Simply put Shahab Nama is an autobiography of Qudrutullah Shahab. But deeming it as just an autobiography does not do justice to this text which has numerous other facets to it. Qudrutullah Shahab narrates his whole life with great humility something that was also his prime character trait. From interesting anecdotes of his childhood to the authors close proximity to all early Pakistani statesmen, makes this book a captivating ride through history as well as a simple intellectual masterpiece. It is a must read, especially for every Pakistani.
Qudratullah Shahab was one of the few Muslims in the Indian Civil services when British ruled the sub-continent as colonial masters. Later he migrated to Pakistan and was selected by the then Governor-General Ghulam Muhammad to be his Personal Secretary, he then worked in the same capacity under Iskander Mirza and Ayub Khan. And had to leave Pakistan in General Yahya’s era. He was approached by General Zia ul Haq for his services for which he refused.
Qudrutullah Shahab takes us to a roller coaster ride through his life. Every part of his life somehow is set against, history in making, all in the backdrop of his daily routine. From his schooldays he starts with the plague in Jammu, the anarchical Dogra regime of Kashmir and its history, his experience as a Muslim in the pre-partition Indian Civil Service, the famine of Bengal for which he is remembered as the one who broke the governments storage godown which harbored large amounts of food, his experience with the spirit of Bimla Kumari, the political events leading to the partition, the independence movement of Muslim league, the creation of Pakistan and a lot more. We get a crash course of the early political history of Pakistan as the author narrates his experiences with the early political leaders and military men.
Qudrutullah Shahab was at the helm of affairs in the early political and non-political affairs of Pakistan. His time spent with Ayub Khan was the longest hence General Ayub’s regime has quite many chapters dedicated to it. The author also visits Jerusalem as a secret agent when he is a member of UNESCO to collect information regarding controversial school books being taught to young Palestinian children, where he gets to spend a night at Al-Aqsa mosque. These are only few highlights of this autobiography, all are beautifully narrated with right amount of emotions, humour and thoughtfulness. From the bureaucracy to Martial Law to our corrupt political elite this book tells a complete tale of an infant Pakistan how it was made to take its very first steps.
The last chapter carries a lot of weight with it, and takes its toll from the critics. It is about the author’s inclination towards Sufism and his secret contact with an unidentified being called ninety.
Mumtaz Mufti, Bano Qudsia, Asfhaq Ahmed and Ibne Insha all renowned Pakistani intellectuals, were a few close friends and associates of Qudrutullah Shahab. Mumtaz Mufti has written in great detail about Qudrutullah Shahab in his books ‘Alakh Nagri’ and ‘Labbaik’ especially about his spiritual side which is hardly mentioned in his own autobiography. A collection of essays about Qudrutullah Shahab have been collected in a book titled ‘Zikr e Shahab’. Bano Qudsia has written a book on him ‘Mard e Abresham’. Reading more about this Qudratullah Shahab, only intensifies the aura of mystery that shrouds his personality and life.