The Legends & the Pride of Pakistan

Fatima Jinnah has been one of the most influential and impressive women leaders in Pakistan’s political history. However, Fatima Jinnah’s contribution in the social development sector has, however, been ignored somewhat. This has largely been overshadowed by her political role despite the fact that she, along with Begum Ra’ana Liaquat Ali Khan, made the greatest contribution in the realm of women’s awakening and participation in national affairs and their empowerment.

Also known as Madr-e-Millat, mother of the nation, Fatima Jinnah’s name is important among the leaders of Pakistan. She is most loved person for being an ardent supporter of her brother, Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah. When Jinnah lost his father in 1901, Fatima came under the guardianship of her older brother. In 1923, at a time when taking up a profession was considered inappropriate for girls from Muslim families, Fatima Jinnah started her own dental practice in Calcutta. She had full support of her brother, yet faced opposition from the rest of the family. When Quaid-e-Azam’s wife, Rutti Jinnah, passed away leaving behind a daughter, Fatima Jinnah gave up her practice and went to live with her brother, taking charge of the house and her young niece. During these years that followed, Fatima Jinnah accompanied her brother on many of his official tours.

Wherever Quaid went during the 1940s freedom struggle for creation of a new country on the map of the world, Fatima Jinnah stood with him by shoulder to shoulder. Numerous pictures of the period show Fatima Jinnah walking alongside Jinnah and not behind him. The message was loud and clear and it was one both the brother and sister wished to convey to the nation.

She also joined the All India Muslim League and attended the annual sessions. She helped form the All India Muslim Women Students Federation in 941 in Delhi. The height of her political accomplishments came towards the end of her life when in 1965, she defied tradition by challenging Ayub Khan in a tight race for the office of President of Pakistan. Even a conservative party like the Jamaat-i-Islami accepted her as a woman presidential candidate.

Her candidature in the 1965 presidential elections settled all questions about woman being the head of state. It was her candidature alone that could have induced a favorable fatwa from Maulana Maududi. And once that was acquired, the controversial issue ceased to exist for all time to come. This represents a singular contribution towards women’s empowerment and their participation in public life in Pakistan. If Fatima Jinnah serves as a role model for Pakistani girls, she is indeed a fine one for she had a life filled achievements.

She also joined the All India Muslim League and attended the annual sessions. She helped form the All India Muslim Women Students Federation in 941 in Delhi. The height of her political accomplishments came towards the end of her life when in 1965, she defied tradition by challenging Ayub Khan in a tight race for the office of President of Pakistan. Even a conservative party like the Jamaat-i-Islami accepted her as a woman presidential candidate. She helped form the All India Muslim Women Students Federation in 941 in Delhi. The height of her political accomplishments came towards the end of her life when in 1965, she defied tradition by challenging Ayub Khan in a tight race for the office of President of Pakistan.

Benazir Bhutto

(Born: 31 June, 1953 – Died: 27 Dec, 2007)

Benazir Bhutto was the first democratically elected female leader of a Muslim country. In a male-dominated Islamic society she got elected as Prime Minister of Pakistan twice. After completing her early education in Pakistan, she pursued her higher education in the United States. From 1969 to 1973, she attended Radcliffe College, and then Harvard University, from where she graduated. Then she moved to United Kingdom to study at Oxford from 1973 to 1977. There, she completed a course in International Law and Diplomacy. Her family and close Western friends knew her as “Pinky.” As a Muslim woman leader, Bhutto was almost an iconic figure in the West.

After her father’s death, her political struggle largely comprises almost tawdry cycle of exile, house arrest, ascent into power and dismissal, much sound and fury and signifying little. She took over as chairperson of the PPP in 1982. She returned to campaign for office in 1986 amid military rule in Pakistan.

She became Prime Minister on December 1, 1988 and first government lasted until August 1990. Her government passed no legislation except a budget during its first 14 months in power. She returned to power in 1993 and she released political prisoners and took other steps to restore fundamental human rights. Heavy restrictions on the press were lifted along with limitations on assembly by unions and student groups.

Being Prime Minister of Pakistan she emphasized economic growth, argued for decreased government subsidies and greater privatization in the economy.  She demonstrated considerable skill in winning international diplomatic and economic support for Pakistan and effectively used the Kashmir dispute with India to rally domestic public sentiment without unnecessarily inflaming it. She went into exile in Dubai in 1998, continued to direct her party from abroad and was re-affirmed as PPP leader in 2002.

The final chapter of her politics kicked off at a time when world looked warily at the future of Pakistan due to serious threats posed by radicalization. She struck a deal with then President General Pervez Musharraf. The last quarter of 2007 was filled with political maneuverings. On October 18, 2007 she returned to Pakistan with plans to participate in the 2008 general election.

Her homecoming rally was hit by a suicide attack, killing 136 people. Bhutto termed the November 3rd act by Pervez Musharraf Pakistan’s “blackest day” and threatened to bring her supporters on to the streets in mass demonstrations. She was placed under house arrest Nov. 9. But she was killed during an attack at a PPP rally on December 27, 2007. The attack also killed 28 others and wounded at least another 100.

Begum Kalsoom Nawaz Sharif is the First Lady of Pakistan for the third non-consecutive terms. She had been at this post from 1990-93 and 1997-99 in the past. She was born in Lahore, received her B.A. degree in Urdu literature in 1972 from Forman Christian College Lahore and got an M.A. degree in Urdu from Punjab University Lahore. She is also the grand-daughter of the world famous and invincible wrestler, the Great Gama.

During active times of her husband in active politics, Kalsoom avoided involving in national politics either he got elected as Prime Minister thrice or he led the opposition. However, she changed her course of action and mind when Army Chief General Pervez Musharraf toppled Nawaz Sharif’s government on 12 October 1999.

She was arrested immediately after the military takeover and shifted to her local residence, but she dauntlessly challenged the usurper when a lot of men had backed out. Nawaz Sharif named her as the president of Pakistan Muslim League in 1999 and she remained at the post till 2002.

In this regard, she launched a national protest movement against the military government and started countrywide trips, where she addressed the huge public gatherings. She led protest demonstrations and protest rallies to exert pressure on the government for the restoration of democracy in the country.  For months before the exile of Nawaz Sharif to Saudi Arabia, Kalsoom built a momentum for political activity. It paid off in the form of putting an end to the agony of her husband in jail.

She described story of the takeover by Pervez Musharraf against the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on 12th October 1999 and her struggle for the freedom of his husband in a great book, titled; ‘Jabar Aur Jamhuriat’ or ‘constraint and democracy’. Now being First Lady, she is committed to take every possible step for controlling the disease in the country by providing medical assistance to the Thalassaemia patients.

In response to her commitment to the cause of on girls’ education in Pakistan, government will double spending for education, from 2% to 4% of GDP by 2018. In return of her efforts, US First Lady has also announced a $70 million additional contribution to educate adolescent girls in Pakistan. So Pakistan will enroll more girls in school and provide more female teachers. The additional US funding will allow organizers to build more than a dozen new schools and rehabilitate hundreds of others in Pakistan. These efforts will reach 200,000 girls in Pakistan.


Jahanara Shahnawaz 1896-1979

Begum Jahanara Shahnawaz (1896-1979) was a politician and Muslim League activist. In 1935 she founded the Punjab Provincial Women’s Muslim League. In 1937 she was elected to the Punjab Legislative Assembly and was appointed as Parliamentary Secretary for Education, Medical Relief and Public Health. In 1938 she joined the Women’s Central Subcommittee of the All India Muslim League. In 1942 India’s government appointed her as a member of the National Defense Council. In 1946 she was elected to the Central Constituent Assembly. She was arrested along with other Muslim League leaders during the civil disobedience movement in Punjab in 1947. She was exalted to the office of Vice-President of the Central Committee of the All India Muslim Women’s Conference. She remained associated with the education and orphanage committees of the Anjuman-i-Himayat-i-Islam and with several hospitals, maternity and child welfare committees. She was a member of the All Indian General Committee of the Red Cross Society.

Begum Ra’ana Liaqat Ali Khan 1905-1990

Ra’anna was one of the leading and pioneering woman figures in the Pakistan Movement and served as the executive member of Pakistan Movement committee working under Muhammad Ali Jinnah. She also served as economic adviser to Jinnah’s Pakistan Movement Committee.

As First Lady of Pakistan, she launched programs for woman’s development in the country. Later she started her career as a stateswoman that could last a decade. Ra’ana won the parliamentary elections of 1977. Later she dedicated her life for the social and economic benefit of women of Pakistan till her death in 1990. She died in 1990 due to cardiac arrest and was buried in Karachi, with full state and military honors given to her in her funeral. Because of her services and efforts for medical and woman development and woman empowerment, Ra’ana is commonly known as “Māder-e-Pakistan” (English translation: Mother of Pakistan).

Begum Salma Tasadduque Hussain 1908-1995

With real name Salma Mahmuda was born Gujranwala and completed her graduation from Punjab University after her marriage with Dr. Tasadduque Hussain Bar-at-Law. In 1944, she was nominated as a member of the working committee of the Punjab Provincial Muslim League. She rendered valuable services during the elections of 1946 and won Punjab Provincial Assembly seat from Lahore with overwhelming majority on the Muslim League ticket. In 1947, as Secretary of the Women’s Subcommittee, she organized processions during the Civil Disobedience Movement spread to the N. W. F. P. During the Partition riots, she was appointed Refugee Relief Secretary in the provincial Muslim League office with duties to make arrangements for refugees’ boarding and lodging in Walton and other camps. In the field of literature, she has attained a remarkable position as a writer and poet. The translation of ‘Cleopatra’ into Urdu is one of her achievements.

Tahira Qazi 1951-2014

Tahira Qazi is the the pride of Pakistan and the recipient of Sitara-e-Shujat. She dedicated 37 years to educating children and in the end laid down her life to the cause. She was Principal Army Public School APS Peshawar.

On December 16, 2014, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) insurgents stormed APS on a mission to shoot and kill children inside the school. But her bravery saved several hundred children from brutal attack at a cost of her own life. Soldiers advised her to leave the site but she refused saying “I will go with the last child” Terrorists asked her why she was saving children, she said, “I am their mother”. Her dead body had a bullet wound on her forehead, and an explosion may have tossed her into the bushes outside the school. The Conference Room of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly is renamed as Tahira Qazi Conference Room to honour her.

Arfa Karim Randhawa – World’s youngest IT Professional 1995-2012

Arfa Karim Randhawa became the youngest Microsoft Certified Professionals (MCPs) in the world at the age of 9 years and kept title till 2008.  Bill Gates invited her to visit the Microsoft Headquarters in USA. In 2005, she received the Fatimah Jinnah Gold Medal from then Prime Minister of Pakistan and Salaam Pakistan Youth Award again from then President of Pakistan. She is also the youngest recipient of the President’s Award for ‘Pride of Performance’.

In 10 minutes meeting with Bill Gates, Arfa defended Pakistani culture successfully.

Bill Gates: It seems that there is no equality for women in Pakistan…

Arfa asked a counter question I am observing that there are less than 10% women in Microsoft? “Women are not so interested in Technology” Gates replied. “Come to my village, I’ll show you how women are working in Fields and how many women are available for Technology “.

Bill Gates shocked over her brilliance and intelligence.

Maliha Lodhi – Pakistani Political Scientist, Diplomat, Columnist, And Strategist 1952

Maliha Lodhi was born in Lahore but after her school education in Lahore and Rawalpindi, she received her BSc in Economics degree from the London School of Economics in 1972 with specialization in government finances in 1976. She got her PhD in political science in 1980.  In 1986, she became the first ever woman Editor of a newspaper ‘The Muslim’ in Asia. In 1994, Time magazine declared her one of a hundred people, capable of shaping the 21st century. She remained a member of the UN Secretary General’s Advisory Board on Disarmament from 2001 to 2005.

She is a political scientist, diplomat, columnist, and strategist and the first woman holding office of the Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the United Nations. She served as the High Commissioner of Pakistan to the United Kingdom (2003–2008) and Pakistan Ambassador to the United States twice. She is the author of two books, ‘Pakistan’s Encounter with Democracy’ and ‘Pakistan: Beyond the Crisis’.

Malala Yousafzai – Nobel Laureate Peace Award Winner 1997

Malala Yousafzai, is a Pakistani activist who spoke out against the Taliban’s prohibition of girls’ education. In 2008, at the age of 11, under the name Gul Makai, she began writing regular entries for BBC Urdu to promote cause of girls’ education. In October 2012, Taliban shot her in the head while she was en-route home from school but she survived and was flown from Pakistan to England for surgery.

The International Community took her cause and the UN special envoy for global Education Gordon Brown introduced a petition, leading to the ratification of Pakistan’s first Right to Education bill. In December 2012, Pakistani President launched a $10 million education fund in her honour and Vital Voices Global Partnership also established Malala Fund to support education for all girls around the world. In 2014, Malala Yousafzai won the Nobel Prize for Peace.

Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy – First Pakistani Oscar Award winner 1978

Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy is a Pakistani journalist, filmmaker, activist, a TED Fellow and first Oscar Award winner. She graduated from Smith College, United States. Obaid-Chinoy won six Emmy Awards, including, two International Emmy Awards for Current Affairs Documentary category for the films; Pakistan’s Taliban Generation and the Saving Face.

She is the first non-American winner of the Livingston Award for Young Journalists. Her famous films include Children of the Taliban, The Lost Generation, Afghanistan Unveiled, 3 Bahadur, Song of Lahore and the Academy Award Winner Saving Face and A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness. Her visual contributions earned her numerous awards, including the Academy Award for Best Short Subject Documentary (2012 and 2016). Time magazine named her among 100 world’s most influential people for 2012. Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy launches petition to end honor killings. Pakistani Government awarded her with the Hilal-e-Imtiaz, the second highest civilian honor of the country.

Erum Akbar

Author is an executive editor of Melange and Secretary Information Center of Pakistan and International Relations

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