دن: نومبر 22، 2008

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Governor General Welcomes His Highness the Aga Khan at Rideau Hallگورنر جنرل کینیڈا پہنچنے پر پرنس کریم آغا خان کو خوش آمدید کہتی ہیں۔

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Her Excellency the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean, Governor General of Canada, officially welcomed His Highness the Aga Khan, Imam (spiritual leader) of the Shia Ismaili Muslims and Founder and Chairman of the Aga Khan Development Network. His Highness is visiting Canada on the occasion of his Golden Jubilee.

Her Excellency the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean, Governor General of Canada, officially welcomed His Highness the Aga Khan, Imam (spiritual leader) of the Shia Ismaili Muslims and Founder and Chairman of the Aga Khan Development Network. His Highness is visiting Canada on the occasion of his Golden Jubilee.

Date: November 19, 2008____________________________________________________________________

The Daily Gleaner

Aga Khan, spiritual leader to Ismaili Muslims, in Canada for eight-day visit

Published Saturday November 22nd, 2008

TORONTO – Canadian Ismaili Muslims are marking a half-century of leadership of the Aga Khan, as the spiritual leader to millions around the globe embarks on an eight-day visit across the country to mark the milestone.

The Aga Khan, imam to 15 million Ismaili Muslims, including between 80,000 to 100,000 in Canada, will meet with government leaders and dignitaries as he commemorates the occasion of his Golden Jubilee.

The Aga Khan met Wednesday with Gov.-Gen. Michaelle Jean at Rideau Hall. He was slated to next visit Toronto to meet Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty.

He will head west next week, first to Calgary to meet with Alberta Lt.-Gov. Norman Kwong and officials from the University of Alberta, followed by a stop in Vancouver to meet British Columbia Premier Gordon Campbell and Burnaby, B.C., Mayor Derek Corrigan, whose city is home to a sizable Ismaili community.

The Aga Khan will also meet and address gatherings of the Ismaili community to discuss the nature of the work he is doing with Canada, how the community has evolved and where he sees it going, said Amir Karim, a Montreal volunteer with the Aga Khan Council for Canada.

"He will give guidance on how we should practise our faith, how we should live, and how we should basically understand what’s going on around the world from a broader perspective, whether it’s economic, social, and some of major trends that we’re seeing at the moment.”

Born in Switzerland and now residing in France, His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan became the 49th hereditary Imam of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims – generally known as the Ismailis – in 1957 at age 20 following his grandfather’s death.

Beyond his role as spiritual leader, he is known for his work helping to improve the lives of those in developing nations through the Aga Khan Development Network, which he founded more than 40 years ago.

The network has forged a long-standing relationship with Canada, which has seen AKDN, particularly through Aga Khan Foundation Canada, a charitable organization, collaborate with universities, government departments, civil society organizations and the private sector to help developing nations.

One such example involves Hamilton’s McMaster University, which worked with the Aga Khan University in Karachi, Pakistan, to bring the first international standard school of nursing to that part of the world, said Khalil Shariff, CEO of Aga Khan Foundation Canada.

The Aga Khan will preside over the signing of a memorandum of understanding between McMaster and AKU during his visit to Toronto.

In October 2006, the Aga Khan and Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced the Imam and Ottawa would each contribute $30 million to a new Global Centre for Pluralism, a think-tank and research facility to be housed in the old Canadian War Museum.

"I think he understands that all the work he does in international development and addressing the great issues of our day as part of the mandate of his office,” Shariff said.

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Aga Khan holds up Canada as model for the world

Don Cayo, Vancouver Sun

Sunday, November 23, 2008

TORONTO – What may often sound to Canadians like a discordant cacophony of voices from our diverse cultures and interest groups is apparently music to the ears of the Aga Khan.

In an exclusive interview on Sunday with The Vancouver Sun, the hereditary leader of the world’s 15 million Shia Ismaili Muslims held up Canada – a country he has visited often and has maintained a close relationship with throughout his 50-year reign – as a model with much to teach the world.

Not that the Aga Khan, long a champion of the urgent need for pluralism in every society, thinks the rest of the world can be, should be or wants to be just like us. The lesson is not to export a cookie-cutter replica of our society, but rather it’s in our method – the way Canadians have learned to craft workable accommodations for the huge diversity of our citizens.

The absence of pluralism is, in his view, a root cause of much of the world’s discord. About 40 per cent of the countries in the UN are what he calls "failed democracies” – countries where ethnic or tribal concerns routinely trump the greater good.

The idea of including those who are outside a core group doesn’t come naturally to the human species, he said. It is learned.

Canada, he said, "can do an enormous amount” to impart the lesson of its success.

"You have, as far as I can tell, made a wise divide between the economics of the country and the politics of the country,” he said.

"There is a respect for the notion that economic management today is a science. It’s not a political football.”

In addition, "You have created a democratic context in which various groups feel comfortable. You have created a genuine pluralist society, and you have looked for leadership in all your groups. That leadership, which is very diverse, gives all these groups a sense of comfort.”

Conversely, "If you look at African states or Asian states you can see that there are communities that have been totally marginalized, whether they have competent individuals or not.”

There is, perhaps, no better modern-day example to illustrate both sides of that coin than the story of his Ismaili followers replanting their roots in Canada.

In 1957, when he inherited the title of 49th Ismaili imam from his grandfather, Canada had but one Ismaili citizen – Safar Ali Ismaily, who had immigrated here just five years before. This number scarcely grew, with only a tiny trickle of newcomers until 1972 when a flood of about 6,000 refugees arrived from East Africa after their expulsion from newly independent Uganda and the seizure of their assets in Tanzania and Kenya.

But as much as their departures were driven by strife, their arrival has proved to be an uncommon success. Canadian Ismailis have grown to an economically successful community of nearly 100,000, which has maintained an abiding attachment to its members faith and institutions while also engaging vigorously in broader society.

Their initial success was facilitated by the intervention of the Aga Khan himself with his friend, then-prime minister Pierre Trudeau, who helped pave the way for the diaspora.

It was also helped, he said, by the fact that they spoke English and most were well educated – advantages not enjoyed by many other immigrant groups who have fled to Canada from other parts of the world.

As a Muslim leader, the Aga Khan took care to explain, his role differs from religious leaders in the Judeo-Christian tradition in that his duty includes addressing quality-of-life issues for his followers, not just spiritual matters.

In his role as a temporal leader, he moves as an equal among world leaders, but he has no country.

His followers are spread among 25 countries, many of them fragile or in turmoil. As a minority in the Shia tradition, which is itself a minority in the Muslim faith, Ismailis have often been persecuted and many remain vulnerable in some of the countries where they live.

The success enjoyed by Canadian Ismailis – landing in an open, pluralistic country where they are free to practice their faith and to prosper – isn’t in the cards for most who remain in these difficult circumstances.

"If you look at the Ismaili community, or any other community that’s as diverse, it’s unrealistic to expect that hundreds of thousands of people will ever be able to move from a country like Pakistan, or India, or Afghanistan to the West. That’s not realistic.

"Therefore, we are actually committed to try to improve what happens there.”

That commitment is manifest through the Aga Khan Development Network. This is a complex web of affiliated non-profit agencies and profit-seeking (but, he stressed, not profit-driven) companies that seek to establish stability and progress in places where there is little or none. Although these agencies focus on countries where Ismailis live, they work with people of all faiths and ethnic backgrounds.

The network is funded in part by the Aga Khan’s personal wealth, both inherited and built through his business acumen, as well as the tithes of its followers. But it also has non-Ismaili supporters, and it collaborates extensively with other agencies. They include CIDA, the aid arm of the Canadian government, which he singled out as a particularly significant and long-standing partner.

The Aga Khan was in Toronto as part of an eight-day visit to Canada in celebration of his 50th jubilee. The visit includes high-level meetings with a variety of Canadian leaders as well as celebrations with his followers. He started the visit in Ottawa, he will visit Calgary on Monday, and he will end the tour in Vancouver on Tuesday.

Vancouver Sun

dcayo@vancouversun.com__________________________________________________________________________________________________

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Daily Dawn

How safe is the Lowari tunnel? By Maureen Lines

ZIARAT, on the Chitral side of the Lowari Pass, near the village of Asheret, is the gateway to Chitral and home to a contingent of the Chitral Scouts. It is also the final resting place of a Muslim saint who died many decades ago.

It has been the scene of many tragedies. Last year, 11 Scouts were killed in an avalanche; the year before, a Korean engineer was washed away in a flood, along with a small satellite village and expensive equipment. Ziarat is the site of the second entrance to the Lowari tunnel.

I have been travelling across the Lowari for the past 28 years. I know every twist and turn. I have been stranded at the top in a winter blizzard, slipped and slithered in spring ice and snow, and suffered from the heat of the summer in an open jeep on the lower slopes.

At the end of the eighties, I travelled with an American survey team across the pass. At the entrance to the tunnel (started in 1975 and abandoned due to ‘snags’), the senior geologist pointed out an earthquake fault line above the entrance. A couple of months later, I received a Christmas card from his wife telling me her husband had died in mysterious circumstances. No other details were given, nor any address.

I have been present both in Peshawar and Chital during minor earthquakes. Last week there was a tremor in Drosh. Two weeks ago, my Chitrali driver was coming to pick me up in Dir and felt a tremor coming over the pass. I have trekked all over these mountains and in Nuristan. I know only too well how treacherous and unstable the terrain is, especially when the mountainside is being blasted or heavy rains have fallen. In the Kalash valley of Birir I have seen many floods caused by deforestation.

In these mountains there is water seepage. When crossing the passes into Nuristan and taking shelter in caves I made it a point to always check if there was any water seeping through the rocks. What are the chances of floods and water seepage in the vicinity of the tunnel? Supposedly, if a tunnel is being dug through a thick rock base, there should be no water seepage, but what about all the mining disasters that have occurred throughout the world due to water seepage?

And floods? On the Chitral side of the tunnel the entrance has been built at the junction of two nullahs, one leading from the Lowari Top and the other which lies beneath deforested slopes. It was here that the flood came and washed away the engineer. On the mountainside opposite the tunnel entrance, below a slope shorn of trees, is the new construction housing the Chitral Scouts. It was here that the avalanche swept away the Scouts last year.

These are just the outside physical aspects. What about inside the tunnel? Is there any water seepage as rumoured? Has the soil been stabilised? Has the rock within the tunnel been reinforced with rock bolts? If so, has the tensile strength of the steel from which rock bolts are made been tested? Has a reliable epoxy been injected under pressure into these holes, which are often overhead? What about air quality? Maintenance? These are generally failings in Pakistan.

Although the Koreans are the experts involved in the tunnel operation, it was the Japanese who were first asked to build it. They refused as they considered it far too complicated and expensive. Tunnel-building is always hazardous. Some years ago there were problems in tunnels in the Alps. Recently a fire broke out in the Channel Tunnel between the UK and France.

Although a railway has been planned for the Lowari tunnel, there is a rumour that the tunnel may be open for light traffic this winter. Rs5.4bn was the quoted price for the tunnel in 2005. What is the real cost in 2008? How much has been allocated for the safety and security of the tunnel? I have requested a meeting with the secretary for communications in the hope that he can answer these questions.

The people of Chitral have always been desperate for an all-weather route throughout the year. They have long been neglected and cut off from the rest of the country, as though they were second-class citizens, but why were other alternatives such as a chairlift and an alternative highway on the Swat side of the pass not given more consideration?

The Chitralis want access to the outside world during the winter as well as the rest of the year, but they do not want to put their lives in danger. It is imperative that the public be told about measures taken for their safety and that before the tunnel is opened inspection teams from the Alpine countries of Europe be given tours of this project.

The writer, a British author and photographer, is the director of the Kalash Environmental Protection Society and the Hindukush Conservation Association.