Thursday August 11, 2005 Rajab 05, 1426 A.H.
Shabbir Ahmed Mir
GILGIT: At least nine Asian and African countries have replicated the model of an Aga Khan sponsored development programme in their respective countries after the said programme attained success in the Northern Areas and Chitral, says a top NGO official.
"We are privileged as the model of our programme has been replicated in nine African and Asian countries due to its success in mountainous region of Pakistan," said Izhar Hunzai, general manager Aga Khan Rural Development Program (AKRSP) while talking to The News Thursday.
Izhar Hunzai said that AKRSPís experience contributed to some extent in the creation of the Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund, the creation of Khushali Bank, the establishment of Rural Support Programmes with the financial and political support of the successive governments, in addition to the current governmentís landmark programme for the devolution of power, responsibility and resources for local development.
AKRSP was launched in 1982 with a view to improve socio-economic conditions of the people living in the mountainous areas of the country and Shoaib Sultan was its founding general manager who was later succeeded by Hussain Wali Khan followed by Stephen F. Rasmussen.
Hunzai clarified the role of AKRSP saying that it was an "honest broker" in the development of the area and not a development or service delivery organisation. "This is a misconception, I must clarify," he said.
Izhar Hunzai, who did his Masterís in International development from Cornell University USA in 1990, said the next phase of AKRSP would focus on further consolidation of the growth of the civil society sector. He said this time around, our goal is to formalise, professionalise and institutionalise this sector, with the ultimate purpose that a more capable, confident and informed civil society sector can work in close partnership with the public and private sector institutions and actors to promote sustainable development in the area.
He went on to say that efforts were on to form umbrella organisations in the region that will carry forward the future development work of AKRSP in the region. "We want to call them Local Support Organisations or LSOs, which will be "successor" institutions to carry on the development mission of AKRSP," he informed.
He explained that currently they were looking for seed money to run basic professional functions of those LSOs.
Izhar hoped once they managed such an arrangement, these organisations would be able to raise additional funds from public and international sources, but not be dependent on them to run their day-to-day operations. He explained that AKRSP was created as a special programme with a clear mission to help double the per capita incomes in the area and to develop a replicable model for participatory rural development. AKRSP achieved both these objectives in the first 12 years of its inception.
Hunzai foresees a bright future of Northern Areas in high value agricultural, trade, transit, and commerce with China and Central Asia, and in the emerging knowledge based industries, such as information and communication technology and adventure and eco tourism, and in high value crops.