​Speech by Professor Ahsan Iqbal, Minister for Interior and for Planning, Development & Reform at the launch ceremony of AKU’s Economic Impact Study on January 10, 2018 in Islamabad​


Rana Afzal, Minister of State for Finance; Mr Firoz Rasul, President, Aga Khan University; Dr Ishrat Husain Sahib; Dr Farhat Abbas, Dean, Aga Khan [University] Medical College; ambassadors, dignitaries, ladies and gentlemen!

It is indeed a great honour for me to be the chief guest at this very important function to launch the economic impact report of Aga Khan University.

I would like to thank Aga Khan University and Aga Khan Development Network for the study which I think is a trend setter for our higher education sector. Just as Aga Khan University has led the way to set up a model of excellence in higher education, it has also kept that reputation by showing yet another way that how we need to assess, evaluate and hold accountable each of our higher education institutions. For that matter, every investment that government makes in any sector, particularly in social sectors, because most of the investments we make into social sectors go into black box because there are not very clearly defined paths to assess what is the value for money that the society is getting from our investment in those sectors.

This reminds me of a conference where we were lectured that how we must now have outcomes based budgeting and I remember there was, I mean, the lecture was telling us how things have graduated from input driven budgeting to now outcomes based budgeting. So one member of the group, I don’t remember the country but was one of the South American countries, he said, Sir, your point is very valid but what about those who are still struggling to manage their input based budgets. It’s a very far cry to really have an output based budgeting.

The problem is, you know, our whole budgeting process is based on imports. And the efficiency of the manager or an organization is not judged by the results it produces. The efficiency is judged by the utilization of the budget. How much have you consumed? Whether you have consumed 100 per cent which in that case turns out to be how much you have burnt. Because there is no relevance to what results have you produced with that investment. So I think such studies really shift focus from an import driven approach towards outcome driven approach that we must assess that every rupee which goes into budgeting, what are the outcomes that we are getting.

I would like to compliment and congratulate Aga Khan University for showing this way and I assure you that InshaAllah with Higher Education Commission we will work on a framework through which we can assess each of our universities on this criteria.

As President Firoz also pointed out and as Dr Ishrat has highlighted, we have entered a new phase in human civilization, a new era which is very intense as far as knowledge development and knowledge application is concerned. Now the future of mankind depends on our ability to produce knowledge and harness that knowledge. That acceleration in speed or in development, production of new knowledge has​

created new dynamics or new generation of success or failure indicators which is based purely on the capacity of an organization or a society to innovate.

And the best example of our times is Blackberry and Nokia. Those were the two dinosaurs of our times and look how fast they have disappeared from the economic landscape. For the very reason they could not align themselves with the innovation that was happening in their industry and the innovation that their competitor were doing. They became myopic. They remained inward looking, not looking at the outside environment how fast it was changing. Similarly, it is important for any organization and for any country to develop eco system that is very dynamic. If it is not dynamic, it will meet the same fate as Blackberry or Nokia.

In that respect, the role of universities becomes very critical and very instrumental. We have devised seven parameters for our universities on which we must develop our universities to become centres of excellence or at least try to achieve some level of excellence in those seven dimensions. For us, universities must fulfil seven criteria. And I am happy to say after watching this report that Aga Khan University excels in all of those seven indicators.

The first criterion for a university at a basic level is to be a centre of excellence for education. That is the most basic task you do in a university. The instructional programmes of Aga Khan University are top class not only in Pakistan but rated amongst the best in the world so it fulfils the first criterion. But a university is not just mere an instruction place because if it were only an instructional place, it would be a college. A university is a place where you also do research and innovation. This was something which I learnt much later in my career after my engineering degree from Pakistan when I went to Wharton [Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania], and in 1986 the year when I was graduating, I was surprised to see that a professor who had won teacher of the semester award, was refused the tenure ship by the school because they thought that he had failed to produce the research which the school demands, the quality that the school desires to see. That professor had failed to produce that level of research. So it was quite a shock for us going from here because a teacher, an excellent teacher, how could he not be retained by the university. That gave me that one lesson that, university is not just about teaching, it is also about research. So Aga Khan [University] also produces the best research and the leading research place in the country, also meets the criteria.

The third is, a university must also be a place for academia-industry linkage. If it were just doing research and publishing research and was not building a bridge to translate that knowledge into an economic multiplier for the society, it would just remain an island of knowledge. Again, Aga Khan University has developed an effective academia-industry bridge which is helping the society and the country to benefit from the research that is produced in the laboratories of the Aga Khan University.

The fourth important aspect for any university is to also be engaged actively in community development or in the business of paying back. Holding the hands of those who are not very fortunate. So a good university is not supposed to be an ivory tower to serve the elite. It must touch the lives of those who we know as have-nots. Again, I think Aga Khan University, through its extension programmes, is a source of strength for many who are weak, marginalized or vulnerable in our society. So its community engagement programmes are also models of success and worth copying.

The fifth dimension for a good university is that it must be a technology leader because we are in an age of technological revolution. Digital revolution is redefining the parameters of every business model we ever knew that existed. Even from the most traditional businesses to most modern and high tech business, technology is redefining the way we work, the way we live and the way we do business or we learn. Every aspect of human life is today being redefined by technology. Again, Aga Khan University has developed very strong technology platforms which will lead this path of technology enablement in learning and in knowledge sector so it is a technology knowledge leader in its own area.

The sixth important dimension is that universities must not just churn out people who have degrees but it must churn out future leaders. Its graduates must have a strong sense of social responsibility and a strong sense of mission in their career paths. They must be active pursuers of excellence. In whatever they do, they should not be mediocre. And I think again, alumni of Aga Khan University can be very safely regarded as outstanding leaders in their respective fields. So Aga Khan University is not churning out meritocracy, but it is giving us excellence in shape of its graduates.

And finally, any university while it is aiming to produce excellence should also be a high performance organization in its own design and its own entity. So Aga Khan University has also demonstrated through very effective efficient deployment of its human and material resources that it is an organization which is based on high performance and excellence. Its governance is a model of excellence.

So this way, by meeting all these seven criteria which a good university should fulfil or meet, I think it is a model for all universities to follow. We are very proud to have Aga Khan University in Pakistan and I would like to also appreciate the commitment of Prince Karim Aga Khan for Pakistan through Aga Khan Development Network that he has set up, such high quality educational institutions and other institutions which have high standards in every respect in those areas. So we are grateful for his contribution and support to Pakistan and to the developing world, Africa particularly, other countries where he is making.

And let me say in the end I think Aga Khan University and Aga Khan Development Network also show that how can you connect faith with your society’s obligations. So Aga Khan [Development] Network has really shown and demonstrated a responsible model of how one’s faith can be a positive contributor towards uplift of society and particularly uplift of those who are marginalized, who are weak, and how it can be a source of inclusive development which is very critical for any society. We also hope that through vision 2025 we are following, we will be InshaAllah able to achieve our goals of inclusive development by touching lives of our people in different parts.

And let me just share with you a very recent story. As part of our vision 2025 Higher Education Agenda, we set the target of setting up a university in each district. I found out four years ago that there were many districts which did not have any university campus or even a sub campus. And there were hundreds of thousands of very deserving students who could not pursue their higher education because they could not afford the cost of education in big cities. So we set up this programme to establish university campuses in all districts. So we have covered almost half and in the next two years hopefully there will be no district left in Pakistan where there will not be either a university or a university sub campus.

Now recently I was in Balochistan and in two days I inaugurated four campuses in Khuzdar, in Wadh, in Nushki and in Pishin. And out of those four, three were sub campuses for girls. And I remember that at each place, there were girl students with tears in their eyes. They said if this university campus had not​​ opened, our dream of pursuing higher education or to pursue education would never ever have materialized and we had almost buried this idea that we could ever achieve higher education in our lifetime. So you have given us hope and you have given an opportunity to education. Now we will shine and we will pay back to Pakistan. I tell you the quality of those girl students was no less than the students in Karachi or Islamabad or Lahore or anywhere.

So this is how education touches the lives of those who are remote, who are marginalized, who are weak because education is the weapon of vertical social mobility. And societies which provide this vertical social mobility to their weak and vulnerable are societies which lead the way through innovation and success of these people who are programmed to rise in life, who have built an urge to rise in life. So we are committed to making education as a major source of inclusive development in Pakistan by expanding its outreach and also by ensuring that there is quality education in the system so that Pakistan’s young demographic dividend or youth bulge is capitalized or is harnessed for the good of our country.

Pakistan is now alhamdolillah rising. Just a couple of years ago if you asked anyone in Pakistan what were Pakistan’s biggest problems, people would say energy, extremism, terrorism and violence. Today, if you go to anyone and ask them what the problems of Pakistan are, they would not say terrorism and energy. In a country where there was no electricity for twenty hours, we have electricity for more than twenty hours. In a country where every day there used to be a terrorist incident, today alhamdolillah there is 90 per cent drop in terrorist incidents. We have broken the back of these terrorist and extremist groups. Four years ago they were on offensive and the state was under siege. Today, the state is on offensive and these groups are on the run, and under siege.

So the tide has been turned. Pakistan has achieved the highest growth rate in the last 10 years and despite the political upheaval we have seen this year, we are confident that InshaAllah we will do close to six per cent growth rate this year. Pakistan is rising. Let us all have faith and optimism in future of Pakistan and contribute to make a shining star in Asia and in the world economy. And the goal of joining the top 25 economies by 2025 by working harder and working better and working smarter. Pakistan Zindabad​​