Caucus Legends

Legend Fatima Jinnah (1893-1967)

Jinnah and a dentist by profession, emerged as the leading woman voice during the freedom struggle. During this Movement, she rendered innumerable services in organising Muslim women of the Sub-Continent from the platforms of “All India Muslim League’s Women Wing” and “All India Muslim Women Students Organisation” to seek for a separate homeland that would ensure equal rights to all its citizens, without any discrimination of gender, class or creed. While touring the remotest corners of the country, the “brother and sister duo” stood shoulder to shoulder, hence giving a message of “partnership on equal basis” loud and clear. In his book, “Jinnah, Pakistan and Islamic Ideology”, renowned writer and historian Prof. Akbar S. Ahmed records:“Quaid-e-Azam asked Fatima Jinnah to sit beside him at Sibi Darbar, the grand annual gathering of Baluch and Pakhtun chiefs and leaders. He was making a point: Muslim women must take their place in the history of Pakistan. The Sibi Darbar broke all precedents”

She reached the zenith of her political accomplishments, when towards the end of her life in 1965 she defied tradition and challenged the dictatorship of Field Marshal Ayub Khan by contesting against him as the unanimous candidate of all the opposition parties. Even a conservative party like the Jamaat-i-Islami accepted her as a woman presidential candidate. There is little doubt that the history of Pakistan would have been completely different had the country elected a woman as its President in 1965 — more than two decades before it was finally able to get its first woman Head of the Government in 1988.

Legend Begum Rana Liaqat Ali Khan (1905-1990)

An icon of social mobilization, Begum Rana Liaqat Ali Khan’s services in promoting women’s emancipation and empowerment will long be remembered. A dedicated and self-less soul, she rose to prominence in 1942, when under the threat of immanent Japanese attack on Indian Sub-Continent, the Quaid-e-Azam instructed her to organise women for Civil Defence and she organised a small voluntary nursing corps. The Quaid advised her:“Be prepared to train the women. Islam doesn’t want women to be shut up and never see fresh air.”

Her course for the rest of her life was thus set. In 1947, with independence came the pains and horrors of sectarian riots and mass migrations. In such challenging times, Begum Khan formed women’s voluntary groups to serve the humanity in distress, lurking in the refugee camps. In 1949, under her own initiative, she formed “Women National Guards” and “Pakistan Women Naval Reserve” and was appointed as the Chief Controller of both with the rank of a Brigadier. The same year, Begum Rana called the first-ever Conference of women leaders and activists from all walks of life and announced the formation of “All Pakistan Women’s Association – APWA”. A voluntary and non-political organisation, APWA has rendered tremendous contributions in the social, educational and cultural uplift of women in Pakistan. Begum Rana remained APWA’s lifetime President. An ardent supporter of women’s education, she patronised the opening of Home Economics Colleges in Karachi and Dhakka. She also encouraged women’s entrepreneurship by organising Industrial Homes in the country. The formation of Pakistan’s first “Professional and Business Women Club” also owes its existence to the efforts of Begum Rana

Her meritorious services earned her the coveted “Human Rights Prize” by the US — the first Muslim woman to receive this honour.

While she also served the nation as its Ambassador to the Netherlands and Italy, she’s also the first and the only woman to have served as a Governor of a Province, when she was appointed as Governor of Sindh in 1974.

It is thus no wonder that even two decades after her death, she continues to be seen as a symbol of selfless service to the cause of humanity and uplift of women.

Legend Benazir Bhutto (1953-2007)

South Asia has long been known for producing towering women leaders. Very few, however, have been credited to change the course of history and leave an impregnable imprint on it for all times to come. Benazir Bhutto— the eldest child of Pakistan’s first directly elected Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto — surely grew up to stand with only a handful of women leaders, who shaped the global events of the last century. On December 2, 1988, dressed in the national flag colours, as she took oath as the world’s youngest, the Muslim World’s first and Pakistan’s only woman Prime Minister, she symbolised the finer social values of democracy, liberalism, tolerance and hope in a society infested with dictatorial tendencies.