Dr. Akhtar Hameed Khan
July 15 1914
|Died||9 October 1999 (aged 85)
|Residence||Karachi Pakistan, Comilla Bangladesh|
|Field||Rural development, Microcredit|
|Institutions||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, Sitara-e-Pakistan|
Dr. Akhtar Hameed Khan (1914-1999) - a development activist and social scientist credited for pioneering microcredit and microfinance initiatives, farmers' cooperatives, and rural training programmes in the developing world. He also promoted rural development activities in Pakistan, Bangladesh and in other developing countries, and advocated community participation in development.
He particularly earned renown for his leading role in the establishment of a comprehensive project for rural development, Comilla Model (1959) 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. He received wide international recognition and highest honors in Pakistan for those projects and a number of programs that formed part of those projects, from microcredit to self-financed and from housing provision to family planning.
Khan, born on July 15, 1914 in Agra, died on October 9, 1999. He graduated from Agra University in 1934, immediately joining the Indian Civil Service (ICS). During his ICS probation, he studied literature and history at Magdalene College, Cambridge, England. He served a larger part of his ICS career 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 laborer and locksmith. In 1947, he took up a teaching position at the Jamia Millia, Delhi, and worked for three years.
He spent a significant part of his life in Comilla. He lived in the Ranir Dighir Par area of the town, adjacent to Victoria College where he taught for years. 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, Khan migrated to Karachi and from there he went to East Pakistan to become the Principal of the Comilla Victoria College till 1958. During that 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 became famous as a successful model for cooperatives at the local levels. In 1963, the Government of the Philippines awarded him the Magsaysay Award services in rural development. In 1964, he received an honorary Doctorate of Law from 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 Michigan State University as a visiting professor to remain there until 1979. In 1979 he began serving as an adviser at the Rural Development Academy at Bogra in northern Bangladesh.
Khan 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.
Khan spoke fluent English, Bengali, Arabic, Persian, and Urdu languages. 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.
The Comilla Model (1959), Khan's initiative in response to the failure of Village Agricultural and Industrial Development (V-AID) program, launched in 1953 in East and West Pakistan with technical assistance from the US government. The V-AID constituted a governmental level attempt to promote citizens participation in the sphere of rural development.
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.  The initial concept sought to provide a development model of programs 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 Yunus.
While most of the cooperatives failed, frustrating Khan's goals, the Model provided valuable lessons for later Bangladeshi leaders in microfinance like Dr. Muhammad Yunus of Grameen Bank and Dr. Fazle Hasan Abed of BRAC. Those leaders abandoned the cooperative approach in favor of centralized control and service delivery structures, and adopted a strategy of targeting the poorest villagers while excluding those less poor. That strategy successfully prevented the types of 'elite capture' of local cooperatives, leading to widespread delinquencies, that plagued the Comilla Model.
Dr Khan initiated Orangi poverty alleviation project (Orangi Pilot Project, OPP) in 1980. Orangi at that time constituted the largest squatter community (katchi abadi) in Karachi. The project aimed at socio-economic development of the population of the vast Orangi area of Karachi. As the project director, Dr. Khan proved a dynamic and innovative leader. The project comprised a number of programs, including a people's financed and managed Low-Cost Sanitation Program; 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.
Comparing the OPP with Comilla project, Akhtar Hameed Khan once commented:
Both the projects followed the same research and extension methods.
Khan died on October 9, 1999 at the age of 85. On April 10, 2000, the Government of Pakistan renamed the National Centre for Rural Development as Akhtar Hameed Khan National Centre for Rural Development and Municipal Administration. 
Khan received the following civil awards for his contributions:
Council of Social Sciences, Pakistan (COSS) in collaboration with National Rural Support Programme (NRSP) and other institutions, have established an annual cash award in the memory of Dr. Akhtar Hameed Khan. The Award is given annually by the COSS on October 9, the birthday of Dr. Akhtar Hameed Khan, to the best book by a Pakistani author published during a financial year (July to June) written in any of the issues related to (i) rural/urban development (ii) Peace (iii) Poverty alleviation and (iv) Gender discrimination.
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