Posted by: Administrator | 20 January, 2005

President address at Inaugural Ceremony of Serena Hotel Islamabad

12 March 2002

Let me first of all begin by extending a very warm welcome to our distinguished guests, His Highness, Prince Karim Aga Khan, Begum Karim Aga Khan, Prince Amyn Aga Khan and their associates.

I would like to say that they must treat Pakistan as their second home. So, I would like to say that they have come to their second home. I would like to, on a personal note, express my deep gratitude to Prince Aga Khan for the kind words he has expressed for me. All that I would like to say is that the work that he himself is doing for Pakistan, whether it is in the form of Micro Finance Bank or in the area of hotels, it is for the benefit of Pakistan. Therefore, the least that one could do in my personal capacity and by my government is to support the project that you launch in Pakistan and that is what we have done. This is indeed an auspicious occasion and it is an honour for me to be here in your presence, in your midst this evening to launch the inauguration of the Islamabad Serena Hotel.

Serena is indeed a wonderful addition to the beauty of this capital. The exquisite structure, the delicate decor reflects the imagination of the designers, the architect, the engineers and the interior decorators involved in this project. I personally, have come here before, and I have seen this Hotel today and I have been told that on all the aspects of the designing and the aesthetics that have gone into this hotel, the greatest gratifying element of this is that each and every item here in this hotel is Pakistan made. Now that is the most gratifying aspect.

May I, above all, also say that I know the personal contribution of His Highness Prince Amyn Aga Khan, whose aesthetics was really behind all this beautification and the beautiful decor of this Hotel. I know personally that this is the view of all the people here who were involved in this Hotel. So, the compliment to him by his Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan was absolutely in correct direction and very well placed. I thank you. I have been seeing the structure rise from the day one because I pass almost daily in front of it and I have been seeing the dedication with which everyone has been working day and night to produce what we have seen today.

The project is indeed a symbol of trust and confidence in the capital city of Islamabad and I think it is not a matter of creating facilities of accommodation, catering and leisure alone. In fact, the project adds to the existing infrastructure that strengthens the economy also iii terms of employment generation and revenue generation. So, therefore, it is much more than a mere accommodation and catering facility in Islamabad. I would therefore, like to compliment Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development and its subsidiary Tourism Promotion Services for making a very valuable contribution to promote investment and employment opportunities in Pakistan, other than the beautification of the Islamabad city itself.

The government of Pakistan has a very token share in this Hotel and I would assure His Highness that we will continue to extend fullest co-operation towards the success of all additional projects that he would like to launch in Pakistan, as also to the Serena Hotel in its future going on in Islamabad, in providing the service to people in Islamabad. We also know that the Aga Khan Development Network Projects in the field of education, in the field of health and hotel industry from Karachi to the Northern areas reflect the abiding interest of His Highness in the socioeconomic welfare of the people of Pakistan, and as I did in the morning, I would again like to express my gratitude to Prince Karim Aga Khan, for his interest, for his concerns with Pakistan and the people of Pakistan.

Ladies and gentlemen Pakistan is blessed with a remarkable culture and geographic diversity. Our tourism potential is evident right from the virgin Makran coast to the fertile hinter land of Sindh and Punjab and onwards to the serene beauty of the peaks of the northern areas. Pakistan’s diversity, as I keep telling everyone, can be visualized from the fact that we have temperatures ranging from plus 50 degree centigrade to minus 50 degree centigrade and we have terrain from the highest mountains in the world, to deserts, to virgin coastlines and to the irrigated planes of Punjab. We have all kinds of diverse terrain and temperatures.

May I also say, that we are trying to develop tourism in Pakistan because we have a lot of tourist potential in Pakistan and in this the silk route festival in Gilgit, the Jashn-i-Baharan in Lahore and also the polo tournament in Shandur have become very important events which attract a large number of local and foreign visitors. We would like to develop these further. We are trying to create hubs of tourism and these hubs are to be based on the northern areas. First of all, the mountains which are so beautiful and attracts so much tourism. The other is our virgin coastline which needs to be developed, I think for attracting tourists and then we want to create Lahore as a hub of tourist attraction and Karachi also with its opening to the sea front to be developed as a hub for tourist attraction. In this, the concrete actions that we have taken, first of all as far as the coastline is concerned, we are opening the Gwadar port. I will be performing the opening ceremony on the 23rd of March.

The Chinese Vice Premier is coming and we will take 36 months exactly to build that port, the phase-i of it will be three berths. Together with that we are linking this Gwadar port with a coastal highway from Karachi. We are trying to co-ordinate the completion date which means 36 months for the coastal highway and Gwadar port. I hope that is not too much, General Javed Ashraf Kazi, I think we have to meet the target. So in 36 months, we will have this coastline open and if anyone of you has been to Gwadar, you can see the beauty of this place. There is a hammer head which you can see on the map which is about 1000 ft higher than the ground level and a beautiful point as we go to the hammer head it has opening sea on both the side of the hammer head with a narrow jumping peninsula into the sea. It is a beautiful sight and so also the various sights of Ormara, Pasni and Jiwani they are all sights for tourist development and they are absolutely virgin. So, this will be opened with coastal highway that we are planning. As far as the northern areas are concerned, we thought, we must open out and we must develop an infrastructure and basically infrastructure, as I take it, starts with roads, access and also then we need to have hotel industry joining into the effort.

In the roads, since I have been in northern areas in my tenure of duties in the Army, first of all, we are linking Chitral with Gilgit through a road passing over Shandur pass and going to Gilgit. This work has already started. The other road is linking the Kaghan valley with the Gilgit valley over the Babu-Sir-Pass. This is also being initiated. The third is linking Gilgit through Astore on to Chalum and on to Deosai planes and on to Skardu. If anyone has been here on the foot hills of Nangaparbat, one would know what a beautiful drive this would be. So this road is also being developed. The whole idea, and it has been started, is to link the Chitral valley, the Gilgit valley, the Kaghan valley and the Skardu valley with each other. That is the idea with these roads coming up and FWO is doing the work mostly. We hope that the work will be completed by the end of 2003. So therefore by the end of 2003 anyone going in a vehicle should be able to shift between all these three and also we are looking into developing and improving the air facilities whether in the form of improving the aircraft which are taken into the Northern areas or developing the airfields there, so that we open out this area. This is the effort that we are puffing in the Northern areas.

I would not go into the details of Lahore, the buildings that we are trying to restore, the historical buildings. You know about the Food Street that has come up there. We are trying to develop another center; in Tolington market is being developed.

In Karachi there are a number of projects: we are restoring historical buildings into some form or shape which attracts tourists because there are a tremendous amount of buildings and structures which would invite tourist attractions. So this is generally what we are doing toward tourism. A lot has to be done. We have never emphasized on this, but I feel we have made a beginning and as we go along, when this infrastructure and this development effort is put on ground, we will attract tourists whether it is local tourist or foreign tourist into this area.

I would also like to say that the United Nations has declared this year 2002 as the year of the mountains. In this context we have also lined up a series of events that would include conferences and festivals and car rallies etc. But I would say, with the passage of time, once this infrastructure that I am talking of comes on ground, we would organize such functions, such tourists attraction functions more effectively in the future. In the end ladies and gentlemen, I would like to thank the administration of Serena Islamabad for these excellent arrangements and for having invited me and my wife to this function. I would like to express my gratitude again to His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan and Begum Karim Aga Khan for having come all the way to their second home here and to have been with us here in Pakistan and also to Prince Amyn Aga Khan for having given us or being the main moving force behind such a beautiful addition to the city of Islamabad.

I thank you all, ladies and gentlemen.

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