By Aaliyah Gohir
Today and tomorrow mark 75 years of independence for Pakistan and India. We often celebrate the men involved in this pivotal moment of history, but the women - especially Muslim women - who championed Pakistan’s independence are usually overlooked. When Pakistan’s independence is spoken about, it is associated with founder of Pakistan Mohammad Ali Jinnah. However, there were many others involved, including women who were a part of the movement for independence but are not often mentioned, except for Jinnah’s sister Fatimah. “Behind every great man is a great woman”; well, it’s time to investigate this and take a look at the amazing Muslim women involved in Pakistan’s independence.
Fatima Jinnah (1893-1967)
Widely known as “Mother of the Nation” and sister to Mohammad Ali Jinnah, Fatima Jinnah was a Pakistani politician, dental surgeon and close confidant and adviser to her brother who entered politics in 1936 and later become the first Governor General of Pakistan. She supported his campaigns to establish an independent homeland for Indian Muslims and co-founded the Pakistan Women’s association which played an important role in settling women migrants in Pakistan. She also became a delegate to the Bombay Provincial Muslim League Council in 1947. The director of the National Archives of Pakistan, Atique Zafar Sheik, wrote: “Fatima Jinnah stood with the people… The people of Pakistan had great faith in her.” Fatima did a lot to help build the newly formed country; she funded school and hospitals on Pakistan, founded Jinnah Medical College for Girls and even challenged Ayub Khan for the leadership of Pakistan.
Begum Ra'ana Liaqat Ali Khan (1905-1990)
Ra’ana was an Economics professor and advisor and wife to Liaquat Ali Khan who was the first Prime Minister of Pakistan. She played a politically influential role when involved in key economical decisions, for example in Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s political movement, who led her appointment as the first woman Governor of Sindh Province in 1973. She also worked as an executive member of Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s Pakistan Movement committee and played an important role in Pakistan’s independence when accompanying her husband to London in May 1933 to convince Ali Jinnah to return to India and resume the Leadership of All India Muslim League. She was then appointed as an executive member of the Muslim League and Chairperson of the Economic Division of the Party. Ra’ana also fought for women’s rights in Pakistan when launching a campaign against General Zia’s military government and publicly attacking him for passing contradictory Islamic laws against women.
Lady Abdullah Haroon (1886-1966)
Lady Abdullah Haroon was born in Iran but then migrated to India and settled in Karachi with her parents where she married Sir Abdullah Haroon in 1914. She was devoted to the Pakistan movement and was elected as the President of All India Women Muslim League in 1943. She was also the Vice-President of All Pakistan Women’s Association founded by Begum Ra’ana Liaquat Ali Khan in 1945. Lady Abdullah Haroon also founder her own female organisation called Anjuman-i-Khawateen in order to alleviate the social and economic situation of the women of Sindh.
Begum Shaista Ikramullah (1915-2000)
Begum Shaista Ikramullah was a Bengali Pakistani Politician and one of the first Indian Muslim women in her generation to leave Purdah, as well as the first Muslim woman to get a PHD from the University of London in 1940. Her husband was a diplomat and served as Pakistan’s first Foreign Secretary, while Begum Shaista served as a delegate for Pakistan in various international conferences and United Nation’s Conferences, and also served as Pakistan’s Ambassador to Morocco from 1964 to 1967. Shaista Ikramullah was dedicated to Pakistan’s independence and was one of the two female representatives for the first legislature of Pakistan in 1947. She and Begum Shah Nawaz pushed for the Islamic Personal Law of Shariah to be approved so women’s right to inherit property could be recognised in accordance with Islamic Law. She was also a leader in the Women’s Student’s Federation and the All India Muslim League Women’s Sub-Committee.
Begum Viqar-un-Nisa Noon (1920-2000)
Viqar un Nisa was the First Lady of Pakistan from 1957 to 1958. She married Pakistan’s 7th Prime Minister, Sir Feroz Khan Noon in 1945, which gave her exposure to Pakistani politics and allowed her to participate in the Pakistan Movement. She became a member of the Punjab Provincial Women’s Subcommittee and also organised rallies for the Muslim League. After Pakistan’s independence, she gave assistance to the refugee crisis and got involved in local social work with the Red Cross. She helped championed better educational rights for young Muslim women and girls by founding the Viqar un Nisa College for Women in Pakistan and the Viqarunisa Noon School in Bangladesh. In 1959, her services to Pakistan were recognised when she was awarded the Medal of Excellence by the Pakistan Government.
Lady Ghulam Hussain Hidayatullah (1932-2017)Lady Ghulam Hussain Hidayatullah was an activist and wife of Sir Ghulam Hussain Hidayatullah, a prominent political leader of Sindh in which she helped him with his political and social work. Her career and involvement with the Pakistan Movement began at a young age when she pulled the Union Jack from the civil secretariat of Lahore and replaced it with the All-India Muslim League flag at the age of 14. She then went on to join the All India Muslim League as a child. Her efforts in the Muslim League allowed her to be elected as the President of the Women’s Reception Committee. After the partition, she worked in the Women’s Refugee Relief Committee to help those who had migrated to Pakistan. Her active role in the Pakistan Movement made her the first ever to receive the Gold Medal by the Pakistan Movement Workers’ Trust for ‘Services to Pakistan’.
Begum Tassaduq Hussain (1908-1995)
Begum Tassaduq Hussain was married to Dr. Tasadduque Hussain, Bar-at-Law. After marriage she completed her graduation from the University of Punjab. Once the Punjab Provincial Women’s Subcommittee was formed, she became its most active member and was elected as one of it’s Secretaries. She was also nominated to the Council of the All India Muslim League and helped open schools and industrial homes for girls in Lahore. Begum Tassaduq Hussain also contested on the Muslim League ticket for the Punjab Provincial Assembly seat from the inner Lahore constituency and won with a large majority. Her efforts during the Bihar riots were important in helping refugees.
Begum JahanAra Shah Nawaz (1986-1979)
Begum Jahanara Shahnawaz was a politician, Muslim League activist and wife to Mian Muhammad Shahnawaz, a barrister who later became a prominent Punjab politician. She was the first female member of the all India Muslim League and in 1935, founded the Punjab Provincial Women's Muslim League. Shahnawaz was a member of the British Indian delegation, and spoke about the concerns of Indian women specifically at the conferences. To help propel the Pakistan Movement, she was sent to the USA to explain the viewpoint of the All India Muslim League, and after Pakistan’s independence she became Member of the Pakistan Constituent Assembly. She also made important contributions to support women’s rights in Pakistan when she led thousands of women in a protest in Lahore due to a bill supporting economic opportunities for women being removed from the Agenda.
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