According to a popular belief, the colors of this universe owe their existence to the presence of women. Words like beauty, sensitivity, fragility and hidden are associated with this gender. Women are the delicate and sensitive half of the circle we call life. Being mother, wife, daughter and sister, women not only hold essential positions in a family setup but their potentials and talents also have much more to offer than this.
Due to the given cultural constraints, avenues for women have traditionally been narrower than men. However, despite all stigmas, Pakistani women have contributed significantly in all walks of life, from nation-building to spiritual writing, from politics to education and from being a fighter pilot to a romance writer. They have tended to not just fill but also to conquer each and every possible niche of the society.
Following is an account of a few inspiring Pakistani women besides numerous “unsung heroes” in different fields.
Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah: Madar-e-Millat
(July 30, 1983 to July 09, 1967)
Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah popularly known as Madar-e-Millat (Mother of the Nation) is one of the founding leaders of Pakistan. She was the youngest sister of the Founder of the Nation, Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah. Fatima Jinnah graduated from the University of Calcutta in dentistry and was a practicing dental surgeon before she shifted to her brother’s place and became an integral part of the Independence Movement. Companionship and association of the two sibs continued till the sad demise of the Quaid in 1948. In addition to politics, she also served as an active social worker, particularly with reference to women awakening and constituted the Women’s Relief Committee after independence. She remained largely inactive on the political frontier after independence until 1965, when she contested the presidential election against the Martial Law dictator Ayub Khan. Thereby, she appeared as the first prominent figure to have struggled for the restoration of democracy in the country. Despite esteemed public popularity, she lost the elections due to alleged rigging in favor of Ayub Khan. She holds the status of being the first woman “Leader of the Opposition” in the Pakistani Parliament. Her support by a fair majority of Pakistanis rejected the prejudice against women to be elected as the head of the state.
The great lady left this world of a heart failure on July 09, 1967. Several institutes, organizations and awards have been named after her in acknowledgement of her services for the very formation of Pakistan and for the continuity of democracy in politics.
(June 21, 1953 to December 27, 2007)
Born to a political family based in Sindh province of Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto holds the status of being the first woman prime minister of any Islamic state. She was the eldest daughter of a former prime minister of Pakistan, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. She completed her early education in Pakistan after which she pursued for higher education in USA and then Britain. Benazir Bhutto holds many “firsts” at different places. In 1976 she was elected as the head of Oxford Union becoming the first Asian woman to hold this position. She was the first woman in Pakistan to become the head of a political party (Pakistan People’s Party) in 1982. Then in 1988, she was elected as the 11th prime minister of Pakistan, first woman to head any Islamic state. She is also regarded as the first modern head of government to give birth to a child (Bakhtawar, BB’s first-born) while in office (1990). She had twice served as the prime minister of Pakistan (December 02, 1988 to August 06, 1990 and October 19, 1993 to November 05, 1996) and twice as leader of the opposition (November 06, 1990 to April 18, 1993 and November 05, 1996 to October 12, 1999). She was assassinated on December 27, 2007 in Rawalpindi, Pakistan just few weeks before the commencement of general elections, 2008. Benazir Bhutto is remembered as a popular political figure and numerous institutes and organizations have been named after her.
Arfa Abdul KarimRandhawa
(February 02, 1995 to January 14, 2012)
Arfa Karim was a bright, intelligent and talented brain gifted to this soil by Allah Almighty. At the age of nine she appeared as the first Pakistani girl to become the world’s youngest Microsoft Certified Professional in 2004 until 2006. She is also the youngest recipient of the Presidential Pride of Performance Award (2005). She presented Pakistan on international forums and also visited the Microsoft headquarters, USA upon an invitation by Bill Gates. In January 2010, she was appointed as the brand ambassador for PTCL’s 3G wireless broadband service EVO. Arfa Karim suffered from an epileptic seizure resulting into cardiac arrest on December 22, 2011 at the age of 16. All possible efforts were taken for her treatment but alas this gifted brain departed on January 14, 2012. A science technology park in Lahore has been named as Arfa Software Technology Park in her memory.
(November 28, 1928)
Bano Qudsia is an intellectual and spiritual writer. She was born in Ferozpur India and moved to Lahore, Pakistan after independence. Bano Qudsia did her masters in Urdu from Government College, Lahore. She is widow of the famous spiritual writer, Ashfaq Ahmed. Writings of Bano Qudsia have inspired the thoughts of many, particularly youth and one of her books entitled Raja Gidh is one of the most popular books to have been read in Pakistan. In addition she has written many novels, TV plays, radio plays and short stories. In the honor of her skills, she has been awarded with Sitara-e-Imtiaz and Hilal-e-Imtiaz by the government of Pakistan.
(July 12, 1997)
Born in Swat, Pakistan, Malala Youafzai is the first Pakistani woman and the youngest person in the world to have received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014. She was attacked by the Taliban terrorists on October 09, 2012 on account of her advocacy for female education in the terrorism-affected areas. She was shifted to Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham, England for advanced medical treatment. Malala addressed the United Nations on her birthday July 12, 2013, announced by the UNO as “Malala Day”. She has received various awards at international level and is settled in England along with her family.
(November 20, 1941)
Haseena Moin is a play writer of international repute. She was born in Kanpur, India and after independence her family migrated and settled in Karachi. Haseena Moin did her masters of arts in the subject of History from Karachi University in 1963. She is the writer of first ever “original script” for a TV drama in Pakistan named “Kiran Kahani” telecasted in the early 70’s. She started her play writing career from Radio Pakistan Karachi and soon started to write for TV. Many of her plays gained an international fame and have been regarded as one of the best TV dramas in Pakistan. Haseena Moin is indeed the most famous script writer of Pakistan and has been known as a blessed story teller. She has been awarded with the Presidential Pride of Performance award in 1987 as an acknowledgment of her services in the field of performing arts.
(November 24, 1952 to December 26, 1994)
Foremost words to strike someone’s mind are beauty and love upon hearing this name. She was an Urdu poet, teacher and a civil servant of the Government of Pakistan, in the Customs Department. Her popularity is based on her literary work in the field of ghazals and free verse. In her soul-stirring poetry she mainly focused on love, feminism and social stigmas. She is perhaps the first one in Urdu literature to introduce a feminine syntax while talking about the lover. According to many, she has been the most beautiful touch to Urdu poetry. On account of her significant contributions to Urdu literature, she received the Presidential Pride of Performance award. She exhibited an extraordinary academic excellence too evident from her three master’s degrees from Pakistan, one from Harvard University, USA and a PhD. She was an outstanding and gifted blend of intellect and beauty. After her death, a “Parveen Shakir Trust” has been established that gives an Aks-e-Khushbu award to poets in her memory. A commemorative postage stamp of Rs. 10 denomination was issued by Pakistan Post in 2013. She died in a road accident in Islamabad and the road has been renamed after her.
Major-General Shahida Malik
Major-General Shahida Malik holds the honor of being the first woman in any Islamic state to have reached to the rank of a general as well as the first two-star woman General in the Pakistan Armed Forces. She graduated from Fatima Jinnah Medical College, Lahore in 1969 with a Gold Medal and joined Pakistan Army Medical Corps as GDMO (general duty medical officer). Major General Shahida served during the 1971 and 1999 Pakistan-India wars and took an honorary retirement in 2004. She is the recipient of prestigious civil and military awards including Sitara-e-Imtiaz, Hilal-e-Imtiaz and Sitara-e-Jurat.
(August 24, 1987)
Flight Lieutenant Ayesha Farooq is Pakistan’s first war-ready woman fighter pilot. She was born in Bahawalpur, Pakistan. Ayesha Farooq is one of the few pilots inducted in Pakistan Air Force and till now the only operational woman pilot.
(May 01, 1988)
Naseem Hameed is a track and field athlete born in Karachi, Pakistan. She got an international fame when she won the Gold Medal in 100 meters race during SAF Games, Dhaka (2010) and earned the title of “Fastest Woman in South Asia”. Other titles that are often used for her include “Queen of Tracks” and “Nerves of Steel”. She has also been among the panel of brand ambassadors of Mobilink, a leading mobile connection network company in Pakistan. She got appointed as an “Ambassador of Sports” on February 12, 2010.
Samina Khayal Baig
(September 19, 1990)
Standing tall at the highest altitude on planet Earth, this young mountaineer became the first Pakistani woman, youngest Muslim woman and the third Pakistani to have reached the summit of Mount Everest on 19 May 2013. She was accompanied by her brother, Mirza Ali in the expedition who let her go on her own around 248 meters short of the summit in order to showcase the bravery and power of a Pakistani woman. She has scaled many other high peaks in the Himalayas as well as in other parts of the world. Chashkinsar peak in Pakistan was renamed as Samina Peak, when she successfully climbed the peak in 2010.
(April 14, 1945)
Belonging to a family of well-known artists including Anwar Maqsood (brother; humorist, play writer and critic), Zehra Nigah (sister; Urdu poet), Fatima Surriya Bajia (sister; novelist and play writer) and Bilal Maqsood (nephew; vocalist and musician), Zubaida Tariq has her own unique identity as a cooking expert. She was born in Hyderabad Deccan, India and after separation her family got to settle in Karachi. Also known as Zubaida apa, she has a pleasant and affectionate personality which has won the hearts of a fair majority of Pakistanis. She has done numerous cooking shows on different TV channels and a huge number of young ladies have learned cooking only by watching her programs. She is best known for traditional cuisine and for her innovative cooking experiments. She is also famous for another amazing skill of her popularly known as “Zubaida apa kay totakay”, simple home remedies for everyday problems related to health, kitchen and overall household issues. Zubaida apa suffers from Parkinson’s disease and she has documented her experience with the disease as “Living with Parkinson’s” published in 2011.
Thus in Pakistan, we witness a beautiful spectrum of inspiring ladies of all age groups and among all the circles of life from the dignified “Mother of the Nation” to the brilliant “Microsoft Certified Professional” and we strive to see more of them to rise and shine on the horizon in the coming decades.
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