Agha Hasan Abedi: the man who dared to dream big

Agha Hasan Abedi was a visionary Pakistani - it is a shame that we have let our youth forget him.

Samir Butt October 25, 2010
Agha Hasan Abedi was one of the finest minds this country has ever produced. He was an exemplary patriot and a legendary banker.

In the mess that exists today, the youth of Pakistan desperately needs inspiring personalities to look up to.

I cannot think of a better person to quote.

He proved that politics is not the only form of service to the nation. He suffered through various scandals towards the end of his life, but no one can deny his contributions towards building a stronger Pakistan. It is a shame we let our youth forget a man like Agha Hasan Abedi.

Thousands graduate every year from FAST National University and Ghulam Ishaq Khan Institute. Only a handful of those proud degree holders know who laid the foundations of these prestigious institutes. It was one man’s vision that delivered tremendously to Pakistan’s development.

A true patriot

Agha started his banking career at Habib Bank in the late 1940s and enjoyed instant promotions. He went on to join the United Bank Ltd (UBL) in 1959 and shot up the ranks again. Under his leadership, UBL changed the banking culture in Pakistan and it became the second largest bank in the country. But this is just a small highlight of his résumé.

When banks in Pakistan were nationalised in 1972, Agha went on to start the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI). He persuaded the Arabs to invest in it, which turned into one of the largest banks in the world, spreading its influence through offices in 72 countries around the world. It employed some 16, 000 people and Agha made sure that a majority of the employees were Pakistani nationals. Such was his spirit towards his homeland. Over 80 per cent of the top executives of the bank were Pakistani.

A bank that was too successful

BCCI’s influence went beyond everyone’s expectations. It became a big player throughout the world and expanded at a great pace, making BCCI a dominant force worldwide. Hence, it was decided by some that it was time for the BCCI to go. BCCI was accused of funding Pakistan’s nuclear program, Palestinian fighters, money laundering and various other charges. Agha became a wanted man internationally. Pakistan’s government gave him full protection and refused to hand him over. Agha was maligned in the international media and the bank was alleged to have links with international intelligence agencies. Mired in controversy, the bank was torn apart.

The focus of this article is to bring Agha Sahib’s contributions to Pakistan in the limelight. His contribution is of such magnitude that it is safe to say that he shaped the modern Pakistan. Pakistan’s banking industry is often considered extremely competent. Most emerging banks in the Middle East are using expertise from Pakistan to set up their banking and financial sectors. If we dig to the roots of this accomplishment, it was Agha Hasan who deserves all the credit. BCCI trained thousands of Pakistanis to become successful banking professionals. The stable structure and modern infrastructure of banking in Pakistan comes from Agha.

A farsighted contributor

Agha was a visionary. He introduced computer science in Pakistan, back when few knew what it even was. He donated Rs100 million to form the BCCI Foundation for Advancement of Science and Technology (FAST) in 1980 to promote computer science in Pakistan. The year 2000 saw this foundation create FAST National University of Computer and Emerging Sciences, a premier multi-campus university with campuses in Islamabad, Lahore, Karachi and Peshawar. Moreover, Ghulam Ishaq Khan Institute (GIKI) was also a brainchild of the same man. Both these schools have produced many scientists and engineers who are contributing heavily towards Pakistan’s economy.

Agha was a businessman, who genuinely believed that an individual’s goal should be to help the poor. His great achievements can be proved by the fact that his philanthropic activities are bearing fruits even today, well over a decade after his death. Yet, most of the information about him on the Internet projects him as a corrupt banker only. His contributions towards Pakistan are often overlooked and ignored.

Samir Butt A former Youth Foreign Minister of Pakistan, Fulbright undergraduate scholar, freelance writer, public speaking trainer, IT consultant and marketing professional. He blogs at
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


Ahmad Mujtaba Ahsan | 13 years ago | Reply Though I read this article too late but I would like to suggest that someone should and must highlight all the facts of Agha's career, What he did on international level? What he did for pakistan? What is he accused of and why?. Any one who does this, I ask him to do this neutrally and not present his own opinion in that all work. I would like for that work to be purely fact based.
farah | 13 years ago | Reply AHA may have accomplished some great achievements in his time. The lesson to be learnt from his actions are that he clearly did more wrong than right - Allah punishes people in many ways and the reason for AHA's downfall was that he was a sinner. He ruined the lives of many a people and funded charitable organisations to cover his guilt. I was offered a job (like thousands others created by BCCI) by someone who barely knew me nor my background. I chose to work for GS, obviously. Employees working at BCCI were not required any form of education nor work experience. The firm was a collaboration of Pakistanis - that was the criteria. Clearly from reading the reviews above, many of you appreciated him because you need people like him to give you a break and help you achieve things in life. His legacy should be an example to all of you apart from Talha that unless you gain success based on your own merits, you will become a failure. Aside from the weapons and drugs claims, at the very basic level he commited fraud and huge amounts of it. He is not someone we should be proud of, but instead teach our children that he was an example of someone who corrupted the financial industry! Issuing unsecured loans worth 800mio to Gokal family knowing that they would never be repaid who in turn practically got away with murder (a member of the Gokal family wedded at the Langham hotel yesterday) and reaped in the financials which were loooted from thousands of innocent people globally. When will you all learn that a true Pakistani should make us proud, not beg steal and murder - thats not the act we muslims should be proud of - and clearly Allah punished him in his lifetime.
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