He was born as a third generation Hong Konger, educated in British Hong Kong, and is of Indian ancestry. He is able to speak Cantonese at a fluent level. He had Hong Kong nationality and as of 1996 never acquired any other. Agence France-Presse (AFP) stated he had the nationality of Pakistan.
He started as an executive officer in the Hong Kong Civil Service in March 1966. In August that year his rank increased to administrative officer. He was appointed Deputy Secretary for the Civil Service in 1968. In 1988 he became the Director of Regional Services, and in 1991 he became Director of Urban Services.
He took his transport secretary post in 1993, replacing Yeung Kai-yin. This made him the person in the Hong Kong civil service in the highest rank who was not ethnic Chinese nor of origins from Western countries. AFP stated that he was "popular" in that role.
On 9 January 1996 he resigned from his position because, due to the Handover of Hong Kong, the government would not allow non-ethnic Chinese to retain high government posts as per the Hong Kong Basic Law. Barma stated "One has got to be pragmatic. I am not Chinese, and one has to accept the reality of historical developments." Himal Southasian stated that his resignation signaled to Indians in Hong Kong that their future in the territory may be tenuous.
He took another position not reserved for ethnic Chinese, as the Public Service Commission (PSC) chairperson. He took the PSC position effective 1 August 1996. He left the PSC position in April 2005.
He stated that after the handover he planned to remain in Hong Kong.
He was appointed as a non-official justice of the peace on 13 June 1997.
- "Haider Hatim Tyebjee BARMA". Hong Kong Legco. Retrieved 2021-03-30.
- "Informal Get Together Between Senior Hong Kong Civil Servants and Officials of the Chinese Side". Government of Hong Kong. p. 14 (PDF p. 3/36). Retrieved 2021-03-30.
- "Persons appointed under Section 3(1)(b) of the Justices of the Peace Ordinance (Cap. 510) (commonly known as "Non-official JPs")". Government of Hong Kong. Retrieved 2021-03-30.
- N. Balakrishnan (2016-05-11). "First, a cabbie. Next, a legislator of South Asian descent in Hong Kong?". South China Morning Post. Retrieved 2021-04-01.
- "NEW Secretary for Transport". South China Morning Post. 1993-09-22. Retrieved 2021-03-30.
- "HK minorities renew call for passports". United Press International. 1996-01-23. Retrieved 2021-03-30.
- "Good life fit for a hero". The Standard. Agence France Presse. 2005-05-26. Archived from the original on 2005-05-26. Retrieved 2021-04-01.
- Sharma, Yojana (1996-03-01). "Stateless in 1997". Himal Southasian. Retrieved 2021-04-01.
- "Informal Get Together Between Senior Hong Kong Civil Servants and Officials of the Chinese Side". Government of Hong Kong. p. 13 (PDF p. 2/36). Retrieved 2021-03-30.
- "Annual Report 2005" (PDF). Public Service Commission. p. 9/66. Retrieved 2021-03-30.
- "Speech by the Secretary for Transport, Mr Haider Barma, at the opening of the Conference on Tunnel Management, Operation and Maintenance". 1996-06-03. Archived from the original on 1997-02-27.