His Highness the Aga Khan, founder and Chairman of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), today visited Muzaffarabad, capital of Azad Jammu, and Kashmir and Balakot, North West Frontier Province, areas severely affected by the 8 October earthquake.
In Muzaffarabad, the Aga Khan was received by Sardar Anwar Khan, President of Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Raja Abdul Qayum, acting Prime Minister. Major General Khalid Nawaz Khan presented an overview of the interventions led by the Government of Pakistan and the Pakistan Army and commended the AKDN for its prompt support in the emergency relief operations. He highlighted the immediate challenges being faced in the area, including the need for winterised tents, more helicopters to access the mountainous regions, maintaining hygiene and sanitation in the camps, and rebuilding schools so that children can return to classes.
The Aga Khan expressed his solidarity with the people of Pakistan in this most difficult and challenging period. He commended the relief efforts of the Government of Pakistan and the Pakistan Army for their commitment to reconstruction and rehabilitation. He expressed the need to work in partnership and the need to construct seismic proof housing, adding, “I hope the experience gathered here and the lessons learnt will be useful in similar efforts in the future, not only in the region but also in countries of Central Asia.” Speaking to those who have lost their homes in the earthquake, the Aga Khan said: “We are with you during this sad episode in your lives, and will do what we can to help you. Looking ahead, it is important that the structures are rebuilt keeping the seismic nature of the region in mind.”
In Balakot, the Aga Khan was apprised of the work carried out by the Pakistan Army in the districts of Mansehra and Battagram. Major Shahid Shakeel thanked the AKDN for its contributions to the recovery and welcomed AKDN’s offer to assist the Pakistan Army in the upcoming rehabilitation and reconstruction phase. He emphasised that economic revival of the region is critical to recovery.
Last month, the Aga Khan announced a three-year, $50-million commitment by the AKDN to support rehabilitation, socio-economic development, and earthquake-preparedness in areas of the North West Frontier Province, Azad Jammu and Kashmir. Focus Humanitarian Assistance, an affiliate of the AKDN, has been heavily involved in relief efforts in the aftermath of the earthquake, providing food supplies to over 85,000 people, distributing over 600 metric tons of food aid and evacuating over 1,200 casualties. The effort has been facilitated by the Aga Khan Foundation’s four Augusta Bell helicopters, two of which were flown in from Central Asia to assist in the operation.