February 29, 2008

Support from Azerbaijan to schoolchildren who suffered from the earthquake

An article by Raja Amir Mahmud Batti entitled “Support from Azerbaijan to schoolchildren who suffered from the earthquake” was published in influential “The Pakistan Observer” being printed in English in Islamabad about the school built by the Heydar Aliyev Foundation.


Text of the article received from our Embassy in Islamabad is presented to our readers.


Some five hundred years ago, rulers of Baku had built caravanserais - Multan caravanserai – for Multan merchants travelling to Azerbaijan, which was located at the intersection of the East and West, on the famous Silk Way.  


With combination of these old traditions with modern development of our days, the Republic of Azerbaijan is located on the coast of the Caspian Sea. This country is distinguished with its people, rich natural resources and history. Azerbaijan has 86.6 thousands square kilometres of territory and over 8.5 million population. The country has common borders with Russia, Iran, Turkey, Georgia and Armenia. Azerbaijan’s geographic location talks of its ancient historical significance. Nature has endowed this country with rich natural resources, in particular with oil. The capital of Azerbaijan, Baku, is often referred to as the “Oil capital”.


Pakistan and Azerbaijan both have rich religious and cultural relations. Pakistan’s culture has been formed by its language, literature, cuisine, marriage ceremonies, religious and moral values, under strong influence of the Central Asia. Since old times, nations of the region have been tied with close cultural relations.


Being among the first countries to recognize Azerbaijan’s independence and open their embassies in Baku, Pakistan has always supported Azerbaijan on an international arena. The people of Azerbaijan and its leaders have always appreciated Pakistan’s sincere relations and showed mutual good will.


The foundation of close relations between Pakistan and Azerbaijan was laid back at the beginning of 90th by Azerbaijan’s late President, Pakistan’s true friend, great politician Heydar Aliyev. Fortunately, these relations have developed on a rising line, by getting stronger year-by-year.


On October 8, 2005, Pakistan faced an unprecedented destructive earthquake, and this disaster has devastated large area of Azad Kashmir region. Long-lasting earthquake’s intensity was 7.6 points. About 98 square kilometres of area was almost razed to the ground. Seventy thousand people lost their lives; thousands of kilometres of roads became useless. Hundreds of schools crashed down and turned into a grave of thousands of teachers and schoolchildren, electrical, water and gas lines, hospitals were destroyed. Damage caused by the disaster amounted to billions of dollars. Aftermath of this disaster was more tragic than a tsunami can cause. During a tsunami, rescue works are carried out in more advantageous conditions, and here the conditions were quite different. Pakistan had never faced such a disaster to this extent, and the government had neither facilities, nor expertise to struggle against such a disaster.


In such a difficult day, the whole world, in particular Muslim countries came to help Pakistan. From this standpoint, Azerbaijan’s support should be emphasized specifically. Azerbaijan is a country, which regained its state independence recently, with 20% of the territory being under Armenia’s occupation. Over one million Azerbaijanis were forced to leave their homes as a result of this occupation and are living in hard conditions in various places of the country, having become internally displaced people. However, on hearing the tragedy our Pakistani brothers faced, the people of Azerbaijan, despite its hardships, shared the friendly nation’s sorrow.  The government and people of Azerbaijan came to the aid of the Pakistani brothers. The day following the earthquake, on the instructions of President Ilham Aliyev, a special aircraft with forty doctors, considerable amount of medicines, equipment and trained rescuers was sent to Pakistan. On the same day, the Azerbaijani team preceded to work in largely-damaged areas of Balacot. The Government of Azerbaijan contributed 1.5 million US Dollars in financial aid to Pakistan the day, on which the earthquake struck, for urgent needs. At this tragic time, the people of Azerbaijan did a very estimable job. People gathered items required for a daily use and sent to Pakistan. The people of Azerbaijan showed their care and attention towards the Pakistani people. Azerbaijan participated at a higher level at the donation conference convened by the Pakistani President after the earthquake, and sent Deputy Prime Minister Yagub Eyyubov to the conference.


Children suffered the most from the destructive effect of the earthquake. Given this factor, the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, Azerbaijan’s very famous non-government charity organization, made a decision to build a state-of-the-art secondary school for Pakistani pupils. Heydar Aliyev is the national leader of Azerbaijan and this Foundation has been established in his memory. Pakistan’s Administration for Reconstruction and Revivification from Earthquake (ERRA) undertook responsibility for works on reconstruction in the affected area. It submitted a few projects to the Heydar Aliyev Foundation for construction of a state-run secondary school for girls in Rara settlement of the city of Muzaffarabad, which was totally destroyed by the earthquake. Construction of the school would not have required much efforts under normal conditions. But complex relief of the area and bad weather conditions made this work extremely difficult. Due to destruction of roads, difficulties were encountered while transporting construction materials. The school had located almost a kilometre off the road, on a hill. First a road had to be built in order to proceed to carrying materials to the construction site.


Selection of a project to build a school for girls was a very important job. Having developed the design in a short span of time, the Foundation made one more contribution to the nation’s development through education of women, one of the most important factors of society’s development. An educated woman is a mother of a child who could become nation’s rich treasury.


Construction of the school started in June 2007 and was completed within six months, which may be considered a very short time. The fact that the Foundation completed the work ahead of the fixed time is a sign of the Foundation’s great success.


Chairman of the Milli Majlis of the Azerbaijan Republic for agrarian policy, head of the Azerbaijan- Pakistan interparliamentary friendship group Eldar Ibrahimov and Executive Director of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation Anar Alakbarov handed over, February 9th, 2008, the school to schoolchildren.

Total cost of the school’s construction was 750 thousand US Dollars. The two-storied building features ten spacious classrooms, two laboratories, a library, a computer room, a large assembly hall, a canteen etc. The school has been provided with all necessary state-of-the-art equipment.


The school was inaugurated with participation of schoolchildren and teachers that had been studying in the open air ten meters off the construction site and impatiently waiting for completion of works, as well as parents, high ranking officials of Azad Kashmir region, representatives of the Embassy of Azerbaijan in Pakistan and others.


The Heydar Aliyev Foundation has built over 200 schools in Azerbaijan for the last three years within its “Support to Education” project. And this school, which was the first project of this kind implemented by the Foundation beyond Azerbaijan, was completed by its management’s tireless efforts and diligence. President of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation Mehriban Aliyeva deserves the highest esteem for successful completion of the project.


In 2004, Mehriban Aliyeva was awarded the title of Goodwill Ambassador of UNESCO for her care to literature, poetry, national music, education, public health and other social spheres. A highly-skilled physician, since 1995, Mehriban Aliyeva has been working on protection and development of Azerbaijani culture. She has created the Mugham Centre in Baku with the objective to protect and promote of Azerbaijan’s national music on an international arena. She has also showed great kindness in charity works.


Addressing the opening ceremony, Azerbaijan’s Ambassador to Pakistan Eynulla Madatli expressed a hope his country, in particular the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, would continue providing aids to restoration works in Pakistan. He underlined that the expected partnership plans would also include music school projects and ideas such as training teachers.


The people of Pakistan expresses its endless gratitude to First Lady of Azerbaijan, President of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, UNESCO and ISESCO Goodwill Ambassador Mehriban Aliyeva for taking the grave aftermath of the earthquake to discussions at higher levels and speaking with special presentation at UNESCO headquarters encouraging restoration works in Pakistan.     


We are quite sure the time will come and girls-graduates of the Rara girls’ school presented by the Heydar Aliyev Foundation will contribute to the friendship between Pakistan and Azerbaijan with their knowledge and literacy.