Akhtar Hameed Khan

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Dr. Akhtar Hameed Khan (1914-1999) was a development activist and social scientist credited for pioneering microcredit and microfinance initiatives, farmers' cooperatives, and rural training programmes in the developing world.[1] He also promoted rural development activities in Pakistan, Bangladesh and in other developing countries, and advocated community participation in development.

He is particularly known for his leading role in the establishment of a comprehensive project for rural development, Comilla Model (1959)[2] that earned him Magsaysay Award from Philippines and honorary Doctorate of Law by Michigan State University. In 1980s he founded a bottom up community development initiative of Orangi Pilot Project in Karachi slums.[3] He received wide international recognition and highest honours in Pakistan for these projects and a number of programs that were part of these projects, from microcredit to self-financed and from housing provision to family planning.

Khan was fluent in five international languages, and apart from many scholarly books and articles, published his collection of poems and travelogues in Urdu language.


  1. Personal life
  2. Career 2.1 Languages
  3. Pioneer of Microcredit and Microfinance

    3.1 Comilla Cooperative Pilot Project

    3.2 Orangi Pilot Project

  4. Anniversary
  5. Civil Awards
  6. Publications
  7. 6.1 Urdu publications
  8. 6.2 Books about Dr Khan
  9. 7 Notes 8 See also 9 External links

Personal life
Akhtar Hameed Khan was born on 15 July 1914 in Agra and died on 9 October 1999. He graduated from from Agra University in 1934 to join the Indian Civil Service (ICS). On his ICS probation, he studied literature and history at Magdalene College, Cambridge, England. A larger part of his ICS career was served in East Bengal. The Bengal famine of 1943 and subsequent inadequate handling of the situation by the colonial rulers led him to resign from the Indian Civil Service. For two years he worked in a village near Aligarh as a labourer and locksmith. In 1947, he took up a teaching position at the Jamia Millia, Delhi, and worked for three years.

He spent a significat part of his life in Comilla. His residence was located in the Ranir Dighir Par area of the town, adjacent to Victoria College where he taught for a long time. As a gesture of respect for his contributions to the community, the Comilla-Kotbari road in Bangladesh has been named after him.

After Partition of Bengal (Partition of British India) in 1947, Akhtar Hameed Khan migrated to Karachi and from there he went to East Pakistan to become the Principal of the Comilla Victoria College till 1958. During this time, he developed special interest in the initiatives and participation of grassroots level people. In 1958, he went to the Michigan State University for a special orientation in rural development. Returning in 1959, he established Pakistan Academy for Rural Development at Comilla, later renamed as Bangladesh Academy for Rural Development (BARD). He worked there until 1971 as the Director. His Comilla project for rural development and cooperatives became famous as a successful model of local innovative action. In 1963, he received Magsaysay Award by the Governemnt of the Philippines for his services in rural development. In 1964, he was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Law by Michigan State University.

After Partition of Pakistan, when East Pakistan became Bangladesh, Khan moved to Pakistan and served as a Research Fellow, first at the University of Agriculture, Faisalabad, and then in 1972–1973 at Karachi University. In 1973, he went back to the Michigan State University as a visiting professor to remain there until 1979. In 1979 he also began serving as an adviser at the Rural Development Academy at Bogra in northern Bangladesh.

Dr Khan also worked as a visiting professor at the Lund University, Sweden, at the Woodrow Wilson School, Princeton University, at Harvard University, and Oxford University. In 1980, he founded the Orangi Pilot Project (OPP) in Karachi.[4]

Dr Khan was fluent in English, Bengali, Arabic, Persian, and Urdu languages.[5] He wrote a number of articles, reports and monographs, mostly relating to rural development in general and his various successful and model initiatives in particular.

Pioneer of Microcredit and Microfinance Dr. Akhtar Hameed Khan is among the pioneers to have introduced the revolutionary idea of microcredit and microfinance, for the destitute and the deprived communities. Two of his most successful projects are still privileged as models across the developing world:

Comilla Cooperative Pilot Project Main article: Comilla Model The Comilla Model (1959) was Dr Khan's initiative in response to the failure of Village Agricultural and Industrial Development (V-AID) programme that was launched in 1953 in East and West Pakistan with technical assistance from the US government. The V-AID was a governmental level attempt to promote citizens participation in the sphere of rural development.[6]

Comilla Model provided a methodology of implementation in the areas of agricultural and rural development on the principle of grassroots level cooperative participation by the people. [2] The initial concept was to provide a development model of programmes and institutions that could be replicated across the country. The leadership skills of Khan proved a source of inspiration for Grameen Bank by one of the Comilla Academy students Muhammad Younus.[7]

Orangi Pilot Project Main article: Orangi Pilot Project Orangi poverty alleviation project (Orangi Pilot Project, OPP) was initiated by Dr Khan in 1980. Orangi at that time was the largest squatter community (katchi abadi) in Karachi.[8] The project was aimed at socio-economic development of the population of the vast Orangi area of Karachi[9]. As the project director Dr Khan and proved to be its dynamic and innovative leader.[10] The project comprised a number of programs, including a people's financed and managed Low-Cost Sanitation Program;[11] a Housing Program; a Basic Health and Family Planning Program; a Program of Supervised Credit for Small Family Enterprise Units; an education Program; and a Rural development Program in the nearby villages.[12]

Comparing the OPP with Comilla project, Akhtar Hameed Khan once commented:

"The Orangi Pilot Project was very different from the Comilla Academy. OPP was a private body, dependent for its small fixed budget on another NGO. The vast resources and support of the government, Harvard advisors, MSU, and Ford Foundation was missing. OPP possessed no authority, no sanctions. It may observe and investigate but it could only advise, not enforce." [13]

However, both the projects followed the same research and extension methods.

 Anniversary Dr Khan died on 9 October 1999 at the age of 85 years. On 10 April 2000, Government of Pakistan, renamed the National Centre for Rural Development as Akhtar Hameed Khan National Centre for Rural Development and Municipal Administration.[14]




Born 15 July 1914 Agra, British India Died 9 October 1999 Karachi, Pakistan Residence Karachi Pakistan, Comilla Bangladesh Nationality Pakistani Field Rural development, Microcredit Institution Bangladesh Academy for Rural Development (Bangladesh), National Centre for Rural Development (Pakistan) Alma mater Michigan State University Known for Microcredit, Microfinance, Comilla Model, Orangi Pilot Project Notable prizes Magsaysay Award (1963), Nishan-e-Imtiaz, Hilal-e-Imtiaz

His Articles

External Links

Website dedicated to Akhtar Hameed Khan

Akhter Hameed Khan, Photo Gallery

A Vision Unveiled, Premiere of a documentary film on Akhtar Hameed Khan

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