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 in the prestigious and politically active Suhrawardy family of Bengal. She did her BA Hons from the University of Calcutta. 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.
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” was well received in the literary circles.
This remarkable lady breathed her last in Karachi on 11 December 2000.