Prof. Dr. Atta Ur Rahman

Creating a New History in Science, Technology and Education of Pakistan


  • Name:               Prof. Dr. Atta Ur Rahman, (FRS NI, HI, SI, TI, UNESCO SCIENCE LAUREATE)


  • Position Pattern-in-Chief,


  • Organization: ICCBS


  • The Innovative Approach


After A Levels, his father offered him to join textile business. He nicely excused and requested the permission to pursue academic career like his grandfather; the vice chancellor of Punjab University.

The man is clear in his mind about what to do and how to do. He carries the same attitude for more than 50 years. What to do can be copied, perceived, or guided by someone. But how to do is simply comes from his intrinsic ability of objective evaluation and planning. His how to do planning is free from any kind of personal motives and greed. He accepts or refuses but cannot be motivated to walk in between.  This made him the history-making scientist and symbol of pride for generations to come. He is The Prof. Dr. Ata-ur – Rehman.

See his detailed biography;

                                           Or Book Written by Dr. Iqbal Chaudhru and available in ICCBS


  • The Pre-Entrepreneurial


Apparently, Dr. Rehman has refused his father to join the business but he has inherited the business aptitude. He is the manifestation of both his grandfather (academically) and father (professionally). He experiments, teaches, read, and writes like a serious academician but he plans, organizes and executes like insightful and smart businessman.

This combination made Dr. Rehman an entrepreneur leader who makes innovations happen. His entrepreneurial aptitude can be traced in his mixed education. He opted for O & A levels in his initial studies, followed by graduation and post-graduation from Karachi University in chemistry.  He tasted the education system of both worlds so he can theorize and apply the concepts too. His doctoral studies in Cambridge polished his entrepreneurial capabilities and potential to lead the country in scientific entrepreneurship.


  • The Start of Entrepreneurial Journey – Development of ICCBS

He returned back to Pakistan and joined Karachi University inspite of lucrative offers from all over the world. This signals his true love for scientific development in Pakistan. This was his first demonstration of entrepreneurial leadership. Prof Saleemu Zamaan  Siddiqu had already laid the foundation of a post graduate institute in 1967, which Dr. Rehman joined after returning Pakistan. The institute is now known as Husein Ebrahim Jamal Research Institute of Chemistry H.E.J, part of The International Center for Chemical and Biological Sciences (ICCBS). Prof Siddique initiated few other institutions too but HEJ touched the sky in academic excellence.  The prime reason was his co-director and then director Dr. Rehman. He brought a lot of equipment from Cambridge and attracted many philanthropists and industrialists to support the institution. He did not let these donations go wasted or equipment being unutilized which happens in many institutions of Pakistan. He developed a comprehensive plan to utmost utilize the resources in the best possible way. This won the trust of donors and they kept increasing their support. Secondly, Dr. Rehman knows the art of developing team and leadership. HEJ has beautifully set the example of sustainable leadership as currently being led by Prof Dr. Iqbal Chaudhry; a very competent scientist too. Dr. Rehaman also believes in institutional and system based approach; respecting the merit, transparency and accountability. He duly follows the role and makes himself accountable. HEJ has a rule that office of professor will be in laboratory among students. The office of Dr. Rehman is also in lab. He meets people in a meeting room and goes back to office in laboratory.

Objective planning, generating resources, building team and developing systems can be conceptualized as “Ecosystem Makeup”.  We found Dr. Rehman’s mastery in Ecosystem Makeup and therefore he was able to deliver efficiently and effectively. Ecosystem makeup means putting all components together with endorsing system for each other’s so every part works for each other’s and produces total progress for all.  

The Pakistan and entire scientific world feels pride on HEJ because of the remarkable Ecosystem which was envisaged by Dr. Rehman.


  • The Demonstration of Entrepreneurial Leadership- S&T Ministry  


Dr. Rehman ability to give Ecosystem Makeup to his interventions is demonstrated in his next academic and non-academic pursuits.  IT and Telecom sector was totally ignored in Pakistan. We used to avoid incoming calls due to roaming charges. See the link below for how ecosystem development by Dr. Rehman made it the most advanced and thriving sector within 3-4 years. Now we see cellular phones in every hand.

The IT and Telecom unit is created under S&T ministry headed by Dr. Rehman. Later on it became independent ministry. Like many others this attempt could have failed if it is not covered from many aspects and dimensions including taxes, duties, incentives, infrastructures, investment security, level playing field, enabling environment and policies to promote usage and consumptions.   

See complete details on

Dr. Rehman developed a complete ecosystem makeup around IT and telecom sector to get Pakistan out of IT darkness and put among fast growing ICT countries.

The one component of this ecosystem make was ICT R&D Fund. The TALCOS were asked to share 0.05 of their revenue for R&D in ICT sector. This made a huge funding available for research and innovation contributed by private sector industry. The ICT R&D fund was put under independent board of governors with 50% representation by contributing private sector.  This was an excellent governance model which ensured its sustainability and performance. There are other few funds in Pakistan taken from industry on the name of R&D. The industry participation is neglected and is found dissatisfied about utilization of their provided funding. The ICT R&D fund is first successful example of industry funding reaching to academia.

Dr. Rehman was S&T minister but made a great historical contribution in telecom sector which was a unit of S&T.

“What about rest S&T institutions? Dr. Rehman reply was; I have made a plan to revive S&T organizations. I submitted to government but it was not approved. So I could not intervene in these institutions”.

It is the same clear response which Dr. Rehman expressed to his father 40 years back as saying “I would like to have an academic career”  He never wanted to stay as minister nor cherished it. He simply picked up the opportunity where he could make a significant mark. He knows what to do and how to do. This is his ecosystem makeup strategy, to make positive impact.


  • The Demonstration of Entrepreneurial Leadership – Higher Education Commission  

He joined as minister for education and made all necessary arrangements including legislation etc. Then he joined as chairman HEC to put the higher education of country on track just like telecom. The results are very clear and loud. Today we are the nation having universities, labs and good number of scholars. This was too totally ignored area of Pakistan. We do not know a nation have prospered by ignoring higher education and research component. But we did it as a nation.

Thank to Dr. Rehman

The question is how HEC has performed and delivered?

The answer lies in ecosystem makeup planning of Dr. Rehman. He gave a strong and independent legal backup to HEC. In absence of this legal backup, HEC could have lost its sovereignty any time. What a great vision?

The scholars are sent to advanced countries for higher studies. The infrastructures and labs were setup in the country before they arrive back. The salaries were increased and made competitive so scientists could be retained. Research grants schemes were introduced so they could win grants and conduct research. ICT access, access to academic journals, financial support for conferences, incentives for publications and lot more is done as part of ecosystem makeup. These all components have endorsed each other’s and produced a total progress in higher education sector. Here is a testimonial

“German academic, Dr. Wolfgang Voelter of Tübingen University in Germany over viewed the performance of HEC under the leadership of Prof. Atta-ur-Rahman and described the reforms in HEC as “A miracle happened.” After teaching and visiting in 15 universities of Pakistan, Voelter wrote that the “scenario of education, science and technology in Pakistan has changed dramatically, as never before in the history of the country”


Dr. Rehman did objective planning for HEC, generated resources, built very good team and developed institutional system to govern the organization. Dr. Sohail Naqvi, a very competent academic leader, carried the torch and kept lit for long time after Dr. rehman resignation. Dr. Rehman resigned when HEC budgets were cut and scholars abroad were forced to beg for their fee. He came for rescue when its existence was questioned. HEC is the effective governance model too as it has kept its momentum of growth and sustainability. Until now HEC has created the strong science and research capacity in Pakistan. Now this capacity is being turned to knowledge economy and research capitalization. The road is half traveled and rest journey is ensured in its basic planning.

By looking at HEC we can say “we have good institutions in Pakistan too”  

  • The Summary  

Dr. Ata Ur Rehman is awarded numerous national and international awards. He is elected as an “Academician” (Foreign member) of Chinese Academy of Sciences. He is President of Network of Academies of Science in Countries of the Organization of Islamic Conference (NASIC).

He published more than 800 research papers, around 250 books, around 70 chapters in books and awarded around 45 international patents. He was elected as Fellow of Royal Society (London) in 2006 and awarded the UNESCO Science Prize (1999).

Most importantly, he has improved the life of common man in Pakistan. The history will remember him always as father of higher education in Pakistan.