SPEECH MADE BY HAZAR IMAM AT THE ADDRESS TO THE ASSEMBLY DURING THE VISIT TO TAJIKISTAN

Transcribed from Video by the Heritage Staff.

24 September 1998

Your Excellency President Rakhmonov, your Excellency Deputy Chairman Koimdodov of the Majilis Olli, your Excellency Chairman Nyazmamadov, Distinguished guests

President Rakhmonov, I want to thank you again for the warm and generous welcome and hospitality you have extended to Me since My arrival in Tajikistan.

Your words have touched Me deeply, and I would like everyone to know that though results have been achieved in our common programs, those sorts of results cannot be achieved unless the people who take decisions not only work together but are genuine friends.

This friendship enables us to discuss matters of signal importance for the future of Tajikistan. To think about future policies, future decisions, and to remember that the history of Tajikistan is the history of the Samanid Empire. We must not forget that. All Tajiks associate themselves with that remarkable history and we must draw intelligent lessons from that history. These are also matters which the President and I have discussed. At our first meeting you presented Me with the Republic's highest civilian award, the Order of Friendship, which is for Me a very great honour and a wonderful way to begin My second visit to the country.

Sometimes these decorations are formalities. But here the name of the decoration is the Order of Friendship and I attach the greatest importance to that friendship. I thank you President Rakhmonov and Chairman Nyazmamadov for your warm words of welcome on this first official event here in Khorog. I deeply appreciate the opportunity to return to Gorno Badakhshan again. I have heard many reports of the developments that have taken place in the region over the past three years as a result of the collaborative efforts of the Government and the agencies of the Aga Khan Development Network. I welcome the opportunity to see first hand, what I have been hearing and reading about. It is also exhilarating to be back in this breath-taking natural setting.

In the past three years, this part of Tajikistan has moved from a state of near starvation to a point where Inshallah, three years from now, this Oblast of Tajikistan will be food self-sufficient. That this signal result which has taken this Oblast away from the brink of tragedy was achieved not only by the work of the people here, not only by the collaboration of the Government with the institutions of the Aga Khan Development Network, it was also achieved due to the wisdom of the international regional policies of the Government of Tajikistan. It was thanks to the wisdom of the regional policy of President Rakhmonov, to our three-way discussions with President Akayev that at the worst time of food crisis in Gorno-Badakshan, the three of us were able to keep the road open between Osh and Khorog.

The second issue which I want to address today, is the issue of peace. Peace is a critical aspect of all aspects of development and for the growth of civil society. And here too, there is a consensus of public opinion, there is a public will, there is a political will, to build peace in Tajikistan. This process of building peace is urgent in Tajikistan, not only for Tajikistan's future, but also for the future of the whole region. And it is My hope and prayer that your neighbours will watch and learn from the peace process in Tajikistan, to bring peace to their country and I am of course referring to Afghanistan.

Without peace it is not possible to build the human and material resources necessary for sustained positive change. There is no aspect of human history where development has occurred in a state of conflict. It is not possible to build the human and material resources that are required for sustained change and positive change. And no unit of society, whether the individual, the family, the community, a business, the government, social service institutions, schools, hospitals can begin to confront the complex pressure of change, plan effectively and make the investments of time and finances that are necessary for long term self-generating development without security from armed conflict.

I would like to commend the local and national Government for the progress that has been achieved towards this end since My last visit. And it is My deep hope and prayer that all Tajiks will commit themselves to a future of peace. While peace is a critical prerequisite for the effective management of change, it is not all that is required. The collapse of the Soviet Union, and with it the centralized and bureaucratic control of economic activity, ownership of assets, and budgetary subsidies created a whole new set of circumstances with which the government and people of Tajikistan must grapple. Even those features of the Soviet system that made real contributions to the quality of life in the fields of education and health cannot be revived or sustained in their prior form. This dramatic change in circumstances require that new modes of thinking and organisation, new models of development and the delivery of social services, and new relations between groups and regions within the country must be found.

And here again, I would like to say how much the friendship and confidence between the President, his government and Myself enable us to discuss these issues openly in friendship and in sincerity. Confronting and managing change of this order of magnitude is a complex and difficult business. Peace, as I have said, is the first requirement. The second is the effective search for new ideas and approaches for the most critical areas of need at both the local and national levels followed by experimental implementation of those that seem most promising. And let Me go back to our Samanid history. The Samanid Empire concentrated the strongest intellectual capacity of its time, under its rule in order to govern well. The concepts of searching and experimentation are worth special emphasis because there is no existing formula, whether ideologically or technically defined, that can simply be identified and applied. Human history is full of examples of such efforts, all of which have resulted in failure.

The process of searching for new ideas and solutions can be facilitated in a number of ways. The most important for any society or nation is the effective mobilization of the talents, existing and potential, of all its citizenry. This required the creation of structures and values that stimulate the fullest possible participation of all groups and individuals irrespective of gender, ethnicity or religious beliefs. And here you will understand why the President and I are so enthusiastic and confident that, Inshallah, the new university in Khorog will be a resource of unique competence for the peoples of Gorno-Badakshan and of all the mountain areas of Central Asia and even further a field.

And now let Me address the issue of pluralism in society. Human genius is found in its variety which is the work of Allah. Harnessing that genius to the fullest should be one of the goals of all modern societies and nations in addition to mobilizing creative capacity from all segments of society. It is essential to nurture it, by providing a variety of educational opportunities suited to the talents of different individuals and the demands of a rapidly changing world.

Another important source of new ideas and models is the experience of other societies and countries, particularly those where circumstances are in some respect similar to your own. This is not to suggest the wholesale copying of particular structures or systems imported from another setting. Rather it is to advocate the sharing of experience, of knowledge, of successes and of failures across national borders in order to accelerate the search for effective solutions in one's own country. This can be accomplished through the study of the experience of others and by bringing in experts who have been involved in development in other settings.

Given the level of activity in Gorno-Badakshan over the last three years, most of the citizens of the Oblast are familiar with some aspect or another, of the work of the agencies of the Aga Khan Development Network - or the AKDN as we refer to it shorthand - and its local affiliates, such as the Mountain Societies Development Support Program, or MSDSP. But what most people see is very specific. The delivery of humanitarian assistance, the granting of small business loans, the provision of improved seed varieties, repair to educational and health facilities, the introduction of new courses and programs in the universities and schools, to give a few examples. What may not be apparent is the broader mission of the AKDN here in Tajikistan and in many countries around the world in which it works.

The Aga Khan Development Network is a family of private, non-denominational, international development agencies created by the Ismaili Imamat as a contemporary endeavour to realize the social conscience of Islam. It works in countries in East and West Africa, Central and South Asia and other parts of the world to improve the lives of all the people in the project areas irrespective of their gender, ethnicity or religious affiliations.

And in this regard, I want to refer once again to the discussions between the President and Myself with regard to Gorno-Badakshan. This part of Tajikistan, is an area which has suffered from isolation, economic backwardness, the failure of the social systems, and the responses that we have tried to put together - the Government and ourselves - are in many situations, test-cases. If these test-cases are successful, as Inshallah, they will be, then the lessons learnt here, must be made available to all the people of Tajikistan.

Change, whether purposely introduced by new programs, or following from dramatic developments such as the collapse of the Soviet Union sets loose all kinds of forces both positive and negative. The market economy for instance holds the potential for increased production and improved standards of living. But it introduces elements of competition, which are new in many settings and can lead to conflict particularly if some opportunities, goods and services are in short supply. The establishment of merit as the sole criterion for the admission to educational institutions, opportunities such as loans for business, and the like can leave those who are not successful with a feeling of being marginalised, something that must be countered with positive efforts to assist those who are affected. And here again it is in Badakshan that we must find answers to that problem.

I look forward with great anticipation to the next four days to spending the time with the people of Badakshan to see and admire the work that you have accomplished. And before closing let Me repeat My gratitude to the President and the Government of Tajikistan, to the Government of the Oblast, for the wonderfully warm welcome that they have given Me on this visit.

HAZAR IMAM THEN SAID IN SHUGNANI LANGUAGE:"Osoishi zamon, Obodi makon, Khana-abad, Tashakoor, Khuda-hafiz."


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