Prince Karim Aga Khan By Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani

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Prince Karim Aga Khan
By Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani

The Ismaili people around the world are marking diamond jubilee celebrations of their beloved spiritual leader Prince Karim Aga Khan IV as their 49th Imam with full zeal and enthusiasm. Sixty years ago in 1957, at the age of 20, Prince Karim Aga Khan succeeded his late grandfather to lead the Ismaili Muslim community which now consists of 15 million followers globally. The Ismailis, rejecting all terms of violence and extremism, are known as most peace loving people under the leadership of Prince Karim Aga Khan IV. The sixty years of his peaceful struggle revolves around to fighting poverty, promoting quality education, advocating tolerance and empowering the community.

“The Aga Khan has used his role to advance global humanitarian causes, helping to support sustainable development and poverty reduction projects and enhance civil society and education around the world. This is what the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has stated recently in his message on the historic occasion of Imamat Day. The Aga Khan, having roots with the Egyptian and Persian empires of past, has known to enjoy cordial relations with today’s elite classes of various countries and even under the British India, the Viceroy of India had formally recognized the title Aga Khan for his grandparents.

Aga Khan I, whose real name was Hasan Ali Shah was also awarded the status of “Prince” by the British government and the only religious community leader in British India who was granted gun salute. After his demise, Aqa Ali Shah Aga Khan II had played pivotal role for keeping close relations with other communities.
Sir Sultan Muhammed Shah, Aga Khan III was most active dynamic leader of Pakistan Movement and close aide of Quaid-e-Azam. He was also one of the founders and the first president of the All-India Muslim League (AIML). Sir Aga Khan was strong supporter of the founder of Aligarh Muslim University, Sir Syed Ahmad Khan’s vision that before entering in practical politics, Muslims of India should first focus on strengthening their economical conditions through advanced education. In this regard, he also provided Aga Khan Foreign Scholarship for the deserving and talented Muslim students of Aligarh University. Even, after the creation of Pakistan, Sir Aga Khan, on request of then-Prime Minister Feroz Khan Noon, had purchased the Gwadar from Oman for 3 million dollars, and gifted to Pakistan. Gwadar is now considered as Game Changer for the region due to the Pakistan-China Economic Corridor (CPEC) project.

In 1957, at the age of twenty, the current Aga Khan IV Prince Shah Karim Al Husseini succeeded his grandfather as 49th Imam of the Ismaili community. He also inherited his grandparent’s positive agenda based on tolerance to serve the mankind. Being a British citizen, born in the European country Switzerland, raised in African country Kenya, educated at the top US university Harvard, and lives in a French chateau, the life of Aga Khan IV is a bright example of pluralism and global harmony. In 1970s, when the racial discrimination was on rise in the African continent, Ugandan nationalist leader Idi Amin started expelling people of Asian descent from the country. Then-prime minister of Canada, in response of Aga Khan’s call, accepted as many as 7000 Ugandan Asians as refugees on humanitarian grounds. The specific incident reflects the trust of western world on the Aga Khan. The refugees, latter, played a pivotal role for bringing prosperity and development in the pluralist society of Canada. In another incident, Prince Karim Aga Khan decided to raise the standard of life through education during his first visit to Gilgit-Baltistan. Today, the literacy rate of Gilgit-Baltistan is most highest one in entire Pakistan.

The Aga Khan also founded the Aga Khan Development Network, which operates in more than 35 countries across the globe. The AKDN agencies, regardless of race, religion and gender, are active in the areas of education, health, rural development, institution-building and the promotion of economic development. The Aga Khan himself look after different welfare initiatives. Some of those include Aga Khan Foundation, Aga Khan University, Aga Khan Academies, Aga Khan Health Services, Aga Khan Planning & Building Services, Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development, and Aga Khan Agency for Microfinance. Under the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, he is also taking solid steps to preserve Islamic heritage sites, particularly historical buildings belonging to Fatimid dynasty in Egypt, tomb of Mughal emperor Humayun and ancient city of Agra in India. The Aga Khan is truly a role model and I personally founded Pakistan Hindu Council in 2005 to serve my community as a result of inspiration from him.

The international community has also announced various awards to Prince Karim Aga Khan. Around 50 countries have provided national awards to him while top universities of world have also awarded honorary degrees to him. According to my view point, the reason behind the great respect that Aga Khans earn in the eyes of people is to serve mankind by making best usage of their huge wealth. Today, Aga Khan is a highly-respected global personality but I believe that Aga Khan’s positive role in various issues related to All India Muslim League, Aligarh University, Gwadar and welfare projects, reflects their love for Pakistan as well. On the occasion of diamond jubilee celebration, we must request him to serve as a bridge between Muslim world and the west.

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The News International (21 July, 2017)