Dr. Shoaib Sultan Khan is widely recognized as one of the pioneers of rural development programmes in Pakistan. He served for 59 years in various development organizations including Aga Khan Foundation,

Dr. Shoaib Sultan Khan

Professional Achievements

Dr. Shoaib Sultan Khan is widely recognized as one of the pioneers of rural development programmes in Pakistan. He served for 59 years in various development organizations including Aga Khan Foundation, UNICEF, UNDP, and Rural Support Programmes Network. As a CSP Officer, he worked with the Government of Pakistan for 25 years, later on he served Geneva-based Aga Khan Foundation for 12 years and UNICEF and UNDP for 14 years. Since his retirement, he has been involved with the Rural Support Programmes (RSPs) of Pakistan full-time, on voluntary basis.

Shoaib Sultan is a recipient of numerous awards including the distinguished the United Nations Environment Programme Global 500 Award in 1989, the Sitara-i-Imtiaz in 1990, the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 1992, the WWF Conservation Medal in 1994, "Man of the Year" Rotary International (Pakistan) Gold Medal in 2005, Sitara-e-Eisaar and Hilal-i-Imtiaz by the President of Pakistan in 2006. He has penned numerous research papers and books and is considered as an authority in the field of ‘rural development’. In 2009, he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for "Unleashing the power and potential of the poor".

Born in 1933, Shoaib Sultan pursued academic studies from the Universities of Lucknow, Cambridge, Oxford, Birmingham and Peshawar. This includes Bachelor of Law degree from Peshawar University, Master of Arts in English from Lucknow University in 1953, and a Public Administration Course from the University of Cambridge, UK in 1956-57. He has also done academic work at University of Birmingham as well as at the Queen Elizabeth House, Oxford.

He started his career as a lecturer in 1953. However, in 1955 he joined the Civil Service of Pakistan and remained in it till 1978. During his tenure with the Government of Pakistan he served at various senior level positions which, includes service as Deputy Director of Civil Service Academy, Deputy Commissioner Kohat and Peshawar, Commissioner of Karachi Division: Secretary Department of Health, Education and Social Welfare, Government of North West Frontier Province and Director for the Pakistan Academy of Rural Development.

His career in rural development started in 1959 when he came in contact with Dr. Akhter Hameed Khan. Under his guidance he established the Daudzai Pilot Project of the Integrated Rural Development Programme in 1972 on the pattern of Comilla Project. In 1978, he was deputed to Nagoya, Japan, as a consultant to the United Nations Center for Regional Development. As the UNICEF consultant, he worked in Sri Lanka during 1979 and 1982 on the Mahaweli Ganga Development Project.

He learned from Dr. Akhter Hameed Khan that democratic village institutions can play a significant role in empowering the rural poor to become masters of their own development. He adapted his mentor's insights to mountain communities in the northern areas of Pakistan and in Sri Lanka, where he lived in a forest village to assist UNICEF devise an effective social development program for the rural settlers. He was thus an experienced development professional when, in December 1982, the Aga Khan Foundation asked him to introduce income generating activities for nearly a million people in Pakistan's vast and rugged northern areas.

In 1982, he laid the foundation of Aga Khan Rural Support Programme (AKRSP), a citizen sector organization that targets poverty-stricken villages and engages their inhabitants in development programmes, with the larger goal of involving the public in policy change. Based on the philosophy that the poor are willing to overcome barriers to sustainable livelihood but lack the capacity to do so, the interventions of AKRSP have particularly focused on monetary independence through community organization, capacity building and fostering human capital.

He believes that investment in community organization projects can prove to be the best catalysts for collective decision making and accountability in the underprivileged rural communities. In his initial dialogues with the community, he clarified that the Programme would give each village a one-time-only grant for such a project—but on certain conditions. He guided them to choose the project collectively keeping in view that the project must benefit everyone; for that they must form a community organization to plan, build, and maintain the project; they must meet regularly with everyone present; and they must make systematic contributions to a common fund so that there would be savings and collateral to help meet future needs.

As the projects got underway, his team carefully monitored the construction of each new irrigation channel and link road, and subsequently funneled equipment, supplies, and essential expertise to the villagers. As the new land was opened to irrigation, he urged them on to the next stage. "The sooner you develop the land," he used to inform them, "the sooner you will benefit from it." The programme also introduced new strains of plants, taught villagers new skills, and encouraged the illiterate and ever-toiling women of the area to assert themselves and participate in collective initiatives of their own.

As a result, more than one thousand local projects funded by AKRSP brought 100,000 hectares of new land under irrigation. More than seven thousand community members were successfully trained as managers, accountants, and specialists in farming, animal husbandry, forestry and marketing. Local organizations of around 1,400 villages are now managing livelihood projects, generating their own capital, and conserving local resources. In addition to that, millions of trees provided by the programme anchor the thin mountain soil and yield apricots and apples for selling "down country," as well as fuel and timber for the future.

His efforts have clearly made a difference to the livelihood of millions in the Northern Areas of Pakistan. As his working method is attracting the attention of other development professionals globally, his vision is spreading.

At the behest of United Nations Development Programme, he undertook through South Asian Poverty Alleviation Programme (SAPAP), setting up demonstration pilots on the pattern of AKRSP in Bangladesh, India, Maldives, Nepal and Sri lanka and replication of AKRSP in Pakistan. AKRSP is now a national programme in Pakistan. In South Asia, India has now launched a countrywide programme called National Rural Livelihood Mission based on SAPAP principles of development, to benefit over 300 million poor.

He has been closely associated with policy making and development planning in Pakistan and is currently serving as honorary Chairman, Board of Directors of the Rural Support Programmes Network, National Rural Support Programme, Ghazi Brotha Development Organization, Sindh Rural Support Organization and Director of the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme, Institute of Rural Management, Sarhad Rural Support Programme, Punjab Rural Support Programme and Balochistan Rural Support Programme. He also served as the Director of the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development, Member of the Advisory Group of the World Bank sponsored Community Development Carbon Fund, Member of the Government of Pakistan Advisory Committee on Millennium Development Goals and Chairman of the Pakistan Government’s Vision 2030 Group on Just Society.

In recognition of his services, he has been awarded at various platforms including the United Nations Environment Programme Global 500 Award in 1989, Sitara-i-Imtiaz by the President of Pakistan in 1990, the Ramon Magsaysay Award by the President of Philippines in 1992 and the World Conservation Medal by the Duke of Edinburgh in 1994, the Rotary International (Pakistan) awarded Man of the Year 2005 Gold Medal in 2006, Sitara Eisaar for earthquake work and Hilal-i-Imtiaz on Pakistan Day in 2006 by the President of Pakistan.