Featured Interviews - Dr. I . A. Mukhtar
Firstly, tell us something about your childhood
and educational career?
I belong to a middle class family. I was born in 1916 in Ludhiana, a district in India. What makes my childhood different or early years of life uncommon is that I had to move from place to place a little too often. Consequently, my schooling was done in four different cities namely Ludhiana, Amritsar, Bhopal and Rohtak.
My undergraduate studies took place in two different colleges of Delhi and I obtained a Masters degree in Economics from Muslim University Aligarh. Throughout my studies I remained a scholarship holder. In my M.A. examination at Aligarh I was awarded the Vali Mohammad Toul Medal for standing first amongst the successful candidates.
I chose teaching for a profession and taught Economics to undergraduate classes in a number of colleges in the sub-continent. In 1952, I was awarded the Fulbright Scholarship of the United States for a two-semester study experience in the Columbia University in the city of New York. I managed to obtain the Masters degree in Economics from this university in a short time. Not only that, my professors at the Columbia University praised my performance in their courses in glowing terms. For example, one of them, after recounting the fields of my work, said and I quote, "In all of these intellectual activities Mr. Mukhtar has shown himself to be an exceptional student. His examination paper in the public finance course was one of the best I have seen in recent years."
Shortly after my return from the Columbia University in 1953, I joined the newly started Economics department in the University of Karachi.
My PhD degree from the Columbia University in January 1958 was the result of the Institute of Public and Business Administration's decision to make me a participant in its foreign training program so that, on my return, I could become the Pakistani counterpart of the American Chief Advisor, who was running the Institute then as its director.
What was the Institute of Public and Business Administration?
Originally the governments of Pakistan and the US had agreed to set up one institution to provide education both in public and business administration at the master's level under the aegis of the University of Karachi. To begin with, on behalf of the US government, the University of Pennsylvania was to send a team of teachers, under the name of advisors, which would start the instruction work in the two programs; and simultaneously some Pakistanis were to be selected for training in public and business administration, and who, on return from their training programs at the Pennsylvania University, were to relieve the team of American advisors or teachers.
This contract between the US government and the Pennsylvania University lasted for five years from 1954 to 1959. During this period, however, the public administration program could not grow as much as the business administration program had done. Therefore, the USAID, then called ICA acting for the US government, decided to take out the public administration wing of the Institute and reorganize it under the name of National Institute of Public administration (NIPA) as an in-service training program for the middle level and senior government officers.
That meant the demise of the Institute of Public and Business Administration as such and its rebirth as the Institute of Business Administration (IBA).
While making this bifurcation of the IPBA, the USAID also changed its contractor. Now the University of Southern California (USC) was to provide technical assistance, both to the IBA and to the NIPA. That is to say, exit University of Pennsylvania and enter University of Southern California.
The first thing that the new contractor university did was to change the name of the IBA to GSBA or the Graduate School of Business Administration. Accordingly, new stationary was printed for use by the Institute.
However, the new Ordinance of KU that took effect in early 1960 renamed the Institute as the Institute of Business Administration. This Ordinance also changed the status of the IBA from being a department of the Karachi University into a constituent college with its own board of governors to whom the University syndicate delegate all its executive and policy making powers.
What led the Americans to build IPBA, the first Institute for business studies in Asia?
The answer is very simple. On the request of Pakistan, America had assumed the role of aid-giver to this country and according to its (American's) perception that there was an acute shortage of persons adequately skilled in managing developmental activities both in the public and private sectors. So America asked Pakistan to become a partner in creating an institution like IPBA. It is a fact that in this field Pakistan became the precursor of Britain by about 10 years and of India by about the same period. And in these countries too this kind of education could be started with the assistance from America.
How and when were you associated with the IBA?
I have already said that the Chief Advisor of the IBA had selected me as his Pakistani counterpart and sent me in January 1956 for my PhD work at the Columbia University. Immediately, on my return, I was named the Deputy Director of IPBA and was actively involved in the decision-making, particularly in relation to the Pakistani faculty, their selection and foreign training programs, etc. and also all matters relating to the student body and discipline. The next year, I was appointed Head of the Department of the Institute of Public and Business Administration. In this capacity, I was to directly report to the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Karachi.
In 1960, I was offered the post of the Professor of Economics and head dept of Economics in the Karachi University. However, as I thought I could make a better contribution to the cause of education as head of IBA, I declined the offer.
Shortly, after that the status of the Institute was changed from a department to a constituent college of the Karachi University with a separate Board of Governors of its own. Now the IBA was to be headed by a director.
Where was the first campus of IPBA situated?
The IPBA was housed originally in a portion of the Institute of International Relations' building, located on the Havelock Road, adjoining the YMCA building. Then in 1960 the IBA moved to the fourth floor of the Kandawala building.
How did the present two campuses of the Institute come into being?
On the question of the location of the Institute campus, here existed a sharp difference of opinion between the second contractor university (USC) and the University of Karachi. The vice-chancellor, Mr. Hashmi, wanted it to be located on the vast Karachi University campus, whereas the USC was determined to have it downtown. Through the USAID it brought pressure to be put on the Secretary Education, Government of Pakistan, to intervene on its behalf. And Mr. Sharif, the Education Secretary informed the USAID that he had asked Mr. Hashmi to agree to the downtown location of IBA. Apparently this settled the issue. But Dr. I. H. Qureshi, who succeeded Mr. Hashmi, was sympathetic to the location of the IBA at the university campus. He ordered an appraisal of the IBA project. DR. M.M. Ahmed, a senior professor of KU, was named the appraisal officer. The appraisal report was slightly critical of the policies pursued by the USC and also suggested two campuses for IBA. This steamed the USC, but the USAID agreed to provide two campuses to IBA.
Did IPBA have any support from the Government of Pakistan?
Yes. The USAID provided the money in dollars to the two contractor universities for sending American teachers/advisors to the IBA and for arranging training programs for the Pakistani teachers who were sent to their campuses. In all, the USAID spent roughly 4.5 million dollars on the project.
The rupee expenditures of the IBA were met out of the tuition fee money and a grant from the Government of Pakistan.
How did IBA market for its students?
Yes, this was a tough proposition to begin with. The degree of MBA was unheard of in the country. The first batch of the MBAs and MPAs consisted of a very few persons and all of them had come from some foreign companies operating in Karachi. These graduates, upon completion of their studies at the IPBA, went back to their respective organizations. Almost no placement effort was thus needed in respect of this batch.
When the second batch of students passed out in 1958, their placement was a problem. The employers as a class showed resistance in accepting our graduates. The general view held by them was that management or administration could only be learnt on the job and not in a classroom.
Finally we offered the services of our graduates to them at a salary of Rs.300/- per month. Some graduates were actually hired on this salary. The word, however, spread of the superiority of MBAs compared to graduates in other disciplines and the snow began to melt. The task of placement of the MBAs in subsequent years became easier and easier.
Were there any majors at that time and what was the grading system?
To begin with there was no specialization; in the sense there were some core courses namely Economics, Accounting, Statistics, Management courses and Finance courses. There were just one or two electives.
The grading system was the same as the one that was changed two years ago by Dr. Javed Ashraf, who came from the States.
Did the Americans completely hand over the responsibility of running the institution to you or were they still involved in it after they left?
The Americans were here on a contract. When their contract expired I was already the Director of IBA and the Americans were working under me.
How were the students of IBA at that time?
In the early years a vast majority of IBA students came from middle and lower middle class. Some of them even had to support their families while getting fulltime education here. For that purpose we had business scholarships, which were awarded to the students on the basis of merit and need. These business scholarships were donated by business companies in Karachi. One of these scholarship holders was working as a clerk in PWB and aspired to study at IBA. Since he was found above average on the admission test he was given the business scholarship so that he could finance the maintenance of his younger brothers and sisters. This particular boy rose to the position of Chairman NDFC, PICIC, and ICP. He is Mati-ur-Rehman. There were very few female students in the early years of IBA.My students were always on their toes and I was proud of them. The teachers also worked up to their capacity with much smaller monetary benefits than at present.
What do you consider as your greatest achievement?
About the end of 1971, a professor of Indiana University happened to come to Karachi with some time he could spend with IBA. I decided to use him for some good purpose and gave him the answer books of four or five years and requested him to see if the standards which these answers demonstrated were anywhere near those at his own universities. After three weeks he came back, unloaded the answer books in my office and congratulated me by saying, "You are doing a better job than more than 75% of business schools in America in respect of standards." That was a real reward for my efforts at building IBA into a fine seat of higher learning in business.
If not IBA then what would you have gone for?
If I had accepted the job offered from the Karachi University I would have been the youngest professor. But I declined and stayed at IBA because I had a mission here to perform.
Lastly, a message for us and the future students of IBA.
In practical lives prove yourselves worthy of having been educated at IBA.
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