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Tuesday, April 9, 2013


Men of Letters Series Qudrat Ullah Shahab (1917 – 1986) Commemorative Postage Stamp March 23, 2013:- Qudrat Ullah Shahab (or Qudratullah Shahab; 26 February 1917 – 24 July 1986) was an eminent Urdu writer and civil servant from Pakistan. He is best known for his autobiography, Shahab Nama.
He was born in Gilgit in 1917. His father was a student at MAO College and a protégé under the supervision of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan. He later immigrated from Aligarh and settled down in Gilgit. Shahab started writing in his early days both in urdu and English languages. At the age of 16, he won an international essay competition organized by the Readers Digest, London. He graduated from Prince of Wales college, Jammu, and later from Government College Lahore.
According to his autobiography, he spent his childhood in Eastern Punjab near Chamkor Sahib, Ropar (Rapnagar) District.
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, Punjab. 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 Netherlands 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 at UK. Shahab was elected a member of the executive board of UNESCO in 1968.
Shahab had published in English and Urdu languages for contemporary newspapers and magazines of Pakistan Writers’ Guild, founded at Karachi in January 1959.
He is best known for his autobiography Shahab Nama. In the first chapter, Shahab 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, and then soonbecame a favorite among the Urdu knowing circles of the Indian sub-continent.
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 Shahab Nama 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, Shahab worked with the national leadership country until the regime of Yahya Khan. Shahab revealed in Shahab Nama, as Mumtaz Mufti did in Alakh Nagri, that the idea of giving Pakistan the name “Islamic Republic of Pakistan” was actually proposed by him to Ayub Khan. Shahab argued in the parliament in favor of this idea, which was unanimously accepted by the leaders.
The last chapter of Shahab Nama about his exposure to spiritualism has been controversial. Though throughout his lifetime, Shahab has 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 Nagria 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 Qudratullah Shahab has been compiled in a book, Zikr-e-Shahab.
Shahab died on 24 July 1986 in Islamabad and is buried in H-8 Graveyard.
On Men of Letters Series – Qudratullah Shahab, Pakistan Post is issuing a commemorative postage stamp of Rs.15/- denomination on March 23, 2013. in Islamabad and is buried in H-8 Graveyard.
On Men of Letters Series – Qudratullah Shahab, Pakistan Post is issuing a commemorative postage stamp of Rs.15/- denomination on March 23, 2013.