Down Memory Lane: The First Council
Abu Bakr Ahmed Haleem was born in 1897 in Irki, Bihar. He was educated at Patna University and the University of Oxford and was later called to the Bar. He returned to India in 1921 and started his career from the Muslim University Aligarh as an educationist. In 1923, he was appointed Professor in the Department of History and Political Science at Aligarh University. Later he became Chairman of the department, and from 1935 to 1944 he served as Pro-Vice Chancellor of Aligarh University. During this period, he presided over the Education Section of the All India Muslim Educational Conference held at Poona in 1940. In 1942, he was appointed Chairman of the Inter-University Board of undivided India. He presided over the Islamic History and Culture Section of the All India Muslim Educational Conference, held at Nagpur in 1944.
The year 1944 marked his entry into politics. He worked tirelessly for the Pakistan Movement. He was elected as a member of the UP Legislative Assembly on the Muslim League ticket in 1945-1946. In 1945, he became President of the UP Muslim Students’ Federation, was a member of the Council of the UP Muslim League from 1944 to 1947 and a member of the Council of the All India Muslim League for a number of years. From 1944 to 1945, he held the position of Secretary of the All India Muslim League Planning Committee. He was also Secretary of the Muslim League’s Educational Committee. Quaid-i-Azam appointed him as his constitutional adviser during the Simla Conference in 1945. After the creation of Pakistan in 1947, he was appointed as the first Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sind. He served in that position from 1947 to 1951. After the University shifted to Hyderabad, he was appointed Vice-Chancellor of the newly established University of Karachi, a position which he held for six years. As Vice-Chancellor, he allowed all the students and the faculty to take their examinations in their mother tongue and encouraged the imparting of education in evening sessions.
It is in the field of education that his contribution has been most acclaimed. He worked as the Chairman of the World University Service National Committee for Pakistan from 1948 to 1957. He was appointed as the Chairman of the Commission for Eradication of Social Evils in 1962. In 1965, he became a member of the Advisory Council of Islamic Ideology, set up by the Government of Pakistan. He was one of the moving spirits of Motamar-i-Islami and was its Chairman for a number of years. A.B.A. Haleem was associated with The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs since its inception in Karachi and was elected as its Chairman from 1949 to 1960 and from 1961 to 1974. He helped to nurture the Institute into a leading forum for research and dialogue on foreign policy and international affairs. He passed away in Karachi on 20 April 1975. Pakistan Post issued a commemorative postage stamp in his name in the series, Men of Letters, on 20 April 2003.
K. Sarwar Hasan
Khwaja Sarwar Hasan was a prolific writer, scholar, lawyer and founder Secretary of The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs. He was born in Panipat on 18 October 1902. Educated at the Muslim University Aligarh and the University of Cambridge, he was called to the Bar at the Middle Temple. For a few years he practised law at Aligarh and later become Professor of Law at Delhi University where he taught for 14 years. In his youth, he was deeply influenced by Muslim nationalism in India and became a staunch supporter of the Pakistan Movement.
In 1944, he was appointed Secretary of the Indian Institute of International Affairs. During the partition of India in August 1947, he shifted the Institute to Karachi with all its moveable assets, including its library of rare books. It was established in 1948 as The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) in Karachi, an independent, non-partisan and non-profit making body which is the oldest think tank in Pakistan. Throughout his career, his professional ability and legal acumen and his eloquence as a speaker won him numerous opportunities to represent Pakistan. In 1948, he was Adviser to the Hyderabad delegation to the Security Council. In 1955, he became Joint Secretary to the historic Asian-African Conference at Bandung. He was Adviser to the Constitution Commission in 1961 and Visiting Professor at Columbia University in 1963. He represented Pakistan several times at the United Nations General Assembly and the Security Council where he distinguished himself for his brilliant exposition of Pakistan’s case on Kashmir.
Khwaja Sarwar Hasan was the pioneer of public diplomacy in Pakistan. Under his leadership, The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs provided a forum for discussion and dialogue on foreign policy and issues in contemporary international politics and became a channel for the exchange of views and information between the public and the government. His advice was widely sought in academic and official circles and he has been described as the father of the study international relations in Pakistan. He travelled widely and represented Pakistan in conferences, conventions, professional seminars, and goodwill missions throughout the world.
As the founder Secretary of PIIA, for 25 years he edited its quarterly journal, Pakistan Horizon. His seminal work, Pakistan and the United Nations (New York, 1960) became standard reference as the finest scholarly analysis of Pakistan’s foreign policy. His other published works include Introducing Pakistan; The Genesis of Pakistan and The Strategic Interests of Pakistan. He was editor of The Transfer of Power, The Kashmir Question, China, India and Pakistan. He was also the author of articles on foreign policy and international law published in Pakistan Horizon and learned journals abroad. He passed away in Karachi on 12 February 1973.
Pakistan Post issued a commemorative postage stamp in his name in the series, Men of Letters, on 18 November 2005.
Shaista S. Ikramullah
Shaista Suhrawardy Ikramullah was born in Calcutta on 22 July 1915 into the well-known Suhrawardy family. As a prominent woman politician, diplomat and author, she played an important role in the movement for a separate homeland for the Muslims of the subcontinent.
She was educated at the University of Calcutta. She married Mohammed Ikramullah, a member of the Indian Civil Service, who became the first foreign secretary of Pakistan and was also ambassador to Canada, France, Portugal and the United Kingdom. After her marriage, she went to study at the School of Oriental and African Studies, where she became the first Muslim and Indian woman to receive a PhD degree from the University of London. Her doctoral thesis, ‘Development of the Urdu Novel and Short Story’, was a critical survey of Urdu literature.
In 1946, she was elected to the Constituent Assembly of India but, like most Muslim League members, did not join the Assembly. With the help of Fatima Jinnah, she founded the Muslim Women Students’ Federation as part of the Muslim League. In August 1947, her husband moved to Karachi to set up Pakistan’s Foreign Office. She joined him a month later, and was one of the two women to be elected to the first Constituent Assembly of Pakistan.
In the Assembly, she emerged as an active defender of fundamental rights, giving expression to the lack of balance between the two wings of Pakistan. Her first speech was in support of a resolution that the Assembly should also meet in Dacca, capital of the more populous eastern wing of Pakistan. She worked tirelessly to get the Muslim Personal Law of Shariah approved which recognized the right of Muslim women to inherit property, and guaranteed all citizens, men and women, equality of status and opportunities, and equal pay for equal work. The bill was approved in 1948 and became effective in 1951.
Shaista Ikramullah was Pakistan’s delegate to the United Nations on several occasions, and a member in 1948 of the Committee that worked on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention against Genocide. Her debate against Krishna Menon on the question of Kashmir in the Security Council was much acclaimed. She served as ambassador to Morocco from 1964 to 1967. She wrote extensively about the culture of the Muslims in India with a focus on women and Urdu literature. Her works in English are From Pardah to Parliament; Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy: A Biography; Behind the Veil: Ceremonies, Customs and Colours; Common Heritage; and Letters to Nina. She also translated into English the Urdu classic, Mirat-ul-Uroos, written by Deputy Nazir Ahmad and contributed regularly to Tehzeeb-e-Niswan and Ismat. Koshish-i-Natamaam, a volume of short stories, Safarnama and Dilli Ki Khawatin Ki Kahawaten are her other works in Urdu. She passed away in Karachi on 11 December 2000. She moved the resolution for the establishment of The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs when it was formally inaugurated by Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan on 28 February 1948.
The Government of Pakistan conferred on her posthumously its highest civil award, Nishan-i-Imtiaz in 2002.
Altaf Hussain was an eminent journalist and writer. He was born on 26 January 1900 in Sylhet. He received his early education in Calcutta and then attended the University of Dacca where he studied English Literature.
He was Director of Public Information in Calcutta and, from 1942 to 1943, was Press Adviser to the Government of India. Although he worked for the government, he used to contribute a fortnightly column ‘Through the Muslim Eyes’ to The Statesman, Calcutta under the pen name, Ain-el-Mulk, which reflected the Muslim point of view. After a short break, he started writing a column ‘Dar-el-Islam’ for the same newspaper under the pen name, Shahed. He had also worked for The Star of India, Calcutta. His incisive writing won recognition from Quaid-i-Azam who asked him to become the editor of the Muslim League organ, Dawn. He joined Dawn in Delhi as editor in 1945.
Altaf Husain played an important role in putting across the case for Pakistan and defending political, economic, and cultural interests of the Muslims in his editorials and through the management of the news in Dawn. Under his editorship, Dawn became the principal print voice of Muslim India.
Quaid-i-Azam entrusted him with publicity for the Muslim League in India and abroad and he was sent to Britain to explain the Muslim League’s case in 1946. After Dawn shifted to Pakistan in 1947, he migrated to Karachi to continue its publication. He headed the newspaper for a period of 20 years. He held high offices in national and international press organizations and represented Pakistan at a number of international forums.
From 1965 to 1968, Altaf Husain served as Federal Minister for Industries and Natural Resources in Ayub Khan’s government. He passed away in Karachi on 25 May 1968. A collection of his writings, From Mutiny to Mountbatten: A Biographical Sketch and Writings by Altaf Husain, compiled by his daughter Zeba Zubair, was published in 1996.
He was awarded Hilal-i-Quaid-i-Azam by the Government of Pakistan in 1959.
Jamshed Nusserwanjee Mehta was a prominent entrepreneur, philanthropist and social activist. He was born on 7 January 1886 into a wealthy and well-known Parsi family of Karachi. After completing his education, he joined his father’s firm, Nusserwanjee & Co., which was the pioneer in industrial enterprise in the city. He earned an esteemed position in the mercantile community through his honesty and dedication, and proved himself as a successful businessman.
He became a member of the Karachi Municipality in 1918 as a Municipal Councillor. After serving for six years in that capacity, he was elected municipal president. He devoted his imagination, energy and administrative ability to transform Karachi into an organized and beautiful city and his achievements earned him the title of the ‘Maker of Modern Karachi.’ He became the first Mayor of Karachi after the municipality became a corporation in 1933.
Jamshed Nusserwanjee helped to advance the commercial interests of Karachi in trade, commerce and banking. He was the moving spirit behind the cooperatives moment in Sind, including the creation of cooperative housing societies in Karachi, which made housing affordable for people of moderate means. He also became the pioneer of education in Urdu and for the first time in Karachi’s history, Urdu primary schools were opened all over the city.
He entered politics by taking part in Gandhi’s first Civil Disobedience Movement during the First World War but soon abandoned support for the movement. He was a committed theosophist and became an ardent supporter of the Home Rule Movement of Annie Besant. He was a member of the General Council of the Theosophical Society and in 1917 was appointed President of the Home Rule League in Karachi. He remained a staunch advocate of the movement for Indian liberation and strove for the separation of Sind from Bombay Presidency. He was elected to the Sind Legislative Assembly in 1937, but retired from politics in 1940 and devoted the remainder of his life to the welfare of the people. The adulation in which he was held can be judged from the fact that 77 institutions with which he had been associated joined hands to honour him on his 60th birthday.
Jamshed Nusserwanjee founded a number of institutions during his lifetime. In 1920, he established the Sind Cooperative Bank Limited which he served as Managing Director for 18 years. With his friend Bhurgri, he founded the National College at Hyderabad. He is known as the father of the Scouts movement in Karachi and, in recognition of his services, he was awarded the coveted order of the Silver Wolf and the landship of the Pakistan Sea Scouts was named after him.
He was Vice-Chairman of The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs since its establishment and was also its Treasurer for one year. He passed away in Karachi on 1 August 1952.
Pakistan Post issued a commemorative postage stamp in his name on 7 January 1988.
1916 – 2011
Muhammad Yusuf Haroon was a prominent Pakistani politician and businessman who served as chief minister of Sind, as well as governor of West Pakistan. The eldest son of philanthropist, politician and businessman Sir Abdullah Haroon, he was recognized for his close association with Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah. Yusuf Haroon served as Mr. Jinnah’s personal assistant and played an active role in the Pakistan Movement.
Recognized as a seasoned politician whose long career in politics spanned seven decades, Yusuf Haroon served as the mayor of pre-Partition Karachi (1944 – 1945), chief minister of Sind (1949 – 1950), governor of West Pakistan (1969), and subsequently as federal minister. During his tenure as chief minister of Sind, Yusuf Haroon designed a comprehensive agenda for land reforms with the aim of abolishing large land holdings despite opposition from his fellow politicians. Since the bill he introduced could not be passed, he tendered his resignation as chief minister. He is also recognized for releasing Masood Khadarposh’s dissenting note in the ‘xHari Commission Report.’ Additionally, he served as High Commissioner to Australia.
Aside from his political career, Yusuf Haroon is credited with being one of the founding members of Dawn newspaper which continued publication in Karachi after Partition. In 1966, he became the chief editor of Dawn. From 1966 to 1967, he was elected as president of the All Pakistan Newspaper Society. Dawn came under scrutiny by General Yahya Khan in 1969 as the newspaper was perceived as having an especially independent outlook, along with progressive leanings. Yusuf Haroon permanently shifted to New York in 1969 to avoid arrest during General Yahya Khan’s administration.
He passed away in 2011 in New York.
Ishtiaq Hussain Qureshi was a noted litterateur, historian, educationist and scholar. He was born in Patiala on 20 November 1903 and was educated at MAO College Aligarh and St. Stephen’s College, Delhi. In 1939, he received a PhD degree from the University of Cambridge. After returning to India, he joined Delhi University where he was appointed Professor of History, and subsequently became Dean of the Faculty of Arts. He also served as Acting Vice-Chancellor of Delhi University.
His participation in politics started with the Khilafat Movement and the Civil Disobedience Movement in India. After the Hindu-Muslim riots in Delhi, following the partition of India, he migrated to Pakistan in 1948 and continued his academic and political career in various positions. He also became a member of the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan. In 1949, he was appointed Professor of History at the University of Punjab, Lahore. Later, he became Deputy Minister for Interior, Refugees and Rehabilitation, Minister of State and a member of the Cabinet as Minister of Education for two years. Subsequently, he taught at Columbia University, New York where he wrote his acclaimed book, The Muslim Community of the Indo-Pakistan Subcontinent, 610-1947: A Brief Historical Analysis. He was Vice-Chancellor of the University of Karachi from 1961 to 1971.
During his long academic career, he was associated with numerous institutions. He was a member of the Indian as well as Pakistan Historical Records Commissions and the executive committees of the Indian History Conference and the Pakistan History Society. He also served as Vice-President of the Pakistan History Society, President of the Pakistan Political Science Association, General President of the Pakistan History Conference, Director of the Central Institute of Islamic Research and was a founding member of Muqtadra Quami Zaban (Urdu Language Authority).
Ishtiaq Hussain Qureshi was the author of Administration of the Sultanate of Delhi; Ulema in Politics; Akbar, the Architect of the Mughal Empire; Education in Pakistan; Administration of the Mughal Empire; Struggle for Pakistan; A Short History of Pakistan; The Pakistani Way of Life and Pakistan as an Islamic Democracy. He also contributed to the Cambridge History of Islam.
His writings in Urdu include But-tarash; Band Lifafa; Kath Putlian; Gunah ki Diwar; Mitthai ki Tokri; Moalim Aswad; Mullah Aala; Nafrat ke Beej; Hamzaad; Neem Shab and Naqsh-e-Akhir. He passed away in Karachi on 22 January 1981.
The Government of Pakistan conferred on him the award of Sitara-i-Pakistan. Pakistan Post issued a commemorative postage stamp in his name in the series, Men of Letters, on 20 November 2001.
Jahan Ara Shahnawaz
Jahan Ara Shahnawaz was the daughter of the prominent Muslim League leader, Sir Muhammad Shafi. Born on 7 April 1896, she was educated at Queen Mary College, Lahore.
During her early political career she campaigned for women’s rights and suffrage, and for social reforms from the platform of the All India Women’s Conference, which was established in 1926. She remained president of the provincial branch of the All India Women’s Conference for seven years and became vice-president of its Central Committee.
Her political activism and commitment won recognition in the conservative society of the time. In 1932, she was nominated as a member of the Lahore Municipal Committee and was the first woman to be elected as vice-president of its provincial executive. In 1930, she was one of the two women delegates from India to the Round Table Conference in London. She was also a delegate to the Second Round Table Conference in 1931 and the only Indian woman delegate to the Third Round Table Conference in 1932. In 1933, she was the only woman member of the Indian delegation to the meetings of the Joint Select Committee on Indian Constitutional Reform in London. In 1935, she was sent as the only Indian delegate to the Women and Children’s Committee of the League of Nations.
In 1931, she was unanimously elected as the first woman member of the Muslim League Council. In 1932, she organized the Women’s Muslim League in the Punjab. She was elected as a member of the Punjab Legislative Assembly in 1937 and was appointed Parliamentary Secretary for Education, Medical Relief and Public Health. During the Second World War, the Government of India appointed her as a member of the National Defence Council in 1942. Upon her refusal to abide by the Muslim League’s decision that its members should resign from the Defence Council, she was expelled from the party.
In 1945, Jahan Ara Shahnawaz rejoined the Muslim League and was elected as a member of the Punjab Assembly. She was a dynamic activist for Pakistan. In the Muslim League’s civil disobedience movement in the Punjab in 1947, she courted arrest along with other Muslim League leaders. She was elected to the Constituent Assembly in India in 1946 but like other Muslim League members, she did not join that body. After independence, she was one of two women members of Pakistan’s Constituent Assembly.
During constitution making she successfully campaigned for the adoption of a Charter of Women’s Rights and secured a 3 per cent reservation of seats for women in the central and provincial legislatures, which were landmark achievements at that time. She fought for the implementation of women’s right to inheritance and was a member of the Commission on Marriage and Family Law Reform 1954, whose recommendations, restricting polygamy, were eventually incorporated in the Muslim Family Laws Ordinance 1961. She is the author of Father and Daughter: A Political Biography, and Husn Ara Begum. She passed away in Lahore on 27 November 1979.
Pakistan Post issued a commemorative postage stamp in her name in the series, Pioneers of Freedom, on 14 August 1990.
Shahid Suhrawardy was born on 24 October 1890 in Midnapur, West Bengal. His father, Sir Zahid Suhrawardy, was a Justice of the Calcutta High Court and his younger brother, Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy, later became Prime Minister of Pakistan. His family was renowned for establishing educational institutions in Bengal and working for the freedom movement in India.
Shahid Suharwardy was educated at Calcutta University and the University of Oxford, from where he graduated in 1914. He was a linguist, with command on several western and oriental languages. His interest in the Arts took him to Russia, where he worked with Stravinsky and other important artistes of the time in the Moscow Arts Theatre. Later, he worked as Art Adviser to the League of Nations. He returned to India in 1932 and was appointed Rani Bhageshwari Fine Arts Professor at Calcutta University and wrote a regular column as an art critic for The Statesman. He also held the Nizam Professorship of Islamic Studies at Osmania University, Hyderabad and wrote a series of handbooks on Muslim art.
His book, Art of the Mussulmans in Spain, was first published as a series of lectures which were given in Calcutta in 1931 and was reprinted by Oxford University Press in 2005. His extensive knowledge of a number of languages and arts of both the western and the eastern worlds permeates this collection. Each chapter of the book focuses on a different aspect of the arts, illustrated where the architecture still stands or the artefact can be found. Influences and counter-influences are carefully discussed. It is a marvellous process of discovery, a unique example of the writing of history and of intercultural influences, completely unaffected by biases of any kind. He has a number of other books to his credit, on art history, poetry and criticism as well as translations from Russian and Chinese literature.
Shahid Suhrawardy was a member of the Bengal’s Public Service Commission in undivided India and later of Pakistan’s Federal Service Commission, Visiting Professor on Islamic Art at Columbia University, first President of AICA Pakistan Section, Life President of Pakistan’s PEN as well as a member of the selection committee for the decoration of the first UNESCO building. He was Pakistan’s ambassador to Spain, Morocco and Tunisia, and its minister to the Vatican. He passed away on 3 March 1965 in Karachi.
Mahmud Husain was an academic, educationist, and politician, credited with pioneering the study of social sciences in Pakistan.
He was born in Qaimganj, United Provinces in British India. His family was Afridi Pashtun with roots in the then Frontier Province (now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa). He was a strong supporter of the Pakistan Movement and entered politics in 1949. He was elected member of the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan the same year from the Muslim League platform and was elected Secretary of the Muslim League's Parliamentary Group. In 1949, he was appointed both as Minister of State for Defence and Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Commonwealth Relations in the cabinet of Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan. He became Minister for States and Frontier Regions a year later. In 1951, he was appointed Minister for Kashmir Affairs and subsequently Minister for Education from 1952 to 1953.
He joined the University of Karachi as its first professor of international relations and history and took the initiative to begin the faculties of journalism and library science in Pakistan.
He was a known supporter of the rights of the people of East Pakistan and was appointed Vice-Chancellor of the University of Dacca in 1960.
Mahmud Husain was visiting professor at Heidelberg University (1963–64), Columbia University (1964–65) and the University of Pennsylvania (1965–66). In 1966, he became professor of history at the University of Karachi and worked as Dean of its Faculty of Arts until 1971. He was appointed Vice-Chancellor of the University of Karachi in 1971.
He had command over Urdu, English, German and Persian, writing primarily in Urdu. His best-known works are Urdu translations: Muhaida-i-Imrani (1935) of Jean-Jacques Rousseau's Social Contract Theory and Badshah (1947), a translation of Machiavelli's The Prince. His other books include The Quest for an Empire (1937), and Fatah-ul-Mujahideen (1950), an Urdu translation of Zainul Abideen Shustari's Persian treatise on Tipu Sultan.
Mumtaz Hasan was born on 6 August 1907 at Talwandi Musa Khan, a village eight miles from Gujranwala. He studied at the Government school in Gujranwala, St. Stephen’s College Delhi and Forman Christian College Lahore, where he later served as a lecturer. He joined the Indian Audit and Accounts Service in 1931. He was Deputy Comptroller Sind from 1936-1939, being the youngest Muslim officer to hold that rank and was inducted into the Economic Pool in 1938.
In 1946, the Finance portfolio was given to the Muslim League in the Interim Government in British India. The Muslim League found in him an officer of integrity from the Ministry of Finance who could assist Liaquat Ali Khan as his Private Secretary. When the budget was being prepared for British India in 1946, the Muslim League did not trust the Hindu clerical staff who were all regarded as sympathizers of the Indian National Congress. Therefore, to ensure the secrecy of the budget, Mumtaz Hasan wrote the entire budget document in his own hand at the residence of Liaquat Ali Khan. The hand-written budget is on display in the National Museum of Pakistan. He was also the author of the idea that the income tax rate should be divided into slabs, as in Britain, where higher incomes were taxed at higher rates. The acceptance of this proposal by Lord Mountbatten hit the fortunes of the wealthy financiers of the Congress and is widely believed to be one of the many reasons that prompted the Congress to accept the division of India.
Mumtaz Hasan rose to the position of Finance Secretary to the Government of Pakistan (1952-59) and officiated as Governor of the State Bank of Pakistan in 1952. He was the first person to sign the Pakistan currency notes in Urdu. After remaining Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission from 1959 to 1962, he was appointed Managing Director of the National Bank of Pakistan in March 1962 from which post he retired in August 1967. During his career, he was chairman of many official commissions dealing with financial and establishment matters.
Acclaimed for his devotion to the study of literature, he was an authority on Allama Iqbal on whose poetry and philosophy he wrote extensively. He was Vice-Chairman of the Iqbal Academy, Chairman of Urdu Tarraqi Board from 1958 to 1974 and was associated with many literary and cultural initiatives and societies. He was interested in archaeology and was the patron of excavation work and museums in Pakistan. He was a poet in Urdu, Persian and English. Justuju, an anthology of his poems, appeared in 1927. Maqalat-e-Mumtaz, a collection of his articles was published by Idara-i-Yadgar-i-Ghalib. In Search of Daibul and Other Speeches is a collection of his writings and speeches which was published by the Writers’ Guild, Karachi in 1968. He passed away in Karachi on 28 October 1974.
Mumtaz Hasan received many awards from Germany and Iran. The Government of Pakistan awarded him Sitara-i-Pakistan in 1958 and the University of Punjab conferred on him an honorary LL D degree in 1968.
A. Rashid Ibrahim
Abdur Rashid Ibrahim was born at Mansehra on 26 November 1918. He was educated at Islamia Collegiate School and Islamia College Peshawar from where he graduated in 1937. He joined the Railway Accounts Service in British India in 1942. After Pakistan was established, he served in many positions in the Cabinet Secretariat, Ministry of Economic Affairs and Ministry of Finance, having joined the Economic Pool. In 1959, he went on deputation as Deputy Executive Secretary, ECAFE, United Nations. He became Joint Secretary, Ministry of Finance and Member Central Board of Revenue in 1961, Finance Director, Pakistan Industrial Development Corporation (PIDC) in 1962 and was Financial Adviser, Ministry of Defence from 1964 to 1968. Subsequently, he held the positions of Additional Secretary, Ministry of Industries from 1968 to 1970, and Finance Director, Pakistan Steel Mills Corporation from 1970 to 1971. His last posting was as Member, Monopoly Control Authority, Islamabad.
He was a specialist in public finance and economic development. Throughout his career, he participated in official negotiations and attended meetings and conferences on behalf of Pakistan such as the Colombo Plan negotiations (1957), Colombo Powers Conference ((1954), Colombo Plan Asian Countries meeting (1955), SEATO Conference (1954), SEATO Council meeting (1955) and the Asian African Conference at Bandung (1955). During his deputation to ECAFE, he travelled widely in Southeast Asia. He passed away on 8 May 1972.
He was awarded Sitara-i-Quaid-i-Azam by the Government of Pakistan in 1966.
Agha Shahi was a distinguished diplomat. He was born in Bangalore, in present-day Karnataka, India. In 1944, he applied for the Indian Civil Service and took the All India Competitive Examinations, where he excelled and was commissioned in the civil service. In 1947, he moved to Pakistan and settled in Karachi with his family.
He joined the Foreign Service of Pakistan in 1951 and played a prominent role in the formulation of foreign policy right from the early years of Pakistan's creation. He was part of various delegations to the United Nations during the 1950s and 1960s and served with A.S. Bokhari, Sir Muhammad Zafrulla Khan and Prince Aly Khan.
Agha Shahi was counsellor in the Pakistan embassy in Washington from 1955–58 and Pakistan's Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations from 1958–1961 and later served as Permanent Representative from 1967–1972. During his term as Permanent Representative to the United Nations, he played an important role in enabling China to become a member of the United Nations. He was additional secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs from 1964 and served in that position until 1967.
In 1972, he was appointed as Pakistan's ambassador to China. In 1973, he became foreign secretary and served in that position until the dismissal of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s government in 1977. He was appointed as foreign minister in 1977 by General Zia-ul-Haq but resigned from that position in 1982.
He led various delegations of Pakistan to the UN General Assembly, conferences of the Non-Aligned Movement and the Organization of Islamic Conference. He was elected Chairman of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) of which he had been a member since 1982. In 1993, he was co-chairman of the Pakistan delegation to the World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna. He headed the Institute of Strategic Studies and the private think tank, Islamabad Council of World Affairs.
He was committed to promoting Pakistan’s national interests through diplomacy and thwarted India’s plans to make Pakistan surrender the Kashmir cause and the Kashmiris right to self-determination in exchange for prisoners of war in 1971.
He passed away on 6 September 2006.