Patras Bokhari

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Patras Bokhari
پطرس بخاری
Patras Bukhari.jpg
Born Syed Ahmed Shah
(1898-10-01)1 October 1898
Peshawar, British North West Frontier Province (now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa,Pakistan)
Died 5 December 1958(1958-12-05) (aged 60)
New York, United States
Occupation Writer
Nationality Pakistani
Genre Fiction
Subject Literature

Syed Ahmed Shah (Urdu: سید احمد شاہ), commonly known as Patras Bokhari (1 October 1898 – 5 December 1958) was an Pakistani humourist, writer, broadcaster and diplomat who served as the first Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the United Nations.

Born in Peshawar, British India to a Kashmiri family, Shah studied at Mission School and moved to Lahore where he studied English literature at the Government College. Shah moved to United Kingdom where he received his Tripos from the Emmanuel College, Cambridge. He returned to Lahore where he taught English at Government College in 1927. He became a prominent part of the Muslim intelligentsia in South Asia. Shah moved to eventually become Director General of All India Radio in Delhi and then Principal of Government College. He was appointed as the country's first envoy to the United Nation's in New York City from 1951 and 1954, followed by the Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations for Information until 1958.[1]


Born in Peshawar into a Kashmiri family (which migrated from Baramulla)[2][3] Bokhari received his early education in the city of his birth and in 1916 moved from Islamia College, Peshawar, to attend Government College, Lahore. After completing his Masters in English he was appointed as lecturer at the same institution. In 1922, he took his MA in English after just one year's study and stood first, after which he was appointed lecturer at the College. This was his creative period. His bilingual excellence is owed to his intensive translation of great books and plays from English to Urdu. He was tall and blue-eyed, had a razor-sharp mind, an equally sharp tongue, and a keenness to go forward in life.

Bokhari left Government College, Lahore in 1925 in order to complete a Tripos in English at Emmanuel College, Cambridge. Many years later, the Bokhari English Prize was established there in his honor.[4][5] In 1927, he returned to Government College, Lahore, and as a Professor remained there until 1939. Before the formation of Pakistan in 1947, he was the Director General of All India Radio. Being a Professor of English Literature, he also served as the Principal of Government College, Lahore from 1947 to 1950. The Urdu poets Faiz Ahmed Faiz and Noon Meem Rashid, were among his students. After the formation of Pakistan, In 1950, he was a member of Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan's entourage during his visit to the United States. All the speeches and public pronouncement of the late Prime Minister were drafted by him. These have since been published in a volume entitled Heart of Asia. It was close association with Liaquat Ali Khan, which culminated in his posting as Pakistan's Permanent Representative at the United Nations. he served as the first permanent representative of Pakistan in the United Nations from 1951–1954. From 1954–1958 he remained as the Under Secretary of the UN, Head of Information.[6]

In New York, Bokhari lives in a small house on a small street along the East River that is the quintessence of exclusivity. But it is a simply furnished home, strewn with books – books on tables and on the floor, books singly and books in piles. All of them are evidence of the academic life from which Pakistan's shortage of trained men diverted him into diplomacy. He used four languages at home – the local dialect, Persian, Urdu and Pashto.[7]

Background to Pen Name Patras[edit]

Ahmed Shah Bokhari first started using a pen name Peter, in respect of his teacher Peter Watkins, when he wrote in English. In his Urdu writings he used the pen name Patras.

According to Khaled Ahmed, in his article The House of Patras which appeared in The Friday Times, Lahore, on 13 May 1999, Patras is a Persian adaptation of an Arabic rendering of 'Peter'.

An extract from Z.A. Bokhari's autobiography about the orientation of ASB’s pen-name is :

"My brother’s full name was Pir Syed Ahmed Shah Bokhari. Our headmaster (in Peshawar) Mr. Watkins addressed him by his first name ‘Pir’ but pronounced it as ‘Pierre’ as if it was a French word. Pierre in French stands for Peter, which is Patras in Greek…. As a result of this similarity, my brother took up ‘Patras’ as his pen-name".[8]


His collection of essays, Patras Kay Mazameen published in 1927 is said to be an asset in Urdu humor writings. It is undoubtedly one of the finest works in Urdu humor and despite the fact that it was written in first half of twentieth century, it seems to be truly applicable even today. He lived in times of personalities like Allama Iqbal and had interacted with him on several occasions and engaged him in philosophical debates. One of his debates with Iqbal led to creation of one of his poems in his book Zarb-e-Kaleem.[9]

Ahmed Shah Bokhari was well read in Greek Philosophy and had a deep understanding of Aristotle, Plato and Socrates. He wrote an article Ancient Greek Rulers and Their Thinking which was published in March 1919 in the Kehkashan Lahore. He was 21 years old at the time.[8]

His work at United Nations was truly amazing during many years of his service to this body which was in infancy while Patras worked there. One of his major contributions was fighting the case of UNICEF during meetings which were convened to discuss its closure because apparently it had fulfilled its designated task. Patras argued successfully that UNICEF’s need in developing countries is much greater than its role in European countries after WWII. His arguments forced even Eleanor Roosevelt to change stance of her country, United States. His contributions to United Nations as a leading diplomat were summed up by Ralph J. Bunche (UN Secretary General and Nobel Peace Laureate) in these words:[10]

"Ahmed Bokhari was, in fact, a leader and a philosopher, a savant, indeed, even though not old in years, a sort of elder statesman. His true field of influence was the entire complex of the United Nations family.... He was acutely conscious of the aspirations of people throughout the world for peace, for better standards of life, for freedom and dignity, but no one was more soundly aware than he of the difficulties and obstacles to be overcome in bringing about a broad advance of humankind along these avenues."[11]

Bokhari's great work was done at the United Nations. He said that apart from being as great an internationalist as Dag Hammerskjold, he was the first advocate of liberation movements in colonised countries across Africa and the Middle East. That credit has been denied him by his countrymen, as they have denied it to Sir Zafralla Khan, though for different reasons.[12]

Family and death[edit]

In 1923 he married Zubaida Wanchoo, a Punjabi-speaking Kashmiri lady, and daughter of a Superintendent of Police. They had three children – two sons Mansoor & Haroon, and a daughter Roshan Ara. Roshan Ara died as a child. He died on 5 December 1958 during his diplomatic service and is buried in Valhalla Cemetery, New York.[13]

Awards & Recognition[edit]

  • He was appointed a Companion of the Order of the Indian Empire (CIE) in the 1944 Birthday Honours list.[14]
  • In October 1998, to mark his birth centenary, the government of Pakistan issued a postage stamp with his photograph under the series, "Pioneers of Pakistan".[15]
  • On 14 August 2003 President of Pakistan, General Pervez Musharraf, announced the conferment of Hilal-e-Imtiaz, the country's second highest civilian award, posthumously on Bokhari.
  • Editorial appears in the New York Times on 6 December 1958, a day after his demise, in which he is described as a "Citizen of the World".
  • Dr. Anwar Dil, a well known Pakistan writer based in the US published a book on Patras Bokhari in 1998 called "On This Earth Together" in 1998, after 20 years of painstaking research in the US and Pakistan.[15]

Named after him[edit]

  • The Government of Tunisia, named a road after him in Tunis, in recognition for his contribution towards the freedom of Tunisia from French Colonial Rule in 1956. There is also a road in Islamabad, Pakistan.[16]
  • Government College, Lahore names their auditorium "Bokhari Auditorium".[15]


  1. ^ "Tribute: Remembering 'Patras' by Ali Madeeh Hashmi". Retrieved 2016-12-05. 
  2. ^ Ansari, Khizar Humayun (1990). The Emergence of Socialist Thought Among North Indian Muslims, 1917–1947. Book Traders. p. 315. 
  3. ^ Hameed, Faiza; Hashmi, Ali Madeeh (6 December 2013). "Kalos". The Friday Times. 
  4. ^ "Endowment of Prizes". Emmanuel College, Cambridge. Bokhari English Prize: for a College Prize in English for the best first in the English Tripos. 
  5. ^ Sir Cam (30 October 2003). "Cam Diary: 'Kamal da teacher'". Daily Times. Professor K.K. Aziz has single-highhandedly set up the Bokhari English Prize at Cambridge University, awarded annually to the best student of English at Emmanuel College. 
  6. ^ "The Friday Times: Pakistan's First Independent 20120420 Paper". The Friday Times. Retrieved 15 October 2016. 
  7. ^ "Diplomat's Diplomat: Bokhari of Pakistan Chairs UN Council". Retrieved 15 October 2016. 
  8. ^ a b "Background to Pen Name "Patras"". Retrieved 15 October 2016. 
  9. ^ "Remembering Pitras Bokhari (by SM)". Retrieved 15 October 2016. 
  10. ^ "Lahore, Pakistan News". The Lahore Times. Retrieved 15 October 2016. 
  11. ^ "Patras Bukhari". Retrieved 15 October 2016. 
  12. ^ "Bokhari, Lahore's true geographer". Retrieved 15 October 2016. 
  13. ^ "Biography". Retrieved 15 October 2016. 
  14. ^ "No. 36544". The London Gazette (Supplement). 2 June 1944. p. 2571. 
  15. ^ a b c "Awards & Recognition". Retrieved 15 October 2016. 
  16. ^ "Patras Bukhari Road". Retrieved 28 August 2015. 

External links[edit]

Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Post established
Pakistan Ambassador to the United Nations
1951– 1954
Succeeded by
Prince Aly Khan