,” Sereda says. “That direct link of a living descendant is very special to us; it speaks of 1,400 years of history.” Sereda says the Aga Khan’s mission as leader of the world’s Ismailis is multi-faceted.

“As our spiritual leader, his role is to interpret the faith and to advance the well-being of the Ismaili community from both a spiritual and a worldly aspect and improve the quality of life of the societies in which Ismailis live,” she says.

“But it goes far beyond that. We are called to contribute positively to our community and our world; that’s a fundamental ethic of Islam.” The Stampede is a prime time for local Ismailis to pitch in, Sereda says. A pancake breakfast this morning under a large tent near the airport is expected to draw 8,000 people. It will help celebrate new bonds being forged between Calgary Ismailis and Habitat for Humanity to help tackle the city’s need for affordable housing.

“For us, volunteering and giving back to our community is a faith-based value,” says Sereda, a Calgary legal recruiter. Sereda says in recent years local Ismailis have formed partnerships with a number of local social agencies to offer both their sweat and expertise.

“Habitat for Humanity is the latest in that history and it’s going to be a long-term commitment,” Sereda says.

Sereda says the Aga Khan Development Network, an umbrella organization active in many of the world’s poorest regions, embodies the social conscience of Islam expressed through concrete, humanitarian action.

“Its work in health, education and many other fields is completely non-denominational. It responds wherever the need is greatest, specifically in areas of Africa and Asia,” she adds.

Calgary is home to about 10,000 of Canada’s estimated 90,000 Ismailis.

The first major wave of Ismaili immigration to Canada came in the early 1970s, spawned by the mass expulsion of South Asians from Uganda by dictator Idi Amin and turmoil in other East African nations.

One of those was Calgary writer Mansoor Ladha, who has met the Aga Khan twice; first in 1968 as a young reporter in Tanzania, the second time as a leader of Edmonton’s Ismaili community in 1979.

“In Tanzania, I interviewed him about economic development and political issues of the time such as apartheid in South Africa,” recalls Ladha.

“In Edmonton, it was very much a visit by our spiritual leader. What struck me was how effortlessly and eloquently he could speak in either world.

“You could immediately tell the impressive qualities of the man that have made him so respected,” says Ladha, who is writing a book about Ismaili settlement in Canada.

The Aga Khan, Sereda says, has always had a strong affinity for Canada, a country he holds up as an example of a progressive, pluralistic society in a turbulent world. In partnership with the federal government, he is opening the Global Centre for Pluralism in Ottawa. It will act as an institution for research, study and promotion of pluralistic values and practices in culturally diverse societies worldwide.

“Even within our Calgary Ismaili community, there are people from many different countries,” Ladha adds.

Sereda says Ismailis will take the next 12 months to celebrate the Aga Khan’s leadership over 50 years, but also “to search our own hearts for what we can do as individuals to serve mankind.” She says she expects the Aga Khan will visit as many of the 25-plus countries where Ismaili Muslims live as he can in the next year.

“The last time he was in Calgary was 1992, so we hope we’ll be on his list.”

Jul 3,2007


The EastAfrican

Afghanistan has turned to a development model first tried in Nairobi in 1986 to give its reconstruction a badly needed burst of energy after nearly three decades of war against Russia and a civil war.

The meeting in 1986 in the Kenyan capital was hosted by then President Daniel arap Moi and it was there that the Aga Khan raised, for the first time, the need for governments to provide an enabling environment to attract investments. 

Kenya at the time faced some of the problems bedevilling Afghanistan today, with reluctance by foreign investors to move into a high- risk environment topping the list.

It was at the Nairobi meeting that the phrase “enabling environment” was coined. It signifies the presence of political stability, safety and security, citizens’ rights, predictable democratic practices and efficient legal and administrative frameworks. 

Last week, a similar message was passed on to Kabul during a high-level conference believed to be the largest such gathering held in the Afghan capital in recent years. It was jointly organised by the Afghanistan government and the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) to help spur development in the war-weary country. The World Bank, the United Nations Development Fund and the Asian Development Bank were also involved in hosting the Conference, which was attended by the Afghan President Hamid Karzai, his First Vice-President Ahmad Zia Massoud and several Cabinet ministers and government officials.

The prescription was one that any country that has seen its economy looking up in the recent years knows only too well — open up for business, ease movement of goods and services into and out of the country, fix the infrastructure, attract foreign investment and ensure a secure environment, the ingredients for the so-called enabling environment.

While the case at hand was the reconstruction of Afghanistan, many lessons abound for other developing countries, especially Kenya and the Eastern African region, where the idea was first planted.

Badly in need of foreign investment to set it on the path to growth, Afghanistan is reaching out for goodwill from key regional and world heavyweights in politics, business, aid and civil society.

Key leaders who have chosen to help the country rise, and who participated at last week’s Enabling Environment Conference, included Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, the Aga Khan, Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, Celtel founder Dr Mo Ibrahim and Prince Amyn Aga Khan. Others were representatives from the World Bank, the UNDP and the Asian Development Bank.

The conference provided a rare opportunity for the state, business and civil society — including multilateral institutions such as the World Bank — to come together and discuss the measures that needed to be taken to set the mountainous country on the road to development.

The challenge is huge, but two aspects stand out. First is the need to reduce the insecurity orchestrated by Taliban insurgents, who are yet to accept defeat five years after they were deposed from power post-9/11. Second is the long-thriving growing of opium poppy has ensured that the country remains the chief producer of the heroin worldwide.

The deliberations gave birth to eight action points, whose implementation was seen as key to the country’s development:

1. Enactment of laws to establish the basic legal and regulatory framework that will encourage private sector involvement in social and economic development.

2. Strengthening the governance and operations of civil society organisations to enhance their contributions to the country’s social and economic development.

3. Alleviation of constraints hampering the operations of the private and public sectors.

4. Involvement of the private sector in the provision of public services through private-public partnerships (PPPs) and other means in areas such as power generation and distribution, water supply, transportation infrastructure and social development.

5. Facilitating access to land by clarifying property rights, simplifying procedures for the transfer of titles and allowing for longer-term leases.

6. Significantly expanding the outreach of a broad range of financial services throughout the country.

7. Building the structures, systems and capacity of mediation and arbitration tribunals to ensure efficient and impartial resolution of disputes.

8. Instilling active practice of social responsibility and philanthropy that leads to the institutionalisation of private (business and individual) support for economic and social development through civil society.

Setting the pace at the beginning of the conference, the Aga Khan called for a “great alliance” of government, communities and business to help drive growth in the developing world.

He said that while there are plenty of cases of good work by each of the three, their potential to improve lives is watered down by the fact that they apply their efforts separately.

The Aga Khan, the 49th hereditary Imam (spiritual leader) of the Shia Ismaili Muslims, was joined by several world leaders in calling on governments in developing countries to pursue policies that drive development by accelerating business growth.

“Laying the state’s political foundation is a necessary first step for an enabling environment, but even effective government can take us only so far,” said the Aga Khan, who marks his 50th anniversary as the leader of the Ismaili Community this year. “And that is why we have been talking more in recent years about two other sectors: first, what I often call the role of civil society; and, second, the capacities of the private sector.”

He said one of the major obstacles to development today “is that the efforts of all three sectors are too often scattered and fragmented”.

President Karzai told the conference that the long-term future of Afghanistan would depend on Afghans themselves. “Afghanistan’s prosperity today and in the future will be linked to our ability to attract and support private business,” he said. 

Malaysian Premier Badawi said one of his country’s key decisions in the 1980s was to progressively reduce the role of the state in conducting business. “We made the private sector, not the public sector, the primary engine of growth. We opened and liberalised our economy,” he said.

Speaking to journalists later, the Aga Khan urged patience with emerging countries as they work on reconstructing their economies.

“Society does not change that quickly,” he said. “I don’t expect a country that has just come out of decades of civil war to change within a few years,” the Aga Khan said in response to reports that some local businessmen had misgivings about the Kabul Government’s commitment to implementing the conference’s action points.

He discussed AKDN’s involvement in organising the Enabling Environment Conference as part of efforts to rebuild Afghanistan.

“Here we are talking about a young government working with a constitution that has not been tested?. What people are looking for is confidence in the process of change,” he said.

The Aga Khan said it was important for development agents to understand the value systems that drive poor communities and to find ways of working with them to improve their living standards.

He added that there is a need to develop civil society at the community level to help in driving growth.

“Ultimately, it is civil society that brings development. It is not the money, it is the institutions. You need money, but what changes lives are the institutions,” said the Aga Khan.

He said there were instances where international development agents have misled emerging countries, citing Africa, where countries that attained independence 50 years ago were discouraged from investing in higher education.

“Experts looked at the cost of producing a Bachelor of Arts graduate on a balance sheet and realised the individual would never bring back the money put into higher education. As a result, many African countries did not invest in higher education. 

“Several years later, experts came back and declared higher education in Africa a disaster,” he said, adding that many of the affected countries were today turning to civil society to help them provide decent higher education.

When he took the floor, Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz said the key to growth for the developing world were bold policy reforms, each country’s diaspora and the repeal of foreign investment caps.

Mr Aziz said most of these decisions required great courage, adding that experience around the world shows that the three things have helped emerging countries sustain development.

“In Pakistan, we are already seeing the benefit of the government having insisted on reforms that saw ministries solely focused on policy formulation, new institutions created for regulation and business left to the private sector,” he said.

He said the second thing was tapping the often immense potential inherent in a nation’s diaspora, citing the case of China: “The single-most important factor that propelled China’s growth initially was the Chinese diaspora.” 

The third point, he said, was allowing unlimited access for foreign investment in national economies. He discounted investment caps favoured by some countries to limit the level of equity that foreign investors can hold in different sectors.

“I call it the investment rate card. They tell you that as a foreign investor, you can only hold 30 per cent in this sector and 50 per cent in the other. In Pakistan, we have no such rate card,” he said in a keynote address during the closing of the conference.

Mr Aziz said developing countries should compare equity and debt: “If you go for equity, you pay back if the investment makes money, but if you go for debt, you pay back either way.” 

The PM said such policies have helped his country sustain annual growth for eight years, consistently registering more than 7 per cent in the past five years.

Jun 20,2007

Roshan, Cisco, Aga Khan University Hospital and the French Medical Institute for Children Team up to Expand Healthcare Access by Linking Afghan Hospitals to International Medical Institutions

Kabul · June 20th, 2007 /PRNewswire/ — Roshan, the leading telecom operator in Afghanistan, today launched a pioneering Telemedicine solution in Afghanistan to expand healthcare access and delivery across the country. Using broadband technology, wireless video consultation and digital image transfer, the Telemedicine project will provide hospitals in Afghanistan with real-time access to specialist diagnosis, treatment and training expertise from abroad.

Roshan has teamed with Cisco, Aga Khan University Hospital (AKUH), French Medical Institute for Children (FMIC) and other technology suppliers to launch the project. The first phase of the project has already linked FMIC in Kabul, Afghanistan to AKUH in Karachi Pakistan, enabling access to a broad array of radiology expertise provided by AKUH. Subsequent phases will link major Afghan regional hospitals to the FMIC, which is being developed as an Afghan center of medical excellence. Eventually, the links can be extended to medical institutions in Europe and North America. The Telemedicine project developed in Afghanistan is also seen as a model for addressing healthcare delivery shortcomings in other developing countries where access to medical diagnosis, treatment and training is limited.

“Access to healthcare, especially specialist diagnosis and treatment, remains a critical problem in Afghanistan,” said Karim Khoja, CEO of Roshan. “Telemedicine technology provides a solution that has the potential to dramatically expand access to quality medical care for Afghans whose only option previously was to seek specialist diagnosis or treatment overseas. Telemedicine not only immediately enhances access to medical diagnosis and treatment, but it also helps to build and sustain the nation’s healthcare capacity through sharing of expertise. Patients will now benefit from the international knowledge without the need to transport specialists to the country.”

“Our Government is striving to improve the quality of life of our people and providing quality healthcare is one of our top priorities. Telemedicine is the perfect marriage between the speed, convenience and cost-effectiveness of wireless and broadband technology. This innovative use of technology and telecommunications to enhance healthcare delivery will help underpin our efforts to meet the nation’s other development challenges,” said Amirzai Sangin, Minister of Communications and Information Technology, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.

“At Cisco we believe that quality healthcare is one of our world’s most vital needs. That is why we have taken a leadership position to develop technologies, such as our medical grade network that enables collaboration and sharing of health information over a secure and intelligent infrastructure. We are proud to be a part of this collaborative effort to deliver a telemedicine solution to Afghanistan,” said Sam Alkharrat, Cisco Managing Director, Gulf & Pakistan. Cisco, together with other telecommunications suppliers, is providing digital image transfer systems and video consultation for the Telemedicine project.

Telemedicine involves the use of broadband technology that provides real-time high speed access for the transfer of medical imaging, video, data and voice. Applications include the ability to send real-time X-ray, ultrasound and CAT Scans (Computerized Axial Tomography) for evaluation. The technology also enables e-learning and training through video consultation.

The initial service provided will be teleradiology, the electronic transmission of radiological patient images. There will be an average of 60 to 80 transmissions and 10 to 15 teleconferences between hospitals per month, with the numbers increasing over time. Telemedicine capabilities will gradually be expanded to address different services and procedures including evaluation of tissue samples and the on-line performance of medical and surgical procedures.

“This project not only represents cooperation between the companies and institutions involved, but is also an important collaborative effort between Afghanistan and Pakistan to address regional healthcare needs,” said Firoz Rasul, President of Aga Khan University. “Telemedicine will dramatically expand the healthcare diagnostic and education of health professionals, who will be accessible to the people of Afghanistan and will allow hospitals across the nation to leverage AKUH’s world-class medical expertise.”

“FMIC is on the front lines of healthcare delivery in Afghanistan, serving per month an average of 4,000 patients in the out patients department, 3,000 patients in radiology and 14,000 lab tests. Telemedicine is already allowing us to expand the resources at our disposal and draw on the expertise of AKUH for specialist consultation, second opinions and treatment input, resulting in speedier diagnosis and treatment and better outcomes for patients,” said Kate Rowlands, General Director, FMIC. “As the project expands to Afghanistan’s regional hospitals, patients across the nation, regardless of their socio-economic status, will benefit from the combined expertise and resources of FMIC and AKUH.”

Roshan has spearheaded development of the Telemedicine project from initial conceptualization through implementation as part of its ongoing commitment to serving as a catalyst for the reconstruction of Afghanistan.

About Roshan

Roshan (Telecom Development Company Afghanistan Ltd) is Afghanistan’s leading Telecom Operator, with a countrywide network of 180 cities and towns. Roshan is owned by an international consortium made up of the following shareholders: The Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development (AKFED) – 51%, Monaco Telecom International (MTI), a subsidiary of Cable & Wireless – 36.75%, MCT Corp – 12.25%. Roshan directly employs more than 900 people and provides indirect employment to more than 20,000 people. Roshan has invested over US$ 260 million in Afghanistan and is the country’s single largest investor and tax payer contributing approximately 6% of the Afghan Government’s overall domestic revenue. Roshan is deeply committed to Afghanistan’s reconstruction and socio-economic development.

About the Aga Khan Development Network

The Aga Khan Development Network, which has been supporting humanitarian assistance and rehabilitation in Afghanistan since 1995, works for the common good of all citizens, regardless of their gender, origin or religion. In all its activities, AKDN is guided by Islam’s ethic of compassion for those less fortunate. At the same time, the Islamic ethic discourages a culture of dependency, lest it undermine a person’s dignity. AKDN’s ultimate aim, therefore, is to help the poor achieve a level of self-reliance whereby they are able to plan their own livelihoods and help those even more needy than themselves. Its programs in Afghanistan come under a comprehensive development agreement signed by His Highness the Aga Khan and President Hamid Karzai.

About Aga Khan University Hospital

Aga Khan University Hospital in Karachi is committed to providing the diagnosis of disease and team management of patient care. These facilities are backed up by highly specialized doctors and nurses as well as quality support services. The Hospital’s multidisciplinary approach to diagnosis and care ensures a continuum of safe and high quality care for patients.

About French Medical Institute For Children (FMIC), Kabul

FMIC focuses on its missions of providing quality care, being accessible to all sections of society, upgrading the human capacity within Afghanis and providing a model for sustainability. FMIC has established itself as a reputable hospital delivering high quality care for children. Volumes have continued to soar; in 2006, FMIC served 1,280 inpatients and 23,000 outpatients in the clinics in one full year and already in the first five months of 2007, it has seen 987 inpatients and 13,365 outpatients in clinics, growths of 85% and 39% respectively. Pediatric cardiac surgery has been introduced for the first time in Afghanistan and over 170 cases done to date. Sophisticated orthopedic and general surgery cases are being performed regularly. Laboratory at FMIC is being monitored regularly for quality for its hematology/clinical chemistry testing and over 70 tests are being done on-site, with other tests being sent to Karachi. Radiology services include a CT Scan, general radiography and ultrasound.