Portrait of an icon : Qudrat-ul-lah shahab

qudrat ullah shahab


Aleena Naqvi
3 minutes read

There are very few people who leave their mark in the history of the world. Words and actions have great influence. They can inspire people to do great things. Great deeds are not always done to seek admiration of people or to get some reward, because “real courage is doing the right thing when nobody’s looking”.

Qudrat Ullah Shahab is one of the people whose names shine brightly in the pages of the history. He was a very distinguished Urdu writer. He was born on 26 February 1917. He was a student in the MAO College and was a protégé under the supervision of the great Sir Syed Ahmed Khan. He started writing at a very young age, not just in Urdu but also in the English language.

Qudrat Ullah Shahab won an international essay competition which was organized by the Readers Digest when was just 16 years old. He continued to prove in talent and intelligence as he was selected for the Indian Civil Service in 1940. He volunteered to serve as the magistrate in Bengal during the feminine of 1943. He was criticized heavily by the authorities because he distributed the strategic rice reserves to the local community which was starving at the time.

After the separation of Pakistan and India he came to Pakistan and was appointed in the Ministry of Commerce as the deputy secretary. He was later appointed as the chief secretary of the new-born state of Azad Kashmir. After serving there, he was appointed as the deputy commissioner of Jhang, Punjab. He was also appointed as the director of industries of Punjab and he was mostly responsible for dealing with issues that were related to the migrants. His work did not go unnoticed and he was appointed as the principal secretary by the Governor General Ghulam Muhammad. He served at the same post during the time of Iskander Mirza and Ayub Khan. He had also served as the ambassador of Pakistan to Netherlands. He was also appointed as the Secretary of Information and Education.

Qudrat Ullah Shahab resigned from the post because he had a clash with the new regime headed by Yahya Khan. He chose self-imposed exile in the UK. He was also selected as the member of executive board of UNESCO in 1968.

Apart from government services he did a lot of literary work. He published in English and Urdu languages for the newspapers and magazines of the Pakistan Writer’s Guild. The Pakistan Writer’s Guild was established in Karachi in 1959.

The work he is best known for is his autobiography called Shahab Nama. In this autobiography, he has mentioned how he came by the idea of writing his memoir. He came by the idea when he visited Ibn-e-Insha in London. His complete work was published in 1986, after his death.

Qudrat Ullah Shahab died on 24 July 1987 in Islamabad and is buried in H-8 Graveyard. He has left a very rich legacy behind him. His life has inspired several literary works like the autobiography Alakh Nagri by Mumtaz Mufti. Mumtaz Mufti dedicated another book Labbaik to him. The legendary Bano Quadsia also wrote a book Mard-e-Abresham, which was based on Shahab’s personality.

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