The first lady to represent Pakistan abroad was Begum Shaista Ikramullah. She is still respected by people of Pakistan for her achievements. She was born as Shaista Suhrawardy in Calcutta on 22nd July, 1915 in the prestigious and politically active Suhrawardy family of Bengal.
She did her BA Hons from the University of Calcutta. She also studied at SOAS. After her marriage to Mohammed Ikramullah, she pursued further studies and became the first Muslim and the first Asian woman to receive a PhD from the University of London. She was also an author.
Begum Shaista’s husband served as a member of the Indian Civil Service and during his posting in New Delhi, she met Mohammed Ali Jinnah and joined the Muslim League. She played an active part in mobilizing the Muslim women during the Pakistan Movement.
Begum Shaista was one of the two ladies elected to the Pakistan legislature and constituent assembly. She represented Pakistan in the United Nations a number of times. She also served as the Ambassador to Morocco from 1964 to 1967. Begum Shaista’s daughter, Princess Sarvath, is the wife of Prince Hasan bin Talal of Jordan.
Begum Shaista wrote books in both Urdu and English language; her autobiography “From Pardah to Parliament” published in 1963 was well received in the literary circles. She also wrote women’s magazines “Tehzeeb-e-Niswan” and “Ismat”. She published her collection of short stories in 1950.
In 1951, her book “Letters to Neena” was published. In 1991, she published her book “Huseyn Shaheed Suhraeardy” which was a biography of her uncle. She was also one of the writers of the book “Common Heritage” published in 1997. This remarkable lady breathed her last in Karachi on 11th December, 2000. She was honoured with Nishan-e-Imtiaz in 2002.