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A look at the devoted political journey of great Pakistan women

Madar-I-Millat Mohtarma Fatima Ali Jinnah (1893-1967)

Mohtarma Fatima Ali Jinnah, younger sister of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, was born in 1893. Of his seven brothers and sisters, she was the closest to the Quaid-e-Azam who became her guardian upon the death of their father in 1901.

Due to her brothers’ keen interest, and despite strident family opposition, Mohtarma Fatima received excellent early education. She joined the Bandra Convent in 1902. In 1919 she got admitted to the highly competitive University of Calcutta (now Kolkata) where she attended the Dr. Ahmed Dental College. After she qualified, Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah went along with her idea of opening a dental clinic in Bombay (now Mumbai) and helped set it up in 1923.

Fatima Jinnah had first lived with her brother for about eight years until 1918, when he got married to Ruttenbai. Upon Ruttenbai’s death in February 1929, Mohtarma Fatima Ali Jinnah wound up her clinic, moved into his brother’s bungalow and took charge of his house. Thus began the life-long companionship that lasted till Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s death on September 11, 1948.

In all, Miss Jinnah lived with her brother for about 28 years — including the last nineteen trying years of his life. Quaid-e-Azam discussed various problems with her, mostly at the breakfast and dinner table.

Paying tribute to her sister, the Quaid once said, “My sister was like a bright ray of light and hope whenever I came back home and met her. Anxieties would have been much greater and my health much worse, but for the restraint imposed by her.”

Miss Jinnah not only lived with her brother but also accompanied him on his numerous tours. In 1932, she joined him in London when he remained there after the second Round Table Conference.

When the All-India Muslim League was being organized, Fatima Ali Jinnah was taken as a member of the Working Committee of Bombay Provincial Muslim League, and worked in that capacity until 1947.

In March 1940, she attended the Lahore session of the Muslim League. Fatima was convinced that the Hindus intended to subjugate and dominate the Muslims completely.

It was primarily due to her initiative that All-India Muslim Women Students Federation was organized in February 1941 at Delhi.

During the transfer of power phase in 1947, she was an inspiration to Muslim women and formed the Women’s Relief Committee, which later formed the nucleus for the All Pakistan Women’s Association. She also played a significant role in the settlement of refugees in the new state of Pakistan.

Despite her old age, she continued to help social and educational associations. During the Quaid’s illness, she remained passionately attached to him.

After his death, she often issued important statements on important occasions, as a reminder to the nation of the ideals on which Pakistan had been established.

In 1964, Mohtarma Fatima Ali Jinnah ran for President as a candidate of the Combined Opposition Party (COP). Even a conservative party like the Jammat-i-Islami accepted her, a woman, as a presidential candidate.

Fatima Jinnah’s great advantage was that she was the sister of the founder of Pakistan and had been detached from the political conflicts that had plagued Pakistan after the founder’s death.

The sight of this dynamic lady moving in the streets of big cities, and even in the rural areas of a Muslim country, was both moving and unique.

She proclaimed her opponent presidential candidate, Ayub Khan, to be a dictator. Miss Jinnah’s line of attack was that by coming to terms with India on the Indus Water dispute, Ayub had surrendered control of the rivers over to India.

Her campaign generated such tremendous public enthusiasm that most of the press agreed that if the contest were by direct election, she would won against Ayub.

It seems that the thought of doing a biography of her illustrious brother came to Fatima Jinnah about the time when Hector Bolihtos’ ‘Jinnah’ was first published in 1954.

It was felt that Bolihto had failed to bring out the political aspects of Jinnah’s life in his book. Mohtarma Jinnah started looking for a Pakistani author to do a biography of the Quaid. G. Allana was her choice. G. Allana assisted Mohtarma Jinnah on the assignment but they parted company due to reasons undisclosed. Later both carried on their independent works on Jinnah. Her book “My Brother” was published by the Quaid-i-Azam Academy in 1987.

The people of Pakistan hold Mohtarma Fatima in high esteem. Due to her selfless work for Pakistan, the nation conferred upon her the title of Madar-i-Millat (Mother of the Nation). She died on July 8, 1967 at Karachi. (In some books the date of demise of Fatima Jinnah is indicated as July 2, 1967.)

Madar-i-Millat’s Message to the Nation on Eid-ul Azha on 1965 and 1967:

“Let us sink all our differences and stand united together under the same banner under which we truly achieved Pakistan and let us demonstrate once again that we can – united – face all dangers in the cause of glory of Pakistan — the glory that the Quaid-e-Azam envisaged for Pakistan.”

“The immediate task before you is to face the problem and bring the country back on the right path with the bugles of Quaid-i-Azam’s message.

March forward under the banner of star and the crescent with unity in your ranks, faith in you mission and discipline. Fulfill your mission and a great sublime future awaits your enthusiasm and action. Remember: ‘cowards die many times before death; the valiant never tastes death but once.’ This is the only course of action which suits any self-respecting people and certainly the Muslim Nation.”

Madar-i-Millat’s Message to the Nation on Quaid-e-Azam’s Birthday, 25 December, 1963:

“The movement of Pakistan which the Quaid-e-Azam launched was ethical in inspiration and ideological in content. The story of this movement is a story of the ideals of equality, fraternity and social and economic justice struggling against the forces of domination, exploitation, intolerance and tyranny.”

Begum Ra’ana Liaquat Ali Khan

Begum Ra’ana Liaquat Ali Khan was born on 13th of February 1905 in Almora now known as Uttarakhand in India. Her birth name was Sheile Irene Pant and her religion was Christian.

She got her early education at Wellesley Girls High School and then moved to Isabella Thoburn College. Later she got her B.A. Economics degree from University of Lucknow in 1927; she did her Masters in Science with Economics and Sociology.

After her education, she started her career as teacher from Gokhala Memorial School and later she was appointed as Professor of Economics in Indraprastha College University of Delhi in 1931.

During her professional life she got chance to meet Nawbzada Liaquat Ali Khan (first Prime Minister of Pakistan) who came to her university to deliver lecture on law & justice and in December 1932 she married to Liaquat Ali Khan and converted to Islam.

Soon afterwards, she accompanied her husband to England and the couple persuaded Mr. Muhammad Ali Jinnah that Muslim nation needs him and he must return to India to lead Muslims.

She played a very important role in the history of Muslim League when Nawabzada Liqaut Ali Khan was the Secretary General of All India Muslim League.

At the behest of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, when fears of Japanese invasion were rife during the First World War, she formed a small volunteer corps for nursing and first aid for the fighters and civilians that was her first experience of organizing Muslim women.

She was among those pioneer ladies who brought women together involving and mobilizing them in Pakistan movement for it was of certain significance for the success of the movement that women should march side by side with men.

Her participation in Pakistan movement and even after that is an evidence of importance of women’s role in the rise of nations and their economical, social or political growth and development or in success of any aspect of life.

In 1947 when Pakistan came into being, she came to Lahore as the refugees from across the border were coming to Lahore. She became the first lady as Liaquat Ali Khan, her husband, became the first prime minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.


She mobilized Muslim women to emerge from home and help her in refugee camps like collecting, distributing, clothing, nursing, caring etc.

Begum Ra’ana Liaquat Ali formed the Women National Guards and she was awarded with a rank of Brigadier. With the help of her best friend Kay Miles, she established a home for abducted women, an unemployment bureau, a lost and found bureau, widow’s home and other volunteer services.

She opened a cottage industries’ shop to encourage women and migrant craftsmen to generate an income.

She also flourished the Gul-e-Raana Nusrat Industrial home for women. Meanwhile from emergency relief, she extended her social activities to every aspect.

She established All Pakistan Women’s Association (APWA) and affiliated with United Nations. She also setup many institutions in Karachi like Home Economics College for Girls and the Professional and Business Women Club and Hostel.

She worked and put her great efforts to empower women, as she knew that empowering women is indispensable for bringing change and development in society.

After the creation of Pakistan, she became the First Lady of the country. As First Lady, she initiate reforms for woman and child development, social progress of woman and played a major role for woman’s part in Pakistan’s politics.

After the assassination of her husband Liaquat Ali Khan in 1951, Begum Ra’ana continued her services for the social and economic benefit of women of Pakistan till her death in 1990.

One of the daunting challenges for her was to organize health services for woman and children migrating from India to Pakistan.

After her husband death, Ra’ana went onto start her career as stateswoman that lasted more than two decades.

In 1952, Ra’ana was the first Muslim woman delegate to the United Nations in 1952. In 1954, Government of Pakistan had appointed her as Pakistan Ambassador to the Netherlands, and also was the first woman ambassador of Pakistan.

She represented Pakistan in the Netherlands until 1961 and was also the Doyen of the Diplomatic Corps. In June 1966, she was appointed as Pakistan Ambassador to Italy and stayed there until 1965.

Later, she was directed to Tunisia as Pakistan Ambassador to Tunisia and held this position until March 1966. Following her return to Pakistan, Ra’ana joined Rana Liaquat Ali Khan Government College of Home Economics as Professor of Economics and stayed there until 1973.

The Government College University awarded her honorary doctorate in economics and conferred her with a Doctor of Philosophy in Economics in 1967.

In 1972, as Pakistan was dismembered and going through an intense crises, Ra’ana joined hands with then-President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and political movement and joined the socialist government of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

Ra’ana was part of Bhutto Ministry of Finance and Economics and played a major and influential role in decisions being made concerning the economics. Bhutto encouraged her to participate in an upcoming election and won elections of 1973. Bhutto did not waste time to appoint Ra’ana as Governor of Sindh province.

Ra’ana was the first woman governor of the province of Sindh and the first Chancellor of Sindh University and Karachi University. She continued her term until 1976 when new elections were made.

Ra’ana again contested in 1977 parliamentary elections but did not take the office due to martial law imposed by General Zia-ul-Haq (late), Chief of Army Staff of Pakistan Army.

She was one of the personalities that argued against the martial law and against the execution of Bhutto. On a day when Bhutto was executed, Ra’ana was reported to be disheartened and emotionally distressed and cried over Bhutto’s death for more than three days constantly.

Ra’ana launched anti-Zia campaign and fought against the military government of General Zia. She single-handedly took on Pakistan’s most powerful man, General Zia-ul-Haq, at that time.

It was during the 1980s, when she, despite her illness and old age, publicly attacked the General for passing Islamic laws that were contradictory to Islamic teachings and clearly against women. The General, out of respect for her position in society and achievements, decided to leave her alone.

Begum Liaquat died on June 13, 1990 and was buried next to her husband in the Quaid-e-Azam Mausoleum. With her has ended a historic period for the women and youth of Pakistan whose, future generations, would seek inspiration from Begum Liaquat’s life and contributions to the emancipation of women.

She is considered one of the greatest female leaders Pakistan has produced. In Pakistan, she is given titled as ‘Mother of Pakistan’ received in 1950.

She continues to be seen as a symbol of selfless service to the cause of humanity and uplift of women. In recognition of her life-long struggle for women’s rights, she was awarded the United Nation’s Human Rights Award in 1978.

Her other many awards and medals include the ‘Jane Adam’s Medal’ in 1950, Woman of Achievement Medal 1950, Mother of Pakistan in 1950, Nishan-i-Imtiaz in 1959, Grand Cross of Orange Nassau in 1961 (the Netherlands), International Gimbel Award 1962).

Begum Jahan Ara Shah Nawaz

Begum Jahan Ara Shah Nawaz was the daughter of the famous Muslim League leader, Sir Muhammad Shafi. Born in April, 1896, she was educated at the Queen Mary College, Lahore. Jahan Ara was married to Mian Shah Nawaz.

With the emergence of the All-India Muslim Women’s Conference, Begum Shah Nawaz devoted all her efforts towards its cause.

She was successful in moving the organization to pass a resolution against polygamy in its session held at Lahore in 1918.

She was also associated with the educational and orphanage committees of the Anjuman-i-Himayat-i-Islam, Lahore. She was an active member of All-India Muslim Women’s Conference and remained President of its provincial branch for seven years. She was also Vice-President of the Central Committee of the All-India Muslim Women’s Conference.

Besides being a member of Lahore Municipal Committee, she was also associated with several hospitals and maternity and child welfare committees.

She was the first woman to be elected as Vice-President of the Provincial Executive and was a member of the All-Indian General Committee of Red Cross Society.

She was a women delegate to the Round Table Conference. In 1935, she founded the Punjab Provincial Women’s Muslim League. In 1937, she was elected as a member of the Punjab Legislative Assembly and was appointed Parliamentary Secretary for Education, Medical Relief and Public Health. In 1938, she was taken on by the Women’s Central Sub-Committee of the All-India Muslim League. In 1942, the Government of India appointed her as a member of the National Defense Council.

Meanwhile, the Muslim League called upon the league members to resign from the Defense Council. Upon refusing to abide by the its decision, she was dismissed from the League.

In 1946, she re-joined the League and was elected as a member of the Punjab Assembly. The same year, she was sent along with M. A. H. Isphahani on a goodwill mission to the United States of America.

Their mission was to explain the Muslim League’s point of view. She played an important role during the civil disobedience movement in Punjab in 1947, and was arrested along with other Muslim League leaders. She passed away on November 27, 1979 at the age of 82.

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