Islamabad, 27 May 2016 — As their working visit to Pakistan drew to a close, Princess Zahra and Prince Rahim expressed optimism and a sense of opportunity about the tasks that lay ahead of AKDN in improving quality of life for the people of the country. The two were guests of honour at a Jamati institutional dinner on Wednesday before they departed Pakistan yesterday.

“For me and Princess Zahra, the main takeaway is that we’ve heard the word ‘optimism’ several times today, and I think that’s what I’m feeling now,” said Prince Rahim, speaking at a dinner hosted by the Ismaili Council for Pakistan on Wednesday evening. Noting that while there are challenges ahead, he said that these “are not insurmountable — we have to look at them as opportunities and a chance to help people who are in need.”

The two had travelled to Gilgit in northern Pakistan earlier in the week, where they inaugurated a new medical centre and visited a school, a professional development centre for educators, and a recently built Jamatkhana.

Speaking at the institutional dinner, Hafiz Sherali, President of the Ismaili Council, remarked on the ambitions of the AKDN’s work in the region. “[It] will provide more access for marginalised communities to education, healthcare, rural development, risk mitigation and economic opportunities.”

“Your presence is reassuring for all of us that Pakistan has a bright future,” President Sherali told Princess Zahra and Prince Rahim. “It is a safe place for our children to grow up and thrive in the educational institutions and work environment. The birth country of Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah Aga Khan III is, and will remain, a steady home for the community in the decades to come.”

Earlier in the day Princess Zahra and Prince Rahim attended a signing ceremony to mark the coming together of HBL (Habib Bank Ltd) and First MicroFinanceBank Ltd through the acquisition by HBL of a 51 per cent majority share of the nationwide microfinance pioneer, whose roots are in the credit and savings section of the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme.

Owned by the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development, HBL is Pakistan’s first commercial bank. The combination of the two financial institutions aims to better serve customers from all segments of Pakistani society.

During the course of their visit, Princess Zahra and Prince Rahim also met with Jamati and AKDN leaders to assess the needs of the Jamat and review the impact of the existing programmes.

The institutional dinner featured a performance by Shehzad Roy, a well-known Ismaili singer, musician and philanthropist, who had specially composed a song for the event in honour of Princess Zahra and Prince Rahim. Accomplished Ismaili mountaineer-siblings Samina Baig and Mirza Ali Baig presented Princess Zahra and Prince Rahim a photographic memento of the summits that they scaled together — the highest peaks on seven continents.

Princess Zahra and Prince Rahim departed Pakistan the next day. Prince Rahim concluded his dinner remarks by expressing appreciation for the work that went into organising their visit: “President, Vice-President, the volunteers, the entire Jamaat — it’s been a huge amount of work, I know that… so thank you.”

“I feel optimistic, I know my sister feels optimistic, sad to leave and very very grateful for the amount of work and effort that went into this trip.”