WELCOME REMARKS – Seminar on “Poverty Alleviation in Pakistan: Learning from Success Stories”

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Seminar – Poverty Alleviation in Pakistan: Learning from Success Stories
July 10, 2019

Welcome Remarks by the Director General

Honorable President of Pakistan, Dr Arif Alvi
Prime Minister’s Special Assistant for Social Protection and Poverty Alleviation, Dr. Sania Nishtar,
Distinguished Speakers,
Worthy guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Assalam-o-alaikum and Good Morning!

On behalf of the Institute of Strategic Studies, it is my proud privilege to welcome our honoured guests to the Institute.

Mr. President, This institution, which you have graced today, has been serving as a premier think tank since 1973. The Foreign Ministry provides us budget, but we function as an autonomous organization dedicated to research and dialogue on themes of direct relevance to Pakistan, and providing these inputs to the Foreign Ministry and other stakeholders.

Mr President, we are living in an age, where perception sometimes becomes more important than reality. Narratives and counter narratives being formed through academia, media and social media impinge on policy choices as never before. The formation and multiplication of our narratives on the causes important to Pakistan is therefore of critical importance. That’s where this Institute seeks to play important advocacy role. Although traditionally the Institute had focused on foreign and security policies of Pakistan, we are also broadening our ambit to shine light on themes of governance and economy as all these issues have become so interconnected in today’s world.

One such area of high importance for our nation is poverty alleviation. Poverty and hunger are the worst enemies of humanity. For Pakistan, like many other developing nations, poverty is a real issue, connected directly to the lives of millions of our countrymen and women. Mr. President, we are glad that you have agreed to inaugurate today’s seminar. This illustrates how connected you are to our people, to the real causes that matter to our society. Socio-economic uplift of our people is a high priority for this government. And we see that you as the head of our state are playing a phenomenal role in advancing this national objective. Thank you are being here today and inspiring us to do what we must.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Scores of nations are engaged in poverty alleviation, some of them are doing wonders like our northern neighbour China having lifted 700 million of its people out of poverty. We have to asses where does Pakistan stand in this undertaking. Unfortunately, we do not seem to be doing too well. We only have to look at our status of achieving United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals or UN’s Human Development Index to know that our challenge is actually growing. Leave alone the statistics. If one simply looks around, goes around as we all do, to various parts of the world, especially the developed countries, we can easily notice that a nation cannot develop unless it is ready to invest in eliminating poverty and improving human development of its people.

It is in this context, that we were heartened to see last March the launching of a major initiative to alleviate poverty in Pakistan, aptly termed “Ehsaas”. The Prime Minister, Mr. Imran Khan deserves our commendation for recognizing that unless we meet the basic needs of food, clothing and shelter, basic education and health, for our fellow citizens, and unless we rise up the ladder of human development, we cannot aspire to achieve our lofty goals as a nation.

So, what shall we do? Well, the launching of the program is a welcome start. But this is just the beginning. Unless we gather all our energies behind Ehsaas, unless we put every hand on the deck, we will not succeed. Every contribution counts. This is a national responsibility above all else. We are fortunate that we have many amongst us, who have practically shown that we can fight poverty and create sustainable livelihoods.

We are pleased to see that a very able hand Dr Sania Nishtar has been given this onerous responsibility to steer the Ehsaas program. I had the privilege to work with her when she contested for the post of Director General WHO, for which she was indeed most qualified of all the candidates. Thank you Dr Sania for being here to chair the working session.

The Institute also welcomes the three learned voices, Mr. Qazi Asmat Isa, CEO of Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund, Ms Shandana Khan of National Rural Support Program,, and Ms Fatima Rasheed of Akhuwat Foundation. These are success stories of Pakistan. There are countless more. There is so much we can accomplish if we can learn the right lessons from these internal success stories as well as external success stories.

Today’s seminar is a modest contribution to illustrating the point that we can do it as a nation, just like some of us have done it at individual or organizational levels.

Mr. President, we know that you are a great admirer of Allama Iqbal. I would like to use Iqbal’s a verse to pay tribute to those of us who have risen above their own selves and served the less privileged of our society.

Tamanna dard e dil ke ho, tau ker khidmat faqeeron ke

Naheen milta ye gauhar, badshahon ke khazeeno mein

Pakistan Paendaabad !