Shaista Suhrawardy Ikramullah

Begum Shaista Suhrawardy Ikramullah (July 22, 1915 - December 11, 2000), was a prominent female Pakistani politician, diplomat and author.

Family and education

She was born in Calcutta (now Kolkata), India as the only daughter of Sir Hassan Suhrawardy. She was educated at Loreto House and at 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 Indian 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.

Marriage and children

She married Mohammed Ikramullah, a member of the Indian Civil Service in 1933. Her husband later went on to become the first Foreign Secretary of the Government of Pakistan and Ambassador to Canada, France, Portugal and the United Kingdom. Together, they had four children including:

* Inam
* Naz Ikramullah
* Salma Sobhan (August 11 1937 - December 30, 2003) - former barrister and professor in Bangladesh
* Princess Sarvath of Jordan

Political career

The Suhrawardy family had always been involved in politics. Her cousin Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy was to the Premier of Bengal, and she herself 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 Muslim League. Along with Fatima Jinnah, she set up the Muslim Women Student's Federation and drew girls into Muslim League Activities.

In 1946, she was elected to the Constituent Assembly of India, but like most the Muslim League members she refused to join. On moving to Pakistan she was one of two women, elected to the Pakistani legislature and constituent assembly.

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 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 famously debated against Krishna Menon on the question of Kashmir at the United Nations.

She served as Ambassador to Morocco from 1964 to 1967.

She is also known as an author and essayist in both the English and Urdu languages. She wrote the book "Behind the Veil: Ceremonies, Customs and Colour", which is a collection of essays on Muslim society from a woman's perspective. Her autobiography "From Purdah to Parliament" was much feted. She died in Karachi at the age of 85.


Some of her other publications include the following (along with several more books written in Urdu):

* "Common Heritage"
* "Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy; A Biography"
* "Letters To Neena"
* "Purdah to Parliament"

External links

* [ Find Articles: The London - Begum Shaista Ikramullah (March 29, 2001)]
* [ The Daily Star - Salma Sobhan]

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