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Shamsh Kassim-Lakha

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Feb 11, 2022

Shamsh Kassim-Lakha’s (Sitara-e-Imtiaz, Hilal-e-Imtiaz, Officier de l’Ordre National du Mérite) career is characterized by entrepreneurial leadership of diplomatic, educational, healthcare, manufacturing, and venture capital institutions of the Aga Khan Development Network as well as in public service.[1] Under the vision of His Highness the Aga Khan,[2] as Executive Chairman [3] of the Board Executive Committee, he led the planning, building, and operation of the University of Central Asia (UCA), a regional institution founded by the Presidents of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and His Highness the Aga Khan with campuses in the mountain areas of the three countries.[4] He was the Diplomatic Representative of the Aga Khan Development Network in the Kyrgyz Republic from 2014-2017.[5] He is currently Senior Advisor, Aga Khan Foundation Canada,[6] in which capacity he is Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the University of Central Asia[7] and advises the Foundation on its work in Central and South Asia as well as Eastern Africa.

Shamsh Kassim-Lakha
Nationality Pakistani
Occupation Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the University of Central Asia

Shamsh’s academic career began as Founding President of the Aga Khan University (AKU),[8] the first university to be chartered in the private sector in South Asia. As President,[9] he guided this world-renowned institution for 27 years in eight countries of Asia, Africa, and the United Kingdom.[10] During this period, he forged academic partnerships [11] with several renowned universities including McGill, Toronto, McMaster, British Columbia, Alberta, Harvard and Oxford[12] for AKU. He also led the University’s fundraising campaigns, generating over $350 million from private donors, corporations, foundations, and aid agencies.

He has chaired or served on government commissions and boards of business, professional and research organizations in such diverse fields as government reforms, public sector pay and pensions reforms, higher education reforms, school education, health, finance, banking, energy, environmental protection[13] and climate change.[14] Shamsh Kassim-Lakha was Pakistan’s Federal Minister for Education as well as for Science and Technology in 2007-2008.[15] He has played pioneering roles in promoting civil society activities, principal among them as Founding Chair of the Pakistan Centre for Philanthropy.[16] He sat on the worldwide board of the International Baccalaureate Organization, as well as the Steering Committee of the Talloires Network of over 300 universities involved in civic engagement and based at Tufts University,[17] USA. Shamsh was an honorary member of the Pakistan Business Council, an association of 40 of the largest national and multi-national corporations in Pakistan and chaired its Education Panel. In addition, he has advised and consulted on policy and strategy with selected civil society organizations including the Grameen Bank for their health initiatives, and the World Bank on higher education. He is also a member of the Steering Committee of the Aga Khan Music Awards.[18]

In 1997, Shamsh co-chaired with the Education Minister of Tajikistan the Commission on the Establishment of the University of Central Asia and later helped negotiate the International Treaty and Charter of this institution. During the same period, he chaired the Committee[19] that developed consensus between government, civil society, and industry on key elements of Pakistan’s environmental protection laws and wrote the country’s National Environment Protection Act (1997). In 2001-2, as Minister of State, he led the government of Pakistan’s Task Force on Higher Education Reforms[20] whose recommendations have resulted in major structural changes in universities, creation of the Higher Education Commission (HEC),[21] quadrupling access for students, a thousand-fold rise in funding and a substantial increase in research output. Later, he was appointed a member of the HEC from 2007 to 2011. In September 2018, he was appointed to the Board of Governors of HEC.

From 1960 to 1979, Shamsh’s career was in the world of business, manufacturing, mining, tourism, and venture capital. First in Dhaka, Bangladesh, and thereafter in Karachi, Pakistan, he headed Industrial Promotion Services[22] of Pakistan which employed a workforce of 22,000 and was established by the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development.[23]

During a long career in academia, diplomacy, and business, Shamsh has forged strong linkages between renowned academic and business institutions in developing and industrialized countries including Canada for the transfer of knowledge, talent, and capital with support from bilateral and multilateral aid agencies. His strong commitment to decision making on merit and transactional transparency in challenging settings has enabled him to successfully introduce strong value systems in all his academic, public service, and business endeavors.

Shamsh’s wide-ranging experience has given him a profound understanding of the nature of political, social and economic factors, as well as cultural and religious sensitivities that influence policymaking by governments and the important role civil society, plays in South and Central Asia,[24] the Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa.

In recognition of his contribution to academia, government and community service, he has received national awards, Sitara-e-Imtiaz and Hilal-e-Imtiaz[25] from the President of Pakistan and Officier de l’Ordre National du Mérite (National Order of Merit (France)) from the President of France, as well as honorary degrees from McMaster University and the Aga Khan University.[26][27][28]

. . . Shamsh Kassim-Lakha . . .

  1. “AKDN Leadership”. Aga Khan Development Network. Retrieved 2 April 2016.
  2. “About His Highness the Aga Khan”. Aga Khan Development Network. Retrieved 1 February 2015.
  3. “Shamsh Kassim-Lakha to lead planning and building of University of Central Asia”. AKIpress News Agency. Retrieved 7 August 2014.
  4. “UCA Staff”. University of Central Asia. Retrieved 6 July 2017.
  5. “Shamsh Kassim-Lakha to Head the Aga Khan Development Network Representation in Kyrgyzstan”. Donors.kg. Retrieved 25 August 2016.
  6. “Aga Khan Foundation, Canada”. Aga Khan Foundation Canada. Retrieved 1 April 2017.
  7. “University of Central Asia”. University of Central Asia. Retrieved 1 December 2016.
  8. “AKU Honours Outgoing President Shamsh Kassim-Lakha Introduced a Culture of Excellence and Ethical Values”. Aga Khan University. Retrieved 28 April 2006.
  9. “Mr. Shamsh Kassim-Lakha”. WISE Initiative. Retrieved 7 July 2017.
  10. “The Aga Khan University Charter”. Aga Khan University. Retrieved 7 July 2017.
  11. “Aga Khan University Partnerships”. Aga Khan University Partnerships. Retrieved 15 August 2012.
  12. “Oxford and Aga Khan University Sign Partnership Agreement”. IsmailiMail. Retrieved 3 May 2013.
  13. “UCA Mountain Societies Research Institute”. University of Central Asia. Retrieved 19 February 2014.
  14. “Interview: Shamsh Kassim-Lakha”(PDF). AKDN.org. Retrieved 27 October 2016.
  15. “Dr. Shamsh K. Lakha appointed Minister of Education, Science and Technology”. Ismailimail. Retrieved 17 November 2007.
  16. “Pakistan Centre for Philanthropy: Address by Shamsh Kassim-Lakha – At the fifth PCP Corporate Philanthropy Awards”. Ismailimail. Retrieved 23 February 2013.
  17. “Shamsh Kassim-Lakha”. Tufts University. Retrieved 20 December 2016.
  18. “UCA Staff”. University of Central Asia. Retrieved 12 April 2019.
  19. “Shams Kassim Lakha named HEC chairman”. Tribune Pakistan. Retrieved 2 September 2013.
  20. “Task Force on Improvement of Higher Education in Pakistan”. Task Force on Higher Education and Society. Retrieved 25 January 2012.
  21. “Higher Education Commission Pakistan”. Higher Education Commission. Retrieved 25 January 2012.
  22. “Industrial Promotion Services”. Aga Khan Development Network. Retrieved 17 August 2016.
  23. “Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development”. Aga Khan Development Network. Retrieved 1 March 2016.
  24. “Shamsh Kassim-Lakha: Magnanimous Kyrgyz people that created such a great epic as “Manas” have a promising future”. Kabar News. Retrieved 4 September 2016.
  25. “Dr. Shamsh Kassim-Lakha, S.I., Awarded Hilal-i-Imtiaz”(PDF). Retrieved 1 April 2013.
  26. “Shamsh Kassim-Lakha”(PDF). Benazir Income Support Programme. Archived from the original(PDF) on 9 May 2012. Retrieved 10 October 2011.
  27. “Commission Members”. Higher Education Commission. Archived from the original on 4 September 2013. Retrieved 10 October 2011.
  28. “IBO Council Members”. International Baccalaureate. Archived from the original on 2 December 2011. Retrieved 10 October 2011.

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. . . Shamsh Kassim-Lakha . . .