A diplomat and technocrat by profession, Agha Shahi was born on 25 August 1920 in Bangalore, former Mysore state (Karnataka), India to the Urdu-speaking community. He was educated in Bangalore, excelling the science
A diplomat and technocrat by profession, Agha Shahi was born on 25 August 1920 in Bangalore, former Mysore state (Karnataka), India to the Urdu-speaking community. He was educated in Bangalore, excelling the science courses he took in school. In 1939, Agha Shahi enrolled in Indian Institute of Science where he joined the Department of Physics, where he received his BSc in Physics, followed by MSc in applied physics and Master’s in Mathematics in 1944.
Following his master's degree, he joined the faculty of Mathematics teaching undergraduates, but his parents were unsatisfied of their son being a scientists; therefore, encouraged by his parents, Agha Shahi soon left his position after applying at the Indian Civil Service in 1944. He took the advanced exam, "All India Competitive Examinations", where he excelled and joined the civil service soon after.
In 1947, he opted for Pakistan, and served as the constitutional adviser to Chief Ministers of Sindh Province Hussain Hadyat-ullah from 1947 till 1948, and to Ayub Khuhro from 1948 until 1949. In 1949, the Governor George Baxandall Constantine appointed him as the Commissioner of District Thatta. In 1967, Agha Shahi gained a Master of Science in Strategic studies from Defence & Strategic Studies (DSS) Department.
Agha Shahi opted for the Foreign Service of Pakistan in 1951 and played a prominent role in 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 (known as Patras Bokhari), Sir Muhammad Zafrulla Khan and Prince Aly Khan (father of Prince Karim Aga Khan and Pakistan's permanent representative to UN).
He served as Counsellor in the Pakistan Embassy in Washington from 1955–58. He was Pakistan's Deputy Permanent Representative to UN from 1958–61 and later served as Permanent Representative to United Nations from 1967–72. During his term as permanent representative to United Nations, he played an important role in enabling China to become a member of the United Nations. He became Additional Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1964 and served in that position till 1967.
In 1972, he was appointed Pakistan's Ambassador to China. In 1973, Agha Shahi became Foreign Secretary and served in that position till the fall of Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in 1977. He was appointed Advisor on foreign affairs/foreign minister in 1977 by General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq and resigned from the position of foreign minister in 1982, after developing serious differences with General Zia.
Agha Shahi led various delegations of Pakistan to UN General Assembly, conferences of Non-Aligned Movement and Organization of Islamic Conference. He was a member of various UN commissions and was also elected Chairman of the UN Committee on Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) of which he had been a member since 1982. In 1993, Agha Shahi was Co-Chairman of the Pakistan delegation to the World Conference on Human Rights held in Vienna. He also served as Chairman of Institute of Strategic Studies in Islamabad and headed Islamabad Council of World Affairs, a private think tank.
Agha Shahi remained a bachelor all his life. He was the younger brother of Agha Hilaly, who also joined ICS and later opted for Pakistan's Foreign Service, serving as Pakistan's Ambassador in important capitals such as London, Moscow and Washington, at a time when Agha Shahi was Pakistan's permanent representative to UN in New York. They belonged to a prominent Shia family of South India.
One of their uncles Sir Mirza Ismail served as Diwan (Prime Minister) of the princely states of Mysore, Jaipur and Hyderabad, India from 1926–1947. His nephew Akbar Mirza Khaleeli was a prominent Indian Diplomat and served as Ambassador in Iran, Italy and Australia and was Advisor to the Indian Government on Middle Eastern Affairs.
Agha Shahi regularly contributed articles to various international publications. In 1988, a collection of his speeches and articles was published as Pakistan's Security and Foreign Policy. He died In September 2006, after suffering a heart attack, at the Pakistan Institute of Medical Science in Islamabad, aged 86.