Shahi was born in ancient city of Bangalore
to the Urdu-speaking class
, the son of educator who was the local principal of British government-sanctioned school. He was educated in Bangalore, excelling the science courses he took in school. In 1939, Shahi enrolled in Indian Institute of Science
where he joined the Department of Physics, and receiving his B.Sc.
in Physics, followed by M.Sc.
in applied physics
in 1944. Following his master's degree, he joined the faculty of Mathematics teaching undergraduate calculus courses but his parents were unsatisfied of their son being a scientists; therefore, encouraged by his parents, Shahi soon left his position after applying at the Indian Civil Service
in 1944. He took the advanced exam, "All India Competitive Examinations", where he excelled and was commissioned in the civil service soon after. His first assignment was Sindh Province
as a Commission of Education Department, therefore the family moved to Karachi, Sindh. In 1947, he opted the Pakistan citizenship
, and served as the constitutional adviser to Chief Ministers
of Sindh Province Hussain Hadyat-ulah
from 1947 till 1948, and to Ajob Khuordo
from 1948 until 1949. In 1949, the Governor George Baxandall Constantine
appointed him as the Commission of District Magistrate Thatta. In 1967, Shahi gained the Master of Science in Strategic studies
from Defence & Strategic Studies (DSS) Department
. Shahi had a long career as a Pakistani diplomat
, beginning in 1951. He served as Pakistan's ambassador
to the United Nations
, and China and also served in other posts.
Early career as an ambassador
He opted for the Foreign Service of Pakistan in 1951 and played a prominent role in formulation of foreign policy right from the early years of Pakistan's creation. He was part of various delegations to United Nations during the 1950s and 1960s and served with A.S. Bokhari (known as Patras Bokhari
), Sir Muhammad Zafrulla Khan
and Prince Aly Khan
(father of Prince Karim Aga Khan
and Pakistan's permanent representative to UN).
Shahi served as Counselor in the Pakistan Embassy in Washington from 1955-58. He was Pakistan's Deputy Permanent Representative to UN from 1958–61 and later served as Permanent Representative to United Nations from 1967-72. During his term as permanent representative to United Nations, he played an important role in enabling China to become member of the United Nations. He became Additional Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1964 and served in that position till 1967.
Foreign Minister of Pakistan
In 1972 he was appointed Pakistan' Ambassador to China. In 1973, Shahi became Foreign Secretary
and served in that position till the fall of Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto
in 1977. Shahi was appointed Advisor on foreign affairs/foreign minister in 1977 by General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq and resigned from the position of foreign minister in 1982, after developing serious differences with General Zia.
Shahi led various delegations of Pakistan to UN General Assembly, conferences of Non-Aligned Movement and Organization of Islamic Conference. He was a member of various UN commissions and was also elected Chairman of the UN Committee on Elimination of Racial Discrimination
(CERD) of which he had been a member since 1982. In 1993, Shahi was Co-Chairman of Pakistan delegation to the World Conference on Human Rights
held in Vienna. Shahi also served as Chairman of Institute of Strategic Studies in Islamabad and headed Islamabad Council of World Affairs - a private think tank.
He was the younger brother of Agha Hilaly
who also joined ICS and later opted for Pakistan's foreign service, serving as Pakistan's Ambassador in important capitals such as London, Moscow and Washington (at a time when his younger brother Shahi was Pakistan's permanent representative to UN in New York). Agha Hilaly's son, Zafar Hilaly
(who is also a former diplomat), is Agha Shahi's nephew.
Agha Shahi remained a bachelor all his life. Shahi and his brother belonged to a prominent Shia family of South India. One of their uncles Sir Mirza Ismail
served as Diwan Prime Minister
of the princely state of Mysore
and Hyderabad, India
from 1926–1947. His nephew Akbar Mirza Khaleeli
was a prominent Indian Diplomat and served as Ambassador in Iran, Italy and Australia and was Advisor to the Indian Government on Middle Eastern Affairs.
He regularly contributed articles to various international publications. In 1988, a collection of his speeches and articles was published as Pakistan's Security and Foreign Policy.
In September 2006, he died after suffering a heart attack
, at the Pakistan Institute of Medical Science in Islamabad
, aged 86.