Following in the footsteps of his mentor, the late Akhtar Hameed Khan, Shoaib Sultan Khan has emerged as a pioneering force for rural development and poverty alleviation in Pakistan.
These views were expressed by analysts at “An Evening with Shoaib Sultan Khan”, organised by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute as part of its “A Tribute to Living Legend Series” on Monday.
Former assistant secretary general at the United Nations Environment Programme Shafqat Kakakhel said Shoaib was the most loyal pupil of Akhtar Hameed Khan, who changed the lives of thousands of people through town planning.
After retirement from the civil service, Shoaib founded the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme (AKRSP) in 1992 and was chosen to head the UN Asian Rural Support Programme in 1994. He introduced rural support programmes in several South Asian countries including India.
Poet Kishwar Naheed said the silent personality of Shoaib is different from other “stiff-necked” civil servants. “He also has reflections of Faiz Ahmed Faiz in his personality. Shoaib is an excellent listener like Faiz Sahab,” said Naheed, terming Shoaib a darvesh.
PML-N Member National Assembly Daniyal Aziz said Shoaib helped him become what he is today. “I have not seen a better mentor, teacher and experienced man than Shoaib Sultan Khan,” he said.
Sardar Bahadur Khan Women’s University Quetta’s former vice-chancellor Dr Shahida Jafrey said Shoaib made villagers learn how to stand on their own feet.
Sharing praise, National Commission on the Status of Women Chairperson Khawar Mumtaz said we saw in Akhtar and Shoaib how one can mobilise people to work for betterment of their living conditions. “Mobilising people and empowering them has remained their policy,” she said.
Shoaib was overwhelmed by sentiments expressed by his colleagues, friends, and admirers. “I do not know what to say, but the real credit goes to the one million people of Gilgit-Baltistan, professionals, volunteers and many others who turned my dreams into reality.”
While speaking about his relationship with his mentor, he said Akhtar showed him the right path, adding that he had never come across a man of his stature. “Akhtar was a complete human being. A man of peace, a walking encyclopaedia and was greatly influenced by Buddha; he called himself a Muslim Buddha.”
Former Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa chief minister Shamsul Mulk said that he first met Shoaib in 1963 but when he looks back, it appears he knows him from time immemorial. “What you and Akhtar did is the duty of every human being,” said Mulk, while addressing Shoaib and the audience.
Speakers said Shoaib’s life proved that one can excel and serve humanity even without clout or wealth. They further said that provincial governments should also replicate role models set by Shoaib, moulding their bureaucracies to actually work for the uplift of the poor rather than burying development schemes in files.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 25th, 2014.