Shaista Suhrawardy Ikramullah

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Shaista Ikramullah
شائستہ اکرام الله
Begum Shaista Suhrawardy.jpg
Begum Shaista Ikramullah
Born (1915-07-22)July 22, 1915
Calcutta, British India
(now India)
Died December 11, 2000(2000-12-11) (aged 85)
Karachi  Pakistan
Nationality Pakistani
Alma mater

University of Calcutta (B.A)

University of London (Ph.D)
Occupation Politician, Diplomat, Writer
Spouse(s) Mohammed Ikramullah
Children Inam Ikramullah
Naz Ikramullah
Salma Ikramullah
Sarvath Ikramullah
Honours Nishan-e-Imtiaz (2002)

Begum Shaista Suhrawardy Ikramullah (Urdu: شائستہ اکرام الله) (July 22, 1915 – December 11, 2000), was a prominent Pakistani politician, diplomat and author. She was the first Asian and Muslim woman to gain a Ph.D from the University of London. She became her country's ambassador to Morocco and to the United Nations.

Family and education

Ikramullah was born as Shaista Akhtar Banu Suhrawardy[1] in Calcutta, British India, as the only daughter of Lt. Col. Dr. Hassan Suhrawardy, OBE, CStJ, FRCS. She was educated at Loreto House of the University of Calcutta with a BA Hons. After her marriage she left to study at the School of Oriental and African Studies, where she had the honor of being the first Muslim and Asian woman to receive a PhD from the University of London. Her doctorate thesis, "Development of the Urdu Novel and Short Story", was a critical survey of Urdu literature.[2]

Marriage and children

She married Mohammed Ikramullah, a member of the Indian Civil Service, in 1933. Her husband went on to become the first Foreign Secretary of the Government of Pakistan and Ambassador to Canada, France, Portugal and the United Kingdom. They had a son and three daughters.

Political career

The Suhrawardy family had always been involved in politics. Her cousin Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy was the Premier of Bengal, and she had addressed her first public gathering in 1931. During her husband's posting in Delhi, she came in contact with Muhammad Ali Jinnah and joined the All-India Muslim League. Along with Fatima Jinnah, she set up the Muslim Women Student's Federation and drew girls into Muslim League activities.

In 1945, Ikramullah was asked by the Government of India to attend the Pacific Relations Conference. Jinnah convinced her not to accept the offer, as he wanted her to go as the representative of the Muslim League and to speak on its behalf.[3]

She was one of two female representatives at the first Constituent Assembly of Pakistan in 1947.[2] She was an active defender of fundamental rights in the assembly and conscious of the lack of balance between the two halves of Pakistan. Her first speech was to support a resolution that the Assembly should meet in Dhaka, capital of the more populous East Pakistan, as well as Karachi.

She was Pakistan's Ambassador to Morocco from 1964 to 1967.[2] She was a delegate to the United Nations on several occasions, and was a member of the committee that worked on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and the Convention Against Genocide.


She was also an author and essayist who contributed regularly to the magazines Tehzeeb-e-Niswan and Ismat, the former being an Urdu magazine for women that was first published in 1898. Her volume of short stories, Koshish-e-Natamaam (with an Introduction by Professor Ahmad Ali), and Safarnama are her other works in Urdu. Her works in English include Letters to Neena and Behind the Veil: Ceremonies, Customs and Colour (first published in 1953), a collection of essays on Muslim society from a woman's perspective. Her autobiography, From Purdah to Parliament (published in 1963), was followed by a biography of her cousin Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy. In her last days, she completed an English translation of Mirat ul Uroos and an Urdu volume on Kahavat aur Mahavray.[4]


She died in Karachi on December 11, 2000, at the age of 85. The Government of Pakistan posthumously conferred on her its highest civil award, Nishan-i-Imtiaz, in 2002.[5]


  1. ^ Royal Ark
  2. ^ a b c Begum Shaista Ikramullah, Story of Pakistan, Retrieved 21 July 2106
  3. ^ Paktribune
  4. ^ Begum Shaista[permanent dead link]
  5. ^ Shaista S. Ikramullah: 1915-2000. (2008). Pakistan Horizon, 61(1/2), 27-28. Retrieved from

External links

  • Find Articles: The London – Begum Shaista Ikramullah (March 29, 2001)
  • The Daily Star – Salma Sobhan
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