Reminiscing the PIDE (Honouring Prof. A. R. Khan)

Author: A. R. Khani
Publication Year : 2010

I first arrived at the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics, then simply the Institute of Development Economics, at the beginning of October 1960. It was located on the top floor of the Old Sindh Assembly Building on Bunder Road in Karachi. At the time the Joint Director, the resident head of the Institute, was Irving Brecher, a Canadian economist. The Director of the Institute was Emile Despres, the ex-officio head of Ford Foundation’s Pakistan Project administered from Williams College, later from Stanford University, who spent only a few weeks each year at the Institute. The Institute had a number of foreign research advisers funded by the Ford Foundation Project and a handful of Pakistani staff members, very few of them at senior levels. For me the Institute was a refuge. Since my graduation from the Dhaka University at the end of 1959 I had been teaching in the Department of Economics. I had also been selected for graduate studies in England starting the fall of 1960 under an award of the newly-instituted Commonwealth Scholarship programme. In July 1960 I was dismissed from my teaching position at the University due to alleged undesirable political antecedents during my student days. A few weeks later my scholarship for study abroad was also withdrawn by the Government of Pakistan whose approval was a prerequisite for the finalisation of the award. The prospect of alternative employment was bleak with little private sector demand for economics graduates at the time. I had been interviewed by Emile Despres and his colleagues who were on a recruitment mission the previous winter in Dhaka. The teaching appointment at the University, coming on the heels of the interview, had preempted a possible offer from them. A few weeks after I lost my scholarship, I received a telegram from the Institute offering me the position of a Research Officer (later named Staff Economist). This rescued me from what appeared to be virtual banishment from all possibility of a meaningful career. This was the beginning of the series of many kind acts by the Institute and its members which over time made me accustomed to treating it as a home even after my formal employment in it ended.