Conferring the French award of the "Ordre national du Mérite" to Mr. Hassan Ali Khan, Director General, Continental Biscuits Ltd
Speech by Mr. Pierre Charasse, Ambassador of France to Pakistan
Distinguished guests, Mr Hassan Ali Khan, Managing Director of Continental Biscuits Ltd, Madam, Mr John Miller, Senior Vice President of Danone Asia, Mr Jean-Philippe Quercy, Minister-Counsellor for Economic Affairs, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great honour and pleasure for me to be in Karachi this evening to pay tributes to one of the eminent figures of business community in Pakistan, and I thank our Consul General Mr Jean-Yves Berthault for hosting this ceremony.
France has decided indeed to confer upon Mr. Hassan Ali Khan one of its highest honoury distinction, “Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Mérite” in recognition of his industrial activities in the framework of joint venture which he created between the French group Danone and Continental Biscuit Limited.
Through a decree of 8th July 2003, the President of France, Mr. Jacques Chirac, has decided to award Mr. Hassan Ali Khan the “Ordre National du Mérite”, and I am glad this evening to confer upon him, in the name of the President, the said distinction.
I would like to remind you what is the “ordre National du Mérite”. It is a honoury distinction, created by Général de Gaulle in 1963 in order to recognize the merits of persons, French or foreigners, who distinguish their private or professional life, in service of France, in service of noble cause in their countries, or who have played an important role for the development of relations between their countries and France.
The President of the Republic is the Head Master of the Order, and it is presided over by the Grand Chancellor of the “Legion d’Honneur”.
The nomination of foreign personalities on the “Ordre National du Mérite” is also a sign of friendship and recognition of a country through the personality who receives this distinction.
Today, France deeply acknowledges Mr. Hassan Ali Khan and send a message of friendship to Pakistan, to Karachi and to its business community.
Mr Hassan Ali Khan,
“You were born in 1946 in Calcutta, India, coming from a prominent family. Everybody here, knows you perfectly, and I would like to underline certains aspects of your life in relation with France.
After having gained a vast experience in the fields of industry and business in Pakistan, you started negotiations for a joint venture with a french multinational group for the launch of biscuits “LU Brun” in Pakistan.
In 1985-86, CONTINENTAL BISCUITS LIMITED was created as a joint venture between your company and the french food giant DANONE group, the latter becoming, 12 years later, the second largest manufacturer of food products in the world, the Swiss company NESTLE occupying the first position. Within a span of 10 years, this joint venture has become the largest manufacturer of biscuits in Pakistan with a turnover of over 2 billion roupies.
In the years 1998 and 1999, both you and DANONE GROUP have taken the company - which employs 800 people - into a major expansion of the Sukkur industrial zone, bringing in an investment of 600 million roupies over a period of 2 years. The total investment at current market value is estimated over 1,5 billion roupies. The Company is again going over an expansion of 400 million which has recently been approved.
During all these years as a major player in the economic life of Pakistan, you travelled a lot to attend many international conferences in countries like China, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia and France and, in spite of heavy commitments, you have also been participating in many important official bodies:
You were member of the Economic Development Council of Sindh, constituted by the former Governor Mr. Mohammedmian Soomro;
You are member of the General Body of Sindh Industrial Trading Estates;
You have been a member of the Managing Committee of the Overseas Investors Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and
Chairman of the sub-committee of the Chamber for Intellectual Proprety Rights.
However, in the meantime, you dedicated as well, a lot of your time to charitable activities; actually, you and CONTINENTAL BISCUITS LIMITED, as many chief executives at the helm of major companies in this noble country, believe seriously in corporate social responsability.
For the last 6 years, together with the Office of the French Consulate General, you have been the sole sponsor of AL-MEHRAN TIBBI IMDAD, a charitable organization creating hospices for the terminally ill poor patients.
CONTINENTAL BISCUITS has been donating both to AGA KHAN and SHAUKAT KHANUM HOSPITALS.
Furthermore, patients with cancer or suffering from eyes diseases, from the interior of Sindh, especially Sukkur, have been treated at these hospitals and dialysis machines, for free treatment for patients suffering from kidney disorders, have been installed at Gumbat under your own sponsorship and that of CONTINENTAL BISCUITS.
Last but not the least, in the field of education, this company together with you provides scholarships to students to go to medical colleges and universities on an annual basis. So, during many years, you have worked very hard in favour of your country in many differents fields.
But at the same time, you have been a prominent actor of the relationship between France and Pakistan. Indeed, the connection you have with FRANCE is not limited to CONTINENTAL BISCUITS LIMITED and its joint venture with Group DANONE.
You were the first Vice President of PAKISTAN FRANCE BUSINESS ALLIANCE (PFBA), and have been an active member ever since;
You have contributed in promoting FRANCE by sponsoring cultural events through the ALLIANCE FRANCAISE as well as through the FRENCH CONSULATE, not forgetting the numerous diners, and parties held at your own residence, with the help of Mrs Ali Khan ; on these occasions you promoted a fusion between the French and Pakistani “Art de vivre”, a fusion quite necessary to bring our people much closer to each other;
During all these years, you proved personally to be always available and a solid partner for France, participating in the promotion of the image of our country in a market predominantly controlled by our anglo-saxon competitors;
You have constantly been giving support to the French embassy, particularly to its Economic Department, and you are considered as one of its best partners ; I would like to thank you for having accepted Continental Biscuits to accompaign us in the celebration of our National Day, last 14th of July in Islamabad.
You showed your personal commitment and dedication in helping the French authorities to achieve some of their major goals in order to offer assistance towards the development of Pakistan, and I am sure you will continue to play a remarkable and commendable role in the futur for the strenghtening of our bilateral relations.
Mr. Ali Khan,
For all these reasons, France has wished to express you its gratitude, and that’s why, in the name of the President of the Republic, I make you “Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Mérite”.