Introduction

An eminent Urdu writer and civil servant, Qudratullah Shahab was born in Gilgit in 1920. He is best known for his autobiography, Shahab Nama. His father Abdullah Shahab belonged to the Arain tribe of Chimkor Sahib Village, district

Qudratullah Shahab


Professional Achievements


An eminent Urdu writer and civil servant, Qudratullah Shahab was born in Gilgit in 1920. He is best known for his autobiography, Shahab Nama. His father Abdullah Shahab belonged to the Arain tribe of Chimkor Sahib Village, district Ambala and was a student at Muhammadan Anglo-Oriental College and a protegé under the supervision of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan. Abdullah Shahab later migrated from Aligarh and settled down in Gilgit.

Qudratullah Shahab started writing in his early days both in Urdu and English languages. At the age of 16, he won an international essay competition organised by the Readers Digest, London.

Qudratullah Shahab educated from Prince of Wales College, Jammu, and later from Government College Lahore. He was selected for Indian Civil Service in 1940 and later volunteered to serve in Bengal during the famine of 1943, where he served as magistrate at Nandigram. He came under heavy fire from the authorities when he distributed part of the strategic rice reserves to the starving local community.

After coming to Pakistan he was first posted in the Ministry of Commerce as a Deputy Secretary and then as Chief Secretary of the new state of Azad Kashmir at Muzaffarabad. Thereafter, he became Deputy Commissioner of Jhang. He also served as Director of Industries of Punjab and dealt mostly with settlement issues concerning migration.

He was appointed by Governor General Ghulam Muhammad his Principal Secretary and remained on this post during Iskander Mirza's and Ayub Khan's regimes. He served as Ambassador of Pakistan to Holland in 1962 and later as Secretary of Information and Education. He resigned after a clash with the new regime of Yahya Khan and opted for a self-imposed exile in UK. Qudratullah Shahab was elected a member of the executive board of UNESCO in 1968.

Qudratullah Shahab started writing in his early days both in Urdu and English languages. At the age of 16, he won an international essay competition organised by the Readers Digest, London. In the first chapter of his autobiography Shahab Nama, he mentioned how the idea of writing a memoir occurred to him when he paid a visit to Ibn-e-Insha in London. While they were discussing the philosophy of life, it inspired him to pen his own experiences. The complete work was published after his death in 1986.

There has been much debate on the spiritual side of his personality. Mumtaz Mufti, Shahab's close friend and a well-known writer, wrote about it. Also in Shahab Nama, Shahab shared some of his spiritual experiences, especially the bewitched bungalow of 18 civil lines (Cuttuck) that contributed to his understanding of Parapsychology.

The real disclosure came in the final chapter of Shahab Nama that alluded to an out-of-world personality whom he used to call Ninety as his spiritual guide. After the Shahab Nama was published, which was actually after Shahab's death, Mufti wrote his autobiography, Alakh Nagri, and openly discussed the hidden traits of Shahab's life. Mufti wrote in the foreword of the book; Since Shahab has opened his own secrets in the last chapter of Shahab Nama, I find no reason not to share experiences which I witnessed about the mysticism of Shahab.

From the early days of Pakistan, Qudratullah Shahab worked with the national leadership of the country until the regime of Yahya Khan. He revealed in Shahab Nama, as Mumtaz Mufti did in Alakh Nagri, that the idea of retaining the name Islamic Republic of Pakistan was proposed by him to Ayub Khan, after Ayub had started to write in official communications the name of the country simply as Pakistan, instead of Islamic Republic of Pakistan, during his initial days in office. After some initial hesitation, Ayub agreed with Shahab's reasoning so much so that he adopted the idea as his own!

The last chapter of Shahab Nama about his exposure to spiritualism has been controversial. Though throughout his lifetime, Qudratullah Shahab had enjoyed a respectful image among his colleagues and friends. Many of them paid him tributes in their essays and short stories. Notably, Mumtaz Mufti made him the subject of his autobiography Alakh Nagri and later dedicated another book Labbaik. Bano Qudsia, a veteran Urdu writer, wrote a book Mard-e-Abresham on Shahab's personality. A collection of essays about Qudrutullah Shahab has been compiled in a book, Zikr-e-Shahab.

Shahab also published in English and Urdu languages for contemporary newspapers and magazines of Pakistan Writers' Guild, founded at Karachi in January 1959.

Shahab died on 24 July 1986 in Islamabad and is buried in H-8 Graveyard, Islamabad. Pakistan Post, on 23rd March 2013, issued a stamp under the Men of Letters series in the honour of Qudratullah Shahab. The stamp can be found on Pakistan Post's official website: http://www.pakpost.gov.pk/stamps1/QudratUllahShahab.html