Shamsh Kassim-Lakha is the Founding President of the Aga Khan University the first private university chartered in South Asia. Under the vision of His Highness the Aga Khan, he led the planning, building and operation of this internationally renowned world class institution for 27 years in eight countries of Asia, Africa and the United Kingdom.
Shamsh served as Pakistan’s Minister of Education as well as Science and Technology in the Caretaker Government in 2007-8. He chairs the board of Pakistan Centre for Philanthropy and sits on the board of International Baccalaureate Organization. Shamsh is a member of the board of Benazir Income Support Programme, Pakistan’s largest poverty reduction initiative. He is elected to the Steering Committee of the Talloires Network of 250 universities worldwide, involved in civic engagement and based at Tufts University. He is Senior Distinguished Fellow at the Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto and consults for the World Bank, Grameen Bank on higher education and health. He has written several book chapters and articles on school and higher education, higher education reforms as well as on philanthropy.
Shamsh chaired the Committee that wrote Pakistan’s National Environment Protection Act (1997). In 1997 he Co-Chaired with the Education Minister of Tajikistan the Commission on the Establishment of the University of Central Asia and later helped negotiated the International Treaty and charter of this University sponsored by the governments of Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and the Ismaili Imamat. In 2001-2, he lead the government Task Force which recommended reforms in Pakistan’s higher education, that have resulted in major structural changes in universities, the creation of Higher Education Commission (HEC), greater access for students, substantial increase in research output and a many fold increase in funding. He was a member of HEC from 2007 to 2011.
The first two decades of his career were spent in the jute industry of East Pakistan and in venture capital activities as Managing Director of Industrial Promotion Services of Pakistan, sponsored by the Aga Khan Development Network. Leading a work force of 22,000 he built up one of the largest industrial and export houses of Pakistan. Among his numerous civic activities, he has served as District Governor of Lions International in Pakistan.
His 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 policy making by governments and the important role civil society plays in South and Central Asia, Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Shamsh received his undergraduate education in the UK and an MBA from the University of Minnesota. In recognition of his academic and social work he has received an honorary degree from McMaster University, Canada as well as national awards of Sitara-e-Imtiaz and Hilal-e-Imtiaz from the President of Pakistan and Officer of the National Order of Merit from the President of France.