Mahbub ul Haq

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Mahbub ul Haq
محبوب الحق
14th Minister of Finance, Revenue & Economic Affairs
In office
9 June 1988 – 1 December 1988
PresidentGhulam Ishaq Khan
Preceded byYasin Wattoo
Succeeded byEhsan-ul-Haq Piracha
In office
10 April 1985 – 28 January 1988
PresidentZia ul Haq
Prime MinisterMuhammad Khan Junejo
Preceded byGhulam Ishaq Khan
Succeeded byYasin Wattoo
Personal details
Born(1934-02-24)24 February 1934
Punjab Province, British India
Died16 July 1998(1998-07-16) (aged 64)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Spouse(s)Khadija Haq
Alma materUniversity of Punjab (B.S.)
King's College, Cambridge (B.A.)
Yale University (Ph.D.)

Mahbub ul Haq (Urdu: محبوب الحق‎; 24 February 1934 – 16 July 1998) was a Pakistani economist, politician and international development theorist who served as the 13th Finance Minister of Pakistan from 10 April 1985 until 28 January 1988.[1]

After graduating in economics from Punjab University, he won a scholarship to Cambridge University obtaining a second degree. Subsequently, he received his PhD from Yale University and conducted postdoctoral research at the Harvard Kennedy School. He returned to Pakistan to serve as the Chief Economist of the Planning Commission during the 1960s and moved to the U.S after the election of the socialist government led by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. At the World Bank he worked as the policy director throughout the 1970s and also the chief economic adviser to Robert McNamara.[2][3]

He returned to Pakistan in 1982 and in 1985 became the country's Finance Minister, overseeing a period of economic liberalisation. In 1988 he moved back to U.S. where he served as the Special Adviser to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator William Henry Draper. At the UNDP, Haq led the establishment of the Human Development Report and the widely respected HDI, which measures development by well-being, rather than by income alone. He returned to Pakistan in 1996 to establish the Human Development Center in Islamabad.[4]

Haq is considered to have had a profound effect on global development. Haq's 1996 book Reflections on Human Development is said to have opened new avenues to policy proposals for human development paradigms, such as the 20:20 Global Compact and the setting up the UN Economic and Social Council.[5] Amartya Sen and Tam Dalyell termed Haq's work to have "brought about a major change in the understanding and statistical accounting of the process of development."[6] The Economist called him "one of the visionaries of international development."[7] He is widely regarded as "the most articulate and persuasive spokesman for the developing world".[8][9]

Early life[edit]

Mahbub ul Haq was born in Gurdaspur[10] in pre-independence Punjab province on 24 February 1934.[11] His teenage years saw religious violence associated with the independence of Pakistan and India in August 1947.[11] He and his family narrowly escaped from being killed by the Sikhs in one of the trains heading to Pakistan. The nature of the religious violence left a lasting impression on Mahbub ul Haq.[11] After reaching Lahore, Haq was given government-sponsored housing and decided to continue his education. In 1954, he applied and was accepted at the Punjab University where he enrolled in the social sciences department.[11]

In 1958 he earned BS in Economics and earned scholarship to resume his studies in Great Britain.[11] He went on to attend Cambridge University where he earned another BA in the same discipline.[11] At Cambridge, Haq gained his BA alongside Amartya Sen, with whom he formed a close, lifelong friendship.[11] After renewing his scholarship, Haq went to United States for his doctoral studies, where American economics system would later influence him for his long advocacy for capitalism. He entered in doctoral programme of Yale University and earned PhD in Economics from Yale, which was followed by post-doctoral work at Harvard University.[11] After completing his post-doctoral studies, Haq returned to his country to join the government service.


Haq also served as the World Bank's Director of Policy Planning (1970–1982) and headed Pakistan's Finance Ministry as its minister of finance and planning (1982–1988). In 1989, he was appointed as Special Advisor to the UNDP Administrator, where he led a team of international scholars to produce the first Human Development Report.[12]

Upon returning to Pakistan, Haq joined the Planning Commission and, while still in his 20s, he became chief economist of Planning Commission.[14] He maintained his ties with Finance Ministry and continued serving as economist advisor to the government of Pakistan.[14]

By the 1960s he was delivering speeches all over the country. He supported the policies of President Ayub Khan.[15] Haq advocated capitalism as the economic base of the national economy and helped guide the government to apply free-market principles to boost the economy.[15] In a public press conference in 1965, Haq alleged that "22 industrial family groups had come to dominate the economic and financial life-cycle of Pakistan and that they controlled about two-thirds of industrial assets, 80% of banking and 79% of insurance assets in the industrial domain."[15] The rapid economic development made Haq's team doubt the long-term viability of such a pattern of growth. While the international community was applauding Pakistan as a model of development, Haq reserved the concerns and raises questions that all was not well with the distribution of benefits of growth.[15] It came as a surprise to Haq that the strong oligarchy of 22 families had control of the national economy and the private sector.[15] While supporting add taxation of the powerful oligarch families, Haq left the country in 1971, just before the 1971 war that led the secession of East-Pakistan into Bangladesh.[16]

While in the United Kingdom, Haq was called by Bhutto to join the Ministry of Finance, but ultimately refused as he had strong opposing views on socialist economics. Bhutto, in response, began to attack the powerful oligarch families in a programme of nationalization.[16] In 1973 Bhutto again asked Mahbub to return to Pakistan and join his administration in devising a strategy that would lift a large number of Pakistanis out of poverty and stagflation, but ideological differences persuaded Haq not to return.[16] In 1982 Haq returned at the request of General Zia-ul-Haq, and assumed charge of the Ministry of Finance. He became associated with the Ministry of Defence, where he would go on to play an important role. He was the first chairman of the Executive Committee of the Space Research Commission and assisted in the nuclear weapon policy of the country with Munir Ahmad Khan.

During his tenure at the World Bank (1970–82), Haq influenced the Bank's development philosophy and lending policies, steering more attention towards poverty alleviation programmes and increased allocations for small farm production, nutrition, education, water supply and other social sectors. He wrote a study[17] that served as a precursor to the basic needs and human development approaches of the 1980s.

Serving as Pakistan's Minister of Finance, Planning and Commerce (1982–88), Haq is credited with significant tax reforms, deregulation of the economy, increased emphasis on human development and several initiatives for poverty alleviation. According to Parvez Hasan 'under Mahbub's direction, the Planning Commission became once again a lively place and began to exert powerful influence on social sector issues, including education and family planning, much neglected in earlier Zia years – as Finance Minister, Mahbub piloted a major acceleration in social spending'.[18]

On 1968, Haq identified 22 families/groups in Pakistan that were dominating the financial and economic life of the country controlling 66% of the industrial assets and 87% of the banking. As indicated by Haq, these families had become both the Planning Commission and Finance Ministry for the private sector by 1968. The list included Dawood family of Dawood Group, Saigols of Saigol Group, Adamjees of 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.[19]

In his capacity as Special Advisor to UNDP Administrator, Haq initiated the concept of Human Development and the Human Development Report as its Project Director. He gathered Paul Streeten, Inge Kaul, Frances Stewart, Amartya Sen and Richard Jolly to prepare annual Human Development Reports. In 1996, Haq founded the Human Development Center in Islamabad, Pakistan — a policy research institute committed to organizing professional research, policy studies and seminars in the area of human development, with a special focus on the South Asian region.


Haq devised the Human Development Index which has become one of the most influential and widely used indices to measure human development across countries.[20][21] The HDI has been used since 1990 by the United Nations Development Programme for its annual Human Development Reports.


Haq died on 16 July 1998 in New York City, leaving behind his wife Khadija Haq, son Farhan and daughter Toneema.[citation needed] In acknowledgement of his contributions, the Human Development Centre, Islamabad was officially renamed the Mahbub ul Haq Human Development Centre on 13 December 1998, with Mrs. Khadija Haq as president.

Reactions to his death included:

  • 'Mahbub ul Haq's untimely death is a loss to the world ...', Kofi Annan, UN Secretary General.
  • '... probably more than anyone else, (Mahbub) provided the intellectual impetus for the Bank's commitment to poverty reduction in the early 1970s. [...] His unique contributions were trend setters for the world and focused attention on the South Asian social realities, urging all of us to look at the dark corners of our social milieus'. James Wolfensohn, President of the World Bank.

UNDP Award[edit]

In honour of Haq, UNDP established the Mahbub ul Haq Award for Outstanding Contribution to Human Development, which is presented to a leading national, regional or world figure who has demonstrated outstanding commitment to furthering human development understanding and progress.[22] The Mahbub ul Haq Award alternates between recognizing political leaders and civil society leaders. Recipients of this Award include:[23]

Selected works[edit]

  • The Strategy of Economic Planning (1963)
  • The Poverty Curtain: Choices for the Third World (1976). Columbia University Press. 247 pages. ISBN 0-231-04062-8
  • The Myth of the Friendly Markets (1992)
  • Reflections on Human Development (1996) Oxford University Press. 1st edition (1996): 288 pages, ISBN 0-19-510193-6. 2nd edition (1999): 324 pages, ISBN 0-19-564598-7
  • The U.N. and the Bretton Woods Institutions: New Challenges For The Twenty-First Century / Edited By Mahbub Ul Haq ... [Et Al.] (1995)
  • The Vision and the Reality (1995)
  • The Third World and the international economic order (1976)
  • New Imperatives of Human Security (1995)
  • A New Framework for Development Cooperation (1995)
  • Humanizing Global Institutions (1998)


  1. ^ Mahbub ul Haq, a heretic among economists, died on 16 July, aged 64
  2. ^ "Inaugural Mahbub ul Haq-Amartya Sen Lecture, UNIGE | Human Development Reports". Retrieved 23 February 2016.
  3. ^ "Amartya Sen - Biographical". Retrieved 23 February 2016.
  4. ^ "Honouring Mahbubul Haq - The Express Tribune". The Express Tribune. Retrieved 23 February 2016.
  5. ^ Mahbub ul Haq (1996) Reflections on Human Development. Oxford University Press. 288 pages. ISBN 0-19-510193-6
  6. ^ "Obituary: Mahbub ul Haq". The Independent. Retrieved 23 February 2016.
  7. ^ "Mahbub ul Haq". The Economist. ISSN 0013-0613. Retrieved 23 February 2016.
  8. ^ "Dr. Mahbub ul-Haq". Retrieved 23 February 2016.
  9. ^ Baru, Sanjaya (1 January 1998). "Mahbub ul Haq and Human Development: A Tribute". Economic and Political Weekly. 33 (35): 2275–2279. JSTOR 4407121.
  10. ^ Baru, Sanjaya (1988) Mahbub ul Haq and Human Development: A Tribute, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 33, No. 35 (Aug. 29 - Sep. 4), pp. 2275-2279 (5 pages)
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h Sen, Amartya; Tam Dalyell (3 August 1998). "Obituary: Mahbub ul Haq". Amartya Sen, Tam Dalyell. The Independent. Retrieved 10 August 2012.
  12. ^ UNDP (1990) Human Development Report 1990: Concept and Measurement of Human Development. Oxford University press. ISBN 0-19-506480-1
  13. ^ BARBARA CROSSETTE. "Mahbub ul Haq, 64, Analyst And Critic of Global Poverty". The New York Times. July 17, 1998.
  14. ^ a b Crossette, Barbara (17 July 1998). "Mahbub ul Haq, 64, Analyst And Critic of Global Poverty". The New York Times. The New York Times. p. 2. Retrieved 10 August 2012.
  15. ^ a b c d e "System is to blame for the 22 wealthy families". Human Development Center, Originally published on London Times. Human Development Center. 22 March 1973. p. 1. Archived from the original on 22 July 2013. Retrieved 6 September 2012.
  16. ^ a b c Ponzio, Richard; Khadija Haq (2008). Pioneering the human development revolution: an intellectual biography of Mahbub Ul Haq. United Kingdom: Oxford University Press, 2008. pp. 256–260. ISBN 9780195695137. Retrieved 26 February 2014.
  17. ^ Mahbub ul Haq (1976) The Poverty Curtain: Choices for the Third World. Columbia University Press. 247 pages. ISBN 0-231-04062-8
  18. ^ A Tribute to Dr Haq Archived 24 January 2008 at the Wayback Machine at Human Development Centre website
  19. ^ The 22 Families
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^ Mahbub ul Haq Award
  23. ^ The Human Development Awards Archived 18 February 2008 at the Wayback Machine

Web site of Mahbub ul Haq Human Development Centre. Islamabad: A Tribute to Dr. Mahbub ul Haq

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Ghulam Ishaq Khan
Finance Minister of Pakistan
Succeeded by
Mian Yasin Khan Wattoo
Preceded by
Mian Yasin Khan Wattoo
Finance Minister of Pakistan (caretaker)
Succeeded by
Benazir Bhutto