A supporter of the Pakistan Movement, he was a member of the country's first Constituent Assembly. He was appointed Minister of State for both Defence and Foreign Affairs in 1949, and later served as Minister for Education from 1952 to 1953, when he quit politics over the assembly's dissolution.
Returning to academia, Husain taught as visiting professor at Heidelberg University and Columbia University during the 1960s. He served as vice-chancellor of Dhaka University from 1960 to 1963, and of Karachi University from 1967 until his death in 1975. A proponent of greater rights for East Pakistan, now Bangladesh, Hussain emerged a vocal but unsuccessful critic of Pakistan's military action in 1971.
Early life and family
Mahmud Husain was born in Qaimganj, United Provinces, British India to Fida Husain Khan, a lawyer, and Naznin Begum. The youngest of seven sons, he was the brother of Dr Zakir Hussain, the third President of India, and scholar Yousuf Hussain. He was also the father of Pakistan Television compere Anwar Husain, uncle of academic Masud Husain Khan, and the father-in-law of General Rahimuddin Khan, the Governor of Balochistan. Mahmud Husain's family were ethnic Afridi Pashtuns whose roots were in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. His ancestor Husain Khan migrated from Kohat to Qaimganj in 1715.
Husain attended Islamia High School, Etawah and Aligarh Government High School. He was part of the first batch of students to be admitted into the newly established Jamia Milia Islamia, where he was heavily influenced by the ideas of Maulana Muhammad Ali Jauhar. He received his PhD from the University of Heidelberg in Germany in 1932.
Mahmud Husain started his career in academia as a reader of modern history at the University of Dhaka in 1933, where he became provost, Fazlul Haq Hall in 1944 and professor of international relations in 1948.
He was elected Member of the first Constituent Assembly of Pakistan from East Bengal on the platform of Muslim League, and also elected Secretary of the Muslim League's Parliamentary Group. In 1949, he was appointed both Minister of State for Defense and Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Commonwealth Relations in the cabinet of Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan, before becoming State Minister for State and Frontier Regions a year later. In 1951, he was appointed Minister for Kashmir Affairs in Liaquat's cabinet, and then served as Minister for Education from 1952 to 1953.
Following anti-Ahmadiyya riots in 1953, Governor-General Ghulam Muhammad imposed martial law in Lahore, and dismissed the government of Prime Minister Khawaja Nazimuddin soon after. Mahmud Hussain retired from politics when the assembly was dissolved.
After the independence of Pakistan in 1947, Mahmud Hussain, inspired by the old Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi, India, played a key role in establishing an educational society Majlis-i-Taleem-i-Milli Pakistan in 1948 which served as the parent body of the Jamia Millia Educational Complex located in Malir, Karachi, Pakistan. Later in the early 1950s, over a 27 acres of land, many educational institutions were built at this Malir educational complex.
Mahmud Hussain returned to academia in 1953, after the dismissal of National Assembly of Pakistan. He joined Karachi University as its first professor of international relations and history. He also began the faculties of journalism and library science, the first in Pakistan, despite resistance. Mahmud Hussain also laid the foundation of the Library Association in 1957 and served as its president for fifteen years. He instituted the greater induction of social sciences into the national curriculum.
Mahmud Hussain was a known supporter of greater rights for East Pakistan and was appointed vice-chancellor of the University of Dacca in 1960. During his tenure until 1963, Mahmud Husain refused government requests to intervene in mass student protests against President Ayub Khan and martial law. During and after his tenure, he became a vocal critic of the government's handling of East Pakistan, and urged integration.
He also taught as visiting professor at his alma mater Heidelberg University (1963–64), Columbia University (1964–65) and University of Pennsylvania (1965–66). In 1966, Mahmud Hussain Khan went back to the University of Karachi as professor of history and worked there as the dean of its Faculty of Arts until 1971. He was appointed vice-chancellor of the University of Karachi from 1971 to 1975.
He strongly and vocally opposed the army operation in East Pakistan in 1971 but to no avail. He died while serving as vice-chancellor on 12 April 1975.
Mahmud Hussain was fluent in Urdu, English, German, and Persian, writing primarily in the Urdu language. His best-known works are Urdu translations: Mahida-i-Imrani (1935) from Jean-Jacques Rousseau's Social Contract, and Badshah (1947), a translation of Machiavelli's The Prince. His other books include The Quest for an Empire (1937), and Fatah-i-Mujahideen (1950), an Urdu translation of Zainul Abideen Shustri's Persian treatise on Tipu Sultan.
- Dr. Mahmud Hussain Road, Jamshed Town, Karachi 
- Mahmud Husain Library: On 12 April 1976, a year after his death, the Karachi University Syndicate renamed the Karachi University Library as the Dr. Mahmud Husain Library by unanimous resolution.
- "Mahmud Hussain profile". Council of Social Sciences Pakistan (magazine website). April 2003. Retrieved 30 August 2019.
- Muazzam Hussain Khan (15 September 2014). "Profile of Mahmud Hussain". Banglapedia: National Encyclopedia of Bangladesh website. Retrieved 30 August 2019.
- Zia-ul-Hasan Faruqi (1999) Dr. Zakir Hussain: Quest for Truth APH Publishing, India, GoogleBooks website
- Sharma, Vishwamitra (2007). Famous Indians of the 21st century. Pustak Mahal. p. 60. ISBN 81-223-0829-5. Retrieved 30 August 2019
- Mahmud Husain's interview to Radio Pakistan on YouTube
- First Constituent Assembly of Pakistan (1947-1954) Government of Pakistan website, Retrieved 30 August 2019
- Faiza Ilyas (18 February 2015). "Jamia Millia Malir body asked to vacate historical building". Dawn (newspaper). Retrieved 30 August 2019.
- Recalling Our Pioneers, Council of Social Sciences Pakistan website
- Karachi University: Where it stands today The News International (newspaper), Published 27 August 2008, Retrieved 30 August 2019
- University of Karachi Website
- Tehmina Qureshi (24 September 2012). "Key sources of national history gathering dust in Karachi University library". Dawn (newspaper). Retrieved 30 August 2019.