In December 1982, Shoaib Sultan Khan initiated the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme (AKRSP) making a difference to the livelihood of a million people in the Northern Areas and Chitral (NAC) district of Pakistan. The World Bank carried out two evaluations of AKRSP during 12 years of Mr. Khan’s helmsmanship of AKRSP and concluded that in a span of ten years the income of the NAC households in real terms had more than doubled. The development strategy pursued by AKRSP inspired replications in Pakistan and India currently improving the livelihood of over 40 million rural households comprising nearly 200 million population.
In recognition of his work at AKRSP, Mr. Khan was awarded the United Nations Environment Programme Global 500 Award in 1989, Sitara-e-Imtiaz by the President of Pakistan in 1990, the Magsaysay Award by the President of Philippines in 1992, 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-i-Eisaar for earthquake work and Hilal-i-Imtiaz on Pakistan Day in 2006 by the President of Pakistan. Lifetime achievements award was given to him by His Highness the Aga Khan sponsored by Pakistan Society of UK in 2018. In 2019, the President of Pakistan conferred on him Nishan-e-Imtiaz, the highest civilian award in Pakistan.
Mr. Khan pursued academic studies at Universities of Lucknow, Cambridge, and Peshawar studying English Literature, Law and Public Administration.
During 1953-1978, Mr. Khan initially pursued a career as Lecturer and since 1955 as a member of the Civil Service of Pakistan wherein he served as a field officer in the then East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), as Deputy Commissioner Kohat and Peshawar, as Deputy Director of the Civil Service Academy, as Commissioner Karachi, as Secretary to Frontier Government in Departments of Health, Education and Social Welfare and as Director of the Pakistan Academy for Rural Development. He served as Social Development consultant of UNICEF in Sri Lanka (1979-82) and as Senior Adviser, South Asia Poverty Alleviation Programme (SAPAP) of UNDP (1994-2002).
After retirement from United Nations, Mr. Khan has been associated, in an honorary capacity, with Rural Support Programmes and Rural Support Programmes Network (RSPN), in Pakistan to date