NOVEMBER 17, 1990



Your Excellency the Governor of Sindh, Honourable Chief Minister of Sindh, Honourable Ministers, Your Excellencies, Members of the Board of Trustees, Faculty Members, Distinguished Guests, and Graduating Students of the Aga Khan University,


This joint ceremony, honouring the Aga Khan University's first fifteen Bachelors of Science in Nursing, the third class of physicians graduating from the Faculty of Health Sciences, and ninety-three holders of the diploma in Nursing epitomises the essence of this university: the commitment of these young nurses and doctors, for a new ethic and standard of medical care in the developing world; the pursuit of a new ethic and standard of reaching and research. This proud occasion conveys the hope I place in the growing quality of the nursing profession and higher education in nursing in Pakistan. For professional women doctors, nurses, teachers - will need to play a vital role in the nation's development during the crucial years to come.

As Chancellor, I take this occasion to express my deep and sincere thanks to the Chairman and Trustees for their loyal and inspiring commitment to this institution. The first of Pakistan's independent universities is truly fortunate to be guided by Trustees of such eminence. This magnificent dedication to the cause of higher education in an International University in Pakistan reflects itself all the way through the University from its faculty to its students, from its donors to its administration. To all of you, I express my gratitude and admiration, for in the seven short years since it was chartered in 1983, this university has made admirable progress. And it has done so at times in difficult circumstances.

My pride is intense and my admiration is great for the achievements of the women and men graduating today. They have pursued difficult tasks in a troubled and often disabling environment; they have demonstrated a level of personal courage, commitment and professional quality that leaves no room for doubt. Yet it is not without concern that I think about the future they face. They have given proof of great merit. Will their environment be able to accommodate it? The troubled times that Pakistan has gone through make it difficult to answer that question. There has been so much destructive antagonism in civil society.

Nonetheless there are realistic grounds for optimism.

Through two general elections, the democratic imperative has been growing stronger in Pakistan's young political culture. As it takes root, political action is becoming more mature, and it must become still more routine, more responsible, and more accountable.

Democracy should be society's way of protecting the rights and entitlements of all its members. Entitlement, for the weakest or neediest, to their basic rights. But also, entitlement for the most capable, to their highest hopes: entitlement to a world in which they can struggle to achieve their utmost, and come close to doing so. A world in which the individual merit of men and women can exist, flourish, and grow. For merit is not an anti democratic concept. On the contrary, I believe that creating opportunities for individual excellence is the very essence of democracy: its reason to be.

It is my fervent hope that democracy will serve this purpose throughout the developing world, stimulating a quest for excellence and ever-higher benchmarks of achievement in all areas of social, economic and cultural life. Target-setting is not limited to societies at certain levels of political maturity or historical experience.

Contemporary history for all its wasted opportunities, its floundering in the sands of unproductive dogmas, shows us examples of enormous public achievement. The postwar building of the Japanese economy was a triumph of international development. Through concerted partnership efforts, the public and private spheres in Japan have perfected institutional and policy tools to make the market work for developmental and quality goals. Elsewhere in Asia, newly industralizing states have launched similar strategies for development, with similar success. Indonesia provides one of the most striking recent examples of the ways in which purposeful public policy can realise a wide range of development goals - against the most amazing odds of geographical dispersion, linguistic disparity, ethnic and religious differences.

Constant inquiry about appropriate methods and viable goals is a development philosophy especially well suited to health care professionals, who can afford no complacency about the end product of their efforts.

Just as health care and medical education are critical beacons in the struggle of a community to achieve its highest potential, the status of women and the professions they serve are decisive criteria. They cannot be realised without the full participation and leadership of qualified and creative women. The way that a community, or a nation, excludes or enables women to fulfill its most vital tasks, bespeaks its failure or success. There is neither democracy nor meritocracy in a society that excludes half its members.

Today, this University is increasingly becoming the turning plate of the Aga Khan Health Services. What is the meaning of the configuration where its resources are shared between population-based primary health care and hospitals? Hopefully, it is the ongoing development of an original mode of international health care capable of generating concrete solutions to changing problems. Our growing drive toward the integration of different levels of care represents a major attempt to wrestle with the questions of appropriate intervention and equitable entitlement. As such, I fervently hope that the AKHS will make a unique contribution as a standard of excellence - not just in the developing communities it hopes to serve, but in the global health care community.

Within this context, therefore, I note with happiness the increasing role of this University which is now involved with the Aga Khan Health Services in Bangladesh, India, Kenya and Tanzania. At the same time, it is expanding its relationship with public and private sector health institutions here in Pakistan. By acting as an intellectual base for this expanding Network, the impact of the University is being enlarged in education, service and research.

In the political and economic circumstances of our world today, it would be unwise for me to make long term commitments. I respect and applaud, however, the vibrant curiosity which affects all who are connected with the university, and without making any promises, let me assuage your appetite by stealing a peep into the future.

Careful thought, covering various circumstances on and off campus, has been given to the most desirable site for a University Mosque, and a location has been identified which I believe will achieve consensus. A major expansion programme for the School of Nursing has been determined which will provide lecture halls, laboratories and faculty offices for the newly instituted baccalaureate programmes. A comprehensive cardiology programme incorporating a new cardiac catheterisation laboratory and the introduction of sophisticated cardiovascular surgery has been established. At the Medical School, plans are well underway for new faculty offices and research laboratories. The long term programme for the development of sports facilities which will be used both for post-operative and rehabilitation purposes, as well as for sports by students, faculty and staff has been agreed, and will be implemented incrementally. Discussion is well advanced on accelerating research programmes for our students and faculty, and finally, and most important, it is possible that the University will create an Institute for Education Development.

Let me now address the men and women who are graduating today. I am sure I speak for all, your Trustees, your Faculty, your families and friends in saying that we pray fervently to Almighty Allah that He may grant you happiness, good health and success as you enter your professional lives. We convey to you and your families our heartfelt congratulations. Be sure of our esteem. Be sure also of the immense hope and confidence we place in you.

Source: African Ismaili (1991)

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