Syed Ahmed Shah Bukhari was born in Peshawar into a Kashmiri family. His family had earlier migrated from Baramulla. He received his early education in Peshawar. In 1916, he moved from Islamia College Peshawar to attend
Syed Ahmed Shah Bukhari
Syed Ahmed Shah Bukhari was born in Peshawar into a Kashmiri family. His family had earlier migrated from Baramulla. He received his early education in Peshawar. In 1916, he moved from Islamia College Peshawar to attend Government College, Lahore.
After completing his Masters in English he was appointed as lecturer at the same institution. In 1922, he took his MA in English after just one year's study and stood first, after which he was appointed lecturer at the College. This was his creative period. His bilingual excellence is owed to his intensive translation of great books and plays from English to Urdu. He was tall and blue-eyed, had a razor-sharp mind, an equally sharp tongue, and a keenness to go forward in life.
Bukhari left Government College, Lahore in 1925 in order to complete a Tripos in English at Emmanuel College, Cambridge. Many years later, the Bukhari English Prize was established there in his honour.
In 1927, he returned to Government College, Lahore, and as a Professor remained there until 1939. Before the formation of Pakistan in 1947, he was the Director General of All India Radio. Being a Professor of English Literature, he also served as the Principal of Government College, Lahore from 1947 to 1950. The Urdu poets Faiz Ahmed Faiz and Noon Meem Rashid, were among his students.
After the formation of Pakistan, in 1950, he was a member of Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan's entourage during his visit to the United States. All the speeches and public pronouncement of the late Prime Minister were drafted by him. These have since been published in a volume entitled Heart of Asia. It was his close association with Liaquat Ali Khan, which culminated in his posting as Pakistan's Permanent Representative at the United Nations. He served as the first permanent representative of Pakistan in the United Nations from 1951–1954. From 1954–1958 he remained as the Under Secretary of the UN, Head of Informon.
In New York, Bukhari lived in a small house on a small street along the East River that is the quintessence of exclusivity. But it is a simply furnished home, strewn with books – books on tables and on the floor, books singly and books in piles. All of them are evidence of the academic life from which Pakistan's shortage of trained men diverted him into diplomacy. He used four languages at home – the local dialect, Persian, Urdu and Pashto.
Ahmed Shah Bokhari first started using a pen name Peter, in respect of his teacher Peter Watkins, when he wrote in English. In his Urdu writings he used the pen name Patras. According to Khaled Ahmed, in his article The House of Patras which appeared in The Friday Times, Lahore, on 13 May 1999, Patras is a Persian adaptation of an Arabic rendering of 'Peter'.
His collection of essays, Patras Kay Mazameen published in 1927 is said to be an asset in Urdu humor writings. It is undoubtedly one of the finest works in Urdu humor and despite the fact that it was written in first half of twentieth century, it seems to be truly applicable even today. He lived in times of personalities like Allama Iqbal and had interacted with him on several occasions and engaged him in philosophical debates. One of his debates with Iqbal led to creation of one of his poems in his book Zarb-e-Kaleem.
Ahmed Shah Bokhari was well read in Greek Philosophy and had a deep understanding of Aristotle, Plato and Socrates. He wrote an article Ancient Greek Rulers and Their Thinkin which was published in March 1919 in the Kehkashan Lahore. He was 21 years old at the time.
His work at United Nations was truly amazing during many years of his service to this body which was in infancy while Patras worked there. One of his major contributions was fighting the case of UNICEF during meetings which were convened to discuss its closure because apparently it had fulfilled its designated task. Patras argued successfully that UNICEF’s need in developing countries is much greater than its role in European countries after WWII. His arguments forced even Eleanor Roosevelt to change stance of her country, United States. His contributions to United Nations as a leading diplomat were summed up by Ralph J. Bunche (UN Secretary General and Nobel Peace Laureate) in these words:
“Ahmed Bukhari was, in fact, a leader and a philosopher, a savant, indeed, even though not old in years, a sort of elder statesman. His true field of influence was the entire complex of the United Nations family. He was acutely conscious of the aspirations of people throughout the world for peace, for better standards of life, for freedom and dignity, but no one was more soundly aware than he of the difficulties and obstacles to be overcome in bringing about a broad advance of humankind along these avenues.”
Bokhari's great work was done at the United Nations. He said that apart from being as great an internationalist as Dag Hammerskjold, he was the first advocate of liberation movements in colonised countries across Africa and the Middle East. That credit has been denied him by his countrymen, as they have denied it to Sir Zafralla Khan, though for different reasons.
In 1923 he married Zubaida Wanchoo, a Punjabi-speaking Kashmiri lady, and daughter of a Superintendent of Police. They had three children – two sons Mansoor & Haroon, and a daughter Roshan Ara. Roshan Ara died as a child. He died on 5 December 1958 during his diplomatic service and is buried in Valhalla Cemetery, New York.
Honours and Awards credited to Syed Ahmed Shah Bukhari:
Syed Ahmed Shah Bukhari was appointed a Companion of the Order of the Indian Empire (CIE) in the 1944 Birthday Honours list.
In October 1998, to mark his birth centenary, the government of Pakistan issued a postage stamp with his photograph under the series, 'Pioneers of Pakistan'.
On 14 August 2003 President of Pakistan, General Pervez Musharraf, announced the conferment of Hilal-e-Imtiaz, the country's second highest civilian award, posthumously on Bokhari.
Editorial appears in the New York Times on 6 December 1958, a day after his demise, in which he is described as a 'Citizen of the World'.
Dr. Anwar Dil, a well-known Pakistan writer based in the US published a book on Patras Bokhari in 1998 called 'On This Earth Together' in 1998, after 20 years of painstaking research in the US and Pakistan.
The Government of Tunisia, names Road after him in Tunis, as recognition for his contribution towards the freedom of Tunisia from French Colonial Rule in 1956 and the same name for a road in Islamabad.
Government College, Lahore names their auditorium 'Bokhari Auditorium'.