Dr. Mahbub ul Haq- prominent economist of Pakistan

Dr. Mahbub ul Haq- prominent economist

Life, career, and achievements of Dr. Mahbub ul Haq

Dr. Mahbub ul
Haq was a Pakistani economist and international development theorist who
developed the Human Development Index with his friend Dr. Amartya Sen as an
alternative to GDP. Mahbub was a rare combination of a thinker and a doer. He
was a former Minister of Finance in his home country of Pakistan, and he was
acutely aware that theoretical debates were insufficient, and that we needed to
think about policies that made a difference in people’s lives. He was also
Pakistan’s Finance Minister from 10 April 1985 to 28 January 1986, and again
from June to December 1988.

received a scholarship to Cambridge University after graduating from Government
College Lahore with a degree in economics. Following that, he earned his Ph.D.
from Yale University and did postdoctoral research at the Harvard Kennedy
School. Throughout the 1960s, he returned to Pakistan to serve as the Planning
Commission’s Chief Economist. He moved to Washington, DC in 1970, following the
fall of Field Marshal Ayub Khan, to serve as the World Bank’s Director of
Policy Planning until 1982, where he played a key role in reorienting the World
Bank’s approach to assisting low-income countries’ development. He returned to
Pakistan in 1982 and became Finance Minister in 1985, overseeing a period of
economic liberalization. In 1989, he returned to the United States to serve as
Special Adviser to United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Administrator
William Henry Draper. At the UNDP, Haq was instrumental in the creation of the
Human Development Report (HDI), which measures
development based on well-being rather than income alone. In 1996, he returned
to Pakistan and laid the foundation of the Human Development Center in Islamabad.

Early Life and education

February 24, 1934, Mahbub ul Haq was born in Gurdaspur, a pre-independence
Punjab province that is now part of the Republic of India. He came from an
“Urdu-speaking family.” During his adolescence, he witnessed
religious violence and forced migration in the aftermath of Pakistan and
India’s independence in August 1947. He and his family narrowly avoided being
killed aboard one of the refugee trains bound for Pakistan. The nature of the
religious violence had an indelible impact on Mahbub ul Haq.

Haq earned
a bachelor’s degree in economics from Government College Lahore in 1953. He was
awarded a scholarship to Cambridge University, where he earned another BA in
the same field. Haq earned his BA at Cambridge alongside Amartya Sen, with whom
he formed a close, lifelong friendship. After his scholarship was renewed, Haq
went to the United States to pursue his doctoral studies at Yale University,
where he earned a Ph.D. in Economics. Later, in 1960–61, Haq did post-doctoral
research at Harvard University.


When he
returned to Pakistan in 1957, at the age of 23, he became Assistant Chief of
the Planning Commission, which was preparing its first Five-Year Plan.
Influenced by dominant economic thought in American academia, Haq advocated
capitalism as the economic foundation of the national economy and assisted the
government in implementing free-market principles to boost the economy. When
General Ayub Khan’s military government took power in October 1958, it embraced
this approach wholeheartedly. By the 1960s, Haq, as the Planning Commission’s
Chief Economist, was giving speeches all over the country in support of these
economic policies.

While the
international community lauded Pakistan as a development model, Haq became
concerned that the distribution of growth’s benefits was not going well. Rapid
economic development made Haq’s team question the long-term viability of such a
growth pattern, and he became more supportive of heavier taxation of the
asset-owning classes. In an April 1968 speech to the Applied Economics Research
Centre at the University of Karachi, Haq claimed that “22 industrial
family groups had come to dominate Pakistan’s economic and financial life-cycle
and that they controlled about two-thirds of industrial assets, 80% of banking
assets, and 79% of insurance assets in the industrial domain.” Dawoods of
the Dawood Group, Saigols of the Saigol Group, Adamjees of the Adamjee Group,
Colony, Fancy, Valika, Jalil, Bawany, Crescent, Wazir Ali, Gandhara, Ispahani,
House of Habib, Khyber, Nishat Group, Beco, Gul Ahmed Group, Arag, Hafiz,
Karim, Milwala, and Dada were among those named.

revelations played a significant role in mobilizing millions of people in a
massive grassroots protest movement that led to the overthrow of Field Marshal
Ayub Khan in March 1969. Following Ayub’s demise, Haq accepted an invitation
from World Bank President Robert McNamara to serve as his Director of Policy
Planning. During his tenure (1970–82), Haq influenced the Bank’s development
philosophy and lending policies, shifting emphasis to poverty alleviation
programs, and increasing allocations for small farm production, nutrition,
education, water supply, and other social sectors.

working at the World Bank, Haq was approached by Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali
Bhutto to join the Ministry of Finance, but he declined due to his strong
opposition to Bhutto’s nationalization program. In 1973, Bhutto invited Mahbub
to return to Pakistan and work with his administration to develop a strategy to
lift a large number of Pakistanis out of poverty and stagflation, but their major
differences convinced Haq not to return.

In 1982,
at the request of General Zia-ul-military Haq’s government, Haq returned to
take over as Director of the Planning Commission. Haq was appointed Minister of
Planning and Development in 1983. According to Parvez Hasan, “under
Mahbub’s direction, the Planning Commission became once again a lively place
and began to exert a powerful influence on social sector issues, such as
education and family planning, which had been largely neglected during the Zia

Zia oversaw a partial return to democracy in 1985 with so-called ‘non-party’
general elections, and Haq was sworn in as Minister of Finance, Planning, and
Economic Affairs in Mohammed Khan Junejo’s PML government. Haq is credited with
significant tax reforms, economic deregulation, a greater emphasis on human
development, and several poverty-relief initiatives. Despite this significant
increase in social spending, Haq was forced to resign in January 1986 as a
result of protests against his reforms. He was reappointed Finance Minister in
Gen. Zia-ul-caretaker Haq’s administration after he dismissed the Junejo
government in May 1988. Haq’s term ended when the PPP government of Benazir
Bhutto was sworn in following the November 1988 general elections.He was
appointed Special Advisor to UNDP Administrator William Draper in New York City
in 1989 to produce the first Human Development Report. As Project Director, Haq
pioneered the concept of Human Development and the Human Development Report.  He oversaw an international team of scholars,
including Amartya Sen, Paul Streeten, Inge Kaul, Frances Stewart, and Richard
Jolly, who produced annual Human Development Reports. In 1996, Haq established
the Human Development Center in Islamabad, Pakistan, as a policy research
institute dedicated to organising professional research, policy studies, and
seminars on human development, with a special emphasis on South Asia. Following
his death, the Human Development Centre in Islamabad was officially renamed the
Mahbub ul Haq Human Development Centre, with Mrs. Khadija Haq as president, in
recognition of his contributions.


Haq died on July 16, 1998, at the age of 64, in New
York City, leaving behind his wife Khadija Haq, son Farhan, and daughter Toneema.

  • Kofi
    Annan, UN Secretary-General, stated that ‘Mahbub ul Haq’s untimely death
    is a loss to the world.’ 
  • According
    to World Bank President James Wolfensohn, “probably more than anyone
    else, (Mahbub) provided the intellectual impetus for the Bank’s commitment
    to poverty reduction in the early 1970s.” His one-of-a-kind
    contributions set global trends and focused attention on South Asian
    social realities, urging all of us to look into the dark corners of our
    social milieus.’
  • Prof
    Amartya Sen (who received the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences in 1998)
    was a close friend of Dr. Mahbub ul Haq, and said about Mahbub ul Haq.

ul Haq as a person was much larger than all the parts that combined to make him
the person he was.  He was, of course, an outstanding economist, a
visionary social thinker, a global intellectual, a major innovator of ideas who
bridged theory and practice, and the leading architect in the contemporary
world of the assessment of the process of human development. These achievements
are justly celebrated, but going beyond the boundaries of each, this was a
human being whose combination of curiosity, lucidity, open-mindedness,
dedication, courage, and creativity made all these diverse achievements

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