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Speech by Hazar Imam at the Civic Reception held in Karachi 1970-02-09

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Event - 1970-02-08
Monday, 1970, February 9
Ismaili Mirror
Aga Khan Gymkhana, Karachi
Aga Khan IV (H.H. Prince Karim)

Let me here and now publicly reaffirm the Ismailia Community's decision to build for Karachi a really first class Medical and Nurses' Training College, attached to the finest hospital which modern science can devise.

Thank you, Sir, for the generous tributes you have paid to my family and myself in your Address of Welcome. I am most honoured that the civic dignitaries of this great metropolis of Karachi have once again allowed me the opportunity to address your leading citizens. Here, as I have often said, I feel very much at home and I am especially proud and happy on this day to have my wife with me. This is the first time that my wife has visited Pakistan since her early childhood, and we have both been most moved by the warmth of the welcome given us everywhere and the innumerable acts of kindness shown to us - of which this reception is but the latest example.

Karachi was the birthplace of my grandfather and for this, as well as for many other reasons, it enjoys a very special place in the hearts of my family. Our outlook, our interest and our origins may be very international but there are some cities we particularly enjoy and I can tell you that Karachi comes very high on our list. It is five years since my last visit here. I am told that the growth of your population has continued and even accelerated. All the more praise, therefore, for the way in which all your municipal services have grappled with such rapid expansion. As I see today, Karachi is a cleaner and better run city even than it was five years ago.

The last time I spoke to you was in December 1964. It gave me a very special feeling of pride on that occasion to be able to announce that my Community and I would build an ultra-modern hospital and medical college here in Karachi. Since that announcement, some of you may have wondered what has been happening behind the scenes. In point of fact, a great deal has happened, but before I tell you about it, let me here and now publicly reaffirm the Ismaili Community's decision to build for Karachi a really first class medical and nurses' training college, attached to the finest hospital which modern science can devise. I have given my word that this promise will be honoured, but I am equally determined that the result of our work will be truly worthy of this city and this country.

So let me explain a little more of what we have been doing. When I made my offer five years ago, I made it conditional upon three pledges by the authorities concerned. I requested first that the land upon which this complex of buildings would be created should be made available to us without charge. Secondly, I asked that the Foundation which I proposed to create in order to finance the project should be exempt from tax.

Finally, I suggested that our builders should be encouraged to employ traditional techniques and concepts of Muslim architecture.

Being aware, no doubt, of my strong and often repeated views on the subject of Muslim architecture, this last request was no sooner asked than granted. So we had scored one out of three. Then, in 1965, came the war with India and all the physical upheaval and economic distortions which were the unavoidable consequences.

However, nearly two years later, on September 14th, 1966, the Government of Pakistan granted us a very fine building site in Karachi. It was the next big step forward and you can imagine how overjoyed we all were to receive this news. Now two of my three requests had been met.

Finally, more than a year later on November 6th, 1967, the Aga Khan Hospital Foundation was granted tax exemption. Three years after my original offer, the last of my conditions had been satisfied. Only then was I in a position to commission the basic planning requirements.

A Planning Committee had already been set up under the Chairmanship of Dr. Habib Patel, who had for many years been the Chairman of the Ismailia Health Board and President of All-Pakistan Medical Association. I followed the Planning Committee's early discussions with close personal attention because I was, and remain, extremely conscious that this is a project of major importance to the future of medicine in Karachi and in Pakistan. And at this point, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to members of this Committee, to the Board of Governors who succeeded it, and to many other distinguished Pakistan Hospital Administrators, architects and members of the medical profession, who have so willingly given us their advise and assistance. These experts gave their time and their professional knowledge to us entirely free of charge and that is a fact which I appreciated very much indeed.

My own initial researches had meanwhile revealed the startling conclusion that the current pace of development in medicine is so great that the average hospital building nowadays becomes almost completely obsolete after only 10 years of existence. Because of this, I decided - rather than simply commissioning an architect and asking him to design a medical college and a general hospital -that I should begin by employing a qualified firm of Health Consultants.

Before we could lay the first stone, we needed to know much more about this country's medical requirements over the next 25 years. We had to determine the size and growth of the hospital's likely catchment area, the changing patterns of population, the principal diseases which would overtake that population. We had to make intelligent estimates of the changing patterns of demand and to devise a hospital which would be sufficiently flexible in design to meet those changes. This was - and still is - a completely new approach to hospital building in this part of the world.

Accordingly, during 1968, Dr. Patel and I visited a series of health consultants in America, France and England. Between us, we must have interviewed well over a score of different firms before we finally selected a group of British health consultants. An agreement with this firm to carry out a feasibility analysis was signed in January 1969.

The consulting team visited Pakistan on March 17th and visited important medical centres in the country that year, and their initial report was completed a few months later. After examining its conclusions, I initiated a further review by all concerned at a meeting in Paris last September. Unfortunately, neither the local Planning Committee nor myself, were convinced that the report was conclusive enough to justify an immediate go-ahead for the project. It produced a great deal of valuable information, but in our view required additional refinement before any further steps could be taken.

I make no apologies at all if those steps involve a little more delay. Because when we do begin to build, we intend to be quite certain that we start with the right foundations.

In this context, I perhaps should point out that I have heard of no recent hospital and medical college even in western countries which has been completed in less than 5 to 10 years following the first decision to proceed. That may sound a long time, but then, we are not building a bungalow, we are creating one of the most complex forms of building layout know to man.

Meanwhile, you will be happy to know that although, to the layman, the physical planning procedures may appear somewhat prolonged, the financial planning is going ahead very fast. The new Foundation which we formed to take care of this aspect was set up in May 1968 and has already made a beginning and has collected some 50 lakhs of rupees to its credit. We shall, of course, need much, much more than this, but once the hospital plans are finalised and made public, we are confident that the additional funds required will be readily forthcoming.

I can only conclude, therefore, by suggesting that the next time I address you on the subject of hospitals, Ladies and Gentlemen, I hope you will be my guests on the premises of a new and very beautiful landmark in this city - the Aga Khan Hospital and Medical College of Karachi.

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