Rehman Sobhan

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Rehman Sobhan
রেহমান সোবহান
Prof. Rehman Sobhan at Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi on 05 October 2012.jpg
Born (1935-03-12) 12 March 1935 (age 86)
Alma materSt. Paul's School, Darjeeling Aitchison College
Cambridge University
London School of Economics
(m. 1962; death 2003)

Rounaq Jahan (-present)
ChildrenZafar Sobhan
Parent(s)Khonker Fazle Sobhan
RelativesFarooq Sobhan (brother)
AwardsIndependence Day Award (2008)

Rehman Sobhan (Bengali: রেহমান সোবহান; born 12 March 1935)[1] is a Bangladeshi economist and freedom fighter. He played an active role in the Bengali nationalist movement in the 1960s. He was also a member of the first Planning Commission in Bangladesh and a close associate of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. He was awarded the Independence Day Award in 2008.[2]

As of 2021, Sobhan heads the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), a non-governmental think tank in Bangladesh.[3]

Education and career[edit]

Sobhan with his mother Hashmat Ara Begum and younger brother Farooq Sobhan (1952)

Sobhan's father, Khondker Fazle Sobhan, was a graduate of Presidency College, Kolkata and one of the first Muslims to qualify to attend Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.[1] Later he rose to become a ranked officer in the Indian Police Service. Sobhan's mother, Hashmat Ara Begum, was a niece of Sir Khawaja Nazimuddin, the Governor General of Pakistan during 1948–51 and Prime Minister of Pakistan during 1951–53.[1] Sobhan went to St. Paul's School, Darjeeling at the age of seven and completed his Senior Cambridge examination in 1950.[1] He then attended Aitchison College in Lahore for two years.[1] He went on to Cambridge University to earn his bachelor's degree. His cohorts at Cambridge included notable economists like Amartya Sen, Manmohan Singh and Mahbub ul Haq. In late 1966, Sobhan went to the LSE for his graduate studies but returned, without completing his degree, to Dhaka in March 1969 after the fall of the Ayub regime.

After completing his undergraduate degree at Cambridge, Sobhan moved to Dhaka in January 1957.[1] He joined as a faculty member of the department of economics at the University of Dhaka in October and served until 1971. In a seminar in 1961, he made a remark on the economic disparities between West and East Pakistan saying "Pakistan consisted of two economies".[1] It made the headlines on the Pakistan Observer and the then President of Pakistan Ayub Khan expressed the opposite point of view.[1]

After the liberation of Bangladesh in 1971, Sobhan was appointed a member of the Planning Commission. He quit when he, along with others, fell from the grace of Sheikh Mujib in 1975. Later he worked as the director-general of Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies. Between 1976 and 1979, he was a Visiting Fellow at Queen Elizabeth House, University of Oxford. After retirement from BIDS, he set up Centre for Policy Dialogue in 1993, a high-profile private sector think-tank, where he works as its Executive Chairman.

Pre-independence contributions[edit]

In the 1960s, Sobhan, with a number of other nationalist economists under the intellectual leadership of Nurul Islam, contributed to the drafting of the six-points programme that became the basis for the struggle for autonomy in the then East Pakistan. The writings of this group of economists on the regional disparity between West Pakistan (Pakistan since 1971) and East Pakistan (Bangladesh since 1971) played an important role in fomenting nationalist aspirations of the people of Bangladesh. During the liberation war (from 26 March to 16 December 1971), he was a roving ambassador for Bangladesh and lobbied in the United States.

Post-independence activities[edit]

After the independence of Bangladesh, Sobhan became one of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's four members of the Planning Commission.[4] He left the country after he was asked to quit. Upon his return to Bangladesh in 1982, he joined Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS) and later he founded the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD). Currently he is the chairman of CPD, which is active in open public discussions of policy issues, particularly in the area of governance. He was appointed an advisor of the Caretaker Government in Bangladesh in 1990–91.


Sobhan married Salma Sobhan in 1962. She was the first woman barrister in Pakistan, an academic and a human rights activist.[5] After her death in 2003, he then married Rounaq Jahan, a political scientist and a Distinguished Fellow at CPD. Sobhan's younger brother, Farooq Sobhan, is a former diplomat and the current President of Bangladesh Enterprise Institute, a private-sector think-tank of Bangladesh.[4] His son Zafar Sobhan is the editor of the English daily Dhaka Tribune published from Dhaka.[4]

Selected bibliography[edit]


  • Sobhan, Rehman (1968). Basic democracies works programme and rural development in East Pakistan. Dacca, Bangladesh: Bureau of Economic Research, University of Dacca; distributed by Oxford University Press. OCLC 652243660.
  • ——; Ahmed, Muzaffar (1980). Public enterprise in an intermediate regime: a study in the political economy of Bangladesh. Bangladesh: Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies. OCLC 773118575.
  • —— (1982). The crisis of external dependence: the political economy of foreign aid to Bangladesh. London, U.K. Bangladesh: Zed Press University Press. ISBN 9780862321970.
  • —— (1983). Public enterprise and the nature of the state: the case of South Asia. Dhaka, Bangladesh: Centre for Social Studies. OCLC 11134168.
  • —— (1983). Rural poverty and agrarian reform in the Philippines. Rome, Italy: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. OCLC 20375354.
  • —— (1990). From aid dependence to self reliance: development options for Bangladesh. Dhaka, Bangladesh: Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies, University Press. OCLC 614997139.
  • —— (1991). Debt default to the development finance institutions: the crisis of state sponsored entrepreneurship in Bangladesh. Dhaka, Bangladesh: University Press. ISBN 9789840511556.
  • —— (1991). Public allocative strategies, rural development, and poverty alleviation: a global perspective. Dhaka, Bangladesh: University Press. ISBN 9789840511587.
  • —— (1992). Planning and public action for Asian women. Dhaka, Bangladesh: University Press. ISBN 9789840511983.
  • —— (1993). Rethinking the role of the state in development: Asian perspectives. Dhaka, Bangladesh: University Press. ISBN 9789840512096.
  • —— (1993). Bangladesh: problems of governance (governing South Asia). Delhi, India: Konark Publishers. ISBN 9788122003024.
  • —— (1993). Agrarian reform and social transformation: preconditions for development. London Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey: Zed Books. ISBN 9781856491693.
  • ——; et al. (1995). Experiences with economic reform: a review of Bangladesh's development, 1995. Dhaka, Bangladesh: Centre for Policy Dialogue University Press Limited. ISBN 9789840513086.
  • —— (1996). Aid dependence and donor policy: the case of Tanzania, with lessons from Bangladesh's experience. Dhaka, Bangladesh: Centre for Policy Dialogue University Press Limited. ISBN 9789840513369.
  • —— (1998). Towards a theory of governance and development: learning from East Asia. Dhaka, Bangladesh: Centre for Policy Dialogue University Press Limited. ISBN 9789840514151.
  • —— (2000). Growth or stagnation?: A review of Bangladesh's development 1996. Dhaka, Bangladesh: Centre for Policy Dialogue University Press Limited. ISBN 9789840513888.
  • —— (1998). Crisis in governance: a review of Bangladesh's development 1997. Dhaka, Bangladesh: Centre for Policy Dialogue University Press Limited. ISBN 9789840514366.
  • —— (2000). Trends in the post-flood economy: a review of Bangladesh's development 1998-1999. Dhaka, Bangladesh: Centre for Policy Dialogue University Press Limited. ISBN 9789840515417.
  • —— (2001). Changes and challenges: a review of Bangladesh's development 2000. Dhaka, Bangladesh: Centre for Policy Dialogue University Press Limited. ISBN 9789840515882.
  • —— (2005). Privatisation in Bangladesh: an agenda in search of a policy. Dhaka, Bangladesh: Centre for Policy Dialogue University Press Limited. ISBN 9789840517046.
  • —— (2005). A citizen's social charter for South Asia: an agenda for civic action. Dhaka, Bangladesh: Centre for Policy Dialogue University Press Limited. ISBN 9789840517435.
  • —— (2005). A macro policy for poverty eradication through structural change. Helsinki: United Nations University, World Institute for Development Economics Research. ISBN 9789291906741.
  • —— (2010). Challenging the injustice of poverty: agendas for inclusive development in South Asia. New Delhi Thousand Oaks: SAGE. ISBN 9788132106234.
  • Hussain, Akmal (2014). Democracy, sustainable development, and peace : new perspectives on South Asia. New Delhi New Delhi: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780199082834.

Chapters in books[edit]

  • Sobhan, Rehman (2009), "Agents into principals: democratizing development in South Asia", in Kanbur, Ravi; Basu, Kaushik (eds.), Arguments for a better world: essays in honor of Amartya Sen | Volume II: Society, institutions and development, Oxford New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 542–562, ISBN 9780199239979.
  • —— (2014), "Reconstructing democracy in South Asia", in Dubey, Muchkund; Hussain, Akmal (eds.), Democracy, sustainable development, and peace: new perspectives on South Asia, New Delhi: Oxford University Press, ISBN 9780198092346.

Journal articles[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "In conversation with Professor Rehman Sobhan". The Daily Star. 4 April 2015. Retrieved 6 November 2017.
  2. ^ "CA hands over Independence Award". The Daily Star. UNB. 26 March 2008. Retrieved 31 December 2013.
  3. ^ "CPD Team". Centre for Policy Dialogue. Retrieved 28 March 2021.
  4. ^ a b c Chen, Lincoln (28 February 2016). "Forty-five years ago, just like yesterday". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 8 November 2017.
  5. ^ Hossain, Hameeda (2012). "Sobhan, Salma". In Sirajul Islam; Ahmed A. Jamal (eds.). Banglapedia: National Encyclopedia of Bangladesh (2nd ed.). Asiatic Society of Bangladesh. Retrieved 7 November 2017.