Financial genius: Agha Hasan Abedi

Financial genius

Agha Hasan Abedi was a financial genius who was born in 1922 to a Shiite Muslim family in Lucknow, British India, and migrated to Pakistan after the country’s independence in 1947. Lucknow University awarded him a master’s degree in English Literature and a law degree. Lucknow was once the epicenter of Muslim culture on the subcontinent and the seat of the decadent Mughul Empire. Old Lucknow was a kaleidoscope of color and palace intrigue. Exquisite literature in Urdu, a language developed from the mating of native Hindi with the Persian of the Muslim invaders, flourished among its spacious gardens, perfumed woods, and mosques. As the Moghul monarch in Delhi began to lose his force, his local agent, the Nawab, Vizir, established the Kingdom of Oudh.


The British arrived at Lucknow in force, with a six-mile-long military post nearby. The city’s magnificent architecture served as a backdrop to one of the great dramas of the Indian mutiny of 1857. In the enormous residency, Muslim militants besieged 3,000 British servicemen and their families. Only 1,000 British soldiers survived after eighty-seven days when they were ultimately rescued by fresh troops.

The residency’s remains are still standing in a downtown park, a reminder to what the British call a massacre and the Third World hails as the first great rebellion against Western hegemony. This was the environment that formed young Abedi, the budding financial genius, an atmosphere of culture and romance rather than commerce. “Lucknow is a city of poets, painters, and Nawabs, not of businessmen,” a subsequent colleague of Abedi explained. Another friend commented that Abedi’s Lucknavi Muslim origin was responsible for “his appreciation for perfume, gourmet cuisine, good attire, art, and the color white, for its purity.”

Abedi was influenced even more directly by another Lucknavi tradition. The rulers of the city had been serviced by tulekdars, who were famed for their generosity and love of power. Abedi’s family had served the rajas as administrators and managers from the middle of the nineteenth century, preserving the relics of this system of service and patronage. Abedi’s father worked as an estate manager for the Raja of Mahmoodabad, a princely Muslim family from Lucknow.

Abedi was able to attend prestigious Indian schools and the University of Lucknow because of raja’s support. Because the Abedis were Muslims in a country administered by the British and dominated internally by Hindus, such help was required. In British India, many Muslims were confined to lowly employment, and just a few rose to positions of prominence. Early in his youth, Abedi learned a lesson that would serve him well throughout his career: courting wealthier, more powerful people has its benefits.

Abedi was an excellent student, according to all accounts, and he graduated from Lucknow University with a law degree. He had a lesser social status than Indians who had received their education in England or Europe because he had attended a public university. He was an outsider on top of that because he was Muslim in a Hindu-dominated society. Rather than pursuing a legal career, the young graduate chose to pursue a career in banking. As a result, in 1946, he traveled to Bombay, British India’s financial capital. He got an entry-level job at the newly created Habib Bank there.

Start of career and subsequent achievements

He began his career in 1946 with Habib Bank before Pakistan’s independence, and when he formed the United Bank Ltd (UBL) in Karachi in 1959, he made substantial improvements in Pakistan’s banking culture. He was the organization’s founder and first president. UBL grew to become Pakistan’s second largest bank under his leadership. Abedi introduced commerce and industry to the notion of customized service and financial support, with a focus on the bank’s international operations. Abedi was one of the first to recognise the prospects presented by the Persian Gulf oil boom, and he pioneered strong economic partnership between Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates in the private sector (UAE). Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the President of the United Arab Emirates, has endorsed UBL’s efforts in Pakistan and overseas.

Abedi formed the Bank of Credit and Commerce International with the Bank of America NT & SA as a key shareholder after banking was nationalized in Pakistan in 1972. The BCCI commenced operations from a two-room head office in London, which was registered in Luxembourg. It grew into a global banking organization with 72 branches and 16,000 workers in 72 countries. Abedi was personally responsible for attracting a large number of Pakistanis to the field of international banking, with Pakistanis holding nearly 80% of the top executive positions at the BCCI’s head office and branches in various countries. “It was created by the charismatic Agha Hasan Abedi in 1972, funded by Middle Eastern financiers and operated primarily by South Asians.” Abedi left BCCI in 1990 after having a heart attack and went to Karachi, where he died of heart failure in 1995 at the Aga Khan hospital.

Abedi was facing criminal charges in a number of countries for crimes relating to BCCI at the time of his death. Pakistani officials, on the other hand, refused to hand him up for extradition, arguing that the charges were politically motivated. Aside from that, he was most likely too unwell to stand trial. Since a stroke in the mid-1980s, he had been in terrible health.

Charitable organizations

Agha Hasan Abedi, a visionary financial genius, launched philanthropic organizations in the United Kingdom, India, Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, and Pakistan. The Infaq Foundation is based in Karachi, Pakistan, and has only one office. It has approximately Rs. 2.50 billion in capital and reserves, which is just over US$30 million in 2009. Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation, National Institute ofCardiovascular Diseases, Lady Dufferin Hospital, and Sir Syed University of Engineering and Technology in Karachi, and Ghulam Ishaq Khan Institute of Engineering Sciences and Technology in Topi, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan, are among the known institutions that have benefited. From 1983 through 1995, Ghulam Ishaq Khan served as the Foundation’s first Chairman.

Agha Hasan Abedi as a philanthropist

Various Chief Executives have overseen the Foundation’s operations. The Foundation’s Secretaries-General were retired government secretaries from 1981 to 1999. Sohail Kizilbash, a Chartered Accountant educated in the United Kingdom with extensive banking expertise, held the position from 1999 to 2008. Anwar Gillani, a Chartered Accountant, and former banker has been the Honorary Secretary General since 2009. Mr. Abedi also established BCCI FAST in 1980 with a Rs. 100 million gift to boost computer science education. The National Institution of Computer and Emerging Sciences is now Pakistan’s first multi-campus university. Islamabad, Peshawar, Karachi, Lahore, and Faisalabad are among its five campuses. Mr. Abedi also founded the Ghulam Ishaq Khan Institute of Engineering Sciences and Technology (GIKI). He believes that Pakistan should establish a new institution for higher education in engineering and sciences at the doctoral level, which would be comparable to universities in any industrialized country.

Rabia Abedi was Hasan Abedi’s wife. Maha his daughter, was born to them. Abedi was a well-known Muslim mystic despite being born into a Shia Muslim family. He would spend hours discussing his mystical views during his talks at BCCI Bank meetings. BCCI, he claimed, was not simply a bank, but a God-given entity with direct access to the universe.

BCCI, a Brainchild of Financial Genius

International media termed him as a “financial genius”, a slight glimpse of his genius can be understood by reading the following paragraphs. By the late 1980s, the BCCI group had exploded into a $50 billion behemoth, with $25 billion in its own books and another $25 billion in the accounts of its sister firms, including the First American Bank, the National Bank of Georgia, and the Saudi Arabian Independence Bank. It had offices in more than 90 countries across all five continents. This expanding banking association was controlled and run by third-world countries, the bulk of which were Muslim. Agha Hasan Abedi, the BCCI’s generous, astute, and foresighted President, founded the bank with the intention of using it as a bridge between the developed Western World and the Third World by reallocating economic resources from one to the other. The bank met its goal and frequently delivered critical money to countries in Asia, Africa, and South America. Through “bridge finance,” the BCCI assisted them in meeting IMF criteria. The IMF and other leaders in the Western banking sector were enraged by this. The main source of annoyance was its developing capacity to compete effectively in both “flight capital” and trade finance markets.

Role of BCCI

The BCCI contributed significantly to charitable causes in various Third World countries through charitable foundations such as the “Third World Foundation,” which is based in London, UK. Its quarterly magazine, “The Third World Journal,” provided a forum for Third World economists, scientists, and agriculturists to discuss and provide vital information. It also provided educational scholarships to deserving Third World students and established a $100,000 “Third World Prize,” akin to the Nobel Prize. This award was given to Thailand’s Third World Institute of Rice for its research into increasing rice yields. The prize was also awarded to Raul Prebish, an Argentine economist, for his economic theories on Third-World economic growth.

Former US President Jimmy Carter established another foundation, “Global 2000,” which was funded by a $20 million contribution from the BCCI. This foundation was created to improve the world’s economic, demographic, and environmental future. The BCCI also established the “BCCI Foundation,” which is based in Pakistan. This was paid for with profits from BCCI branches in Pakistan, and it was used to fund local education, healthcare, and housing. The Third World Foundation’s South Magazine served as a forum for intellectual debate and provided exclusive coverage of current issues affecting the people of Third World countries. This BCCI-funded magazine had a weekly circulation of about 200,000 and was widely read by businessmen, politicians, and young bankers from Asia to South America.


The BCCI story made national headlines and spawned dozens of books. The closure of the BCCI left the public with a final impression of a corrupt bank involved in drug dealing, money laundering, and financing nuclear programs in Pakistan.

The BCCI has been accused of all the wrongs of the banking world, and the Western media has found it guilty. It is true that five BCCI officers were convicted on money laundering charges in the United States and three in England. The following details from the accused’s court transcripts will demonstrate how this occurred. It should also be noted that there are only eight employees from a large corporation.

By 1994, the US government had collected approximately 1.4 billion dollars in cash and assets from the BCCI case, in addition to closing down the massive Muslim Bank. The US had promised to reimburse a portion of these funds to global depositors who had lost their deposits, but none of them have yet seen a dime of these profits. The United States appears to have benefited financially from the BCCI closure by playing the role of “global cop,” despite the fact that none of the depositors in the United States lost any money.

I hope this article has helped you learn a little bit about financial genius Agha Hasan Abedi and the BCCI.

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