In the chronicles of the Pakistan Movement, a multitude of resolute and valiant women stand as unsung heroes, deserving of enduring remembrance and rightful recognition.

Despite their pivotal roles, the contributions of these courageous women often remain shrouded in obscurity. The history of women’s involvement in the Pakistan Movement remains largely undiscovered, yet it holds the captivating stories of extraordinary women leaders who left an enduring impact on the course of events.

Delving into the lives and deeds of a select few prominent women from this era can illuminate the substantial impact they wielded in driving the movement ever forward.

Fatima Jinnah: An ace politician

Recognised as the esteemed “Mother of the Nation” and sibling to the founding father, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, Fatima Jinnah held a multi-faceted presence as a Pakistani politician and a proficient dental surgeon.

Mother of the Nation Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah. — Twitter
“Mother of the Nation” Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah. — Twitter

Her significance transcended these roles, as she was a confidant and trusted advisor to her brother throughout his political journey. Fatima Jinnah’s involvement in politics commenced in 1936. She was committed to championing the quest for an autonomous homeland for Indian Muslims.

This dedication manifested in her co-founding of the Pakistan Women’s Association, pivotal in aiding the integration of women migrants into the new nation.

In 1947, she represented her role as a delegate on the Bombay Provincial Muslim League Council.

Dedicated to the nation’s development, Fatima Jinnah generously funded educational institutions and healthcare facilities in Pakistan. She played a leading role in establishing the Jinnah Medical College for Girls and courageously challenged Ayub Khan’s military coup.

Begum Ra’ana Liaquat Ali Khan: An unparalleled contributor to women empowerment

Begum Ra’ana Liaquat Ali Khan, characterised by her strong educational background and unwavering dedication to the cause of Pakistan, played a pivotal role in the Pakistan Movement.

Begum Raana Liaquat Ali Khan, Pakistans maiden first lady. — Twitter
Begum Ra’ana Liaquat Ali Khan, Pakistan’s maiden first lady. — Twitter

She earnestly undertook the role of honourary secretary to Liaquat Ali Khan during his tenure as General Secretary of the All India Muslim League (AIML).

Despite the financial limitations faced by the League, Begum Ra’ana carried out her responsibilities with unwavering zeal. She further orchestrated gatherings that provided a platform for Muslim women to articulate their grievances against British oppression.

Her contributions extended even further as she laid the foundation for the All Pakistan Women’s Association (APWA), one of the pioneering NGOs for women.

To this day, APWA continues to foster women’s empowerment through education, having established numerous schools, colleges, and technical institutes to uplift underprivileged girls across Pakistan.

Begum Nusrat Haroon: A visionary advocate

Born in Iran and wed to Sir Abdullah Haroon, Lady Nusrat emerged as a staunch advocate for women’s education. Pioneering a home-based school, she also lent robust support to the Khilafat Movement.

Lady Nusrat Haroon. — Twitter
Lady Nusrat Haroon. — Twitter

In 1943, she attained the presidency of the All India Women Muslim League, where her prowess lay in rallying Muslim women beneath the Muslim League’s flag.

In 1938, she secured a nomination to the Women’s Central Sub Committee of the AIML and additionally clinched the position of President of the Sindh Provincial Women’s Sub-Committee.

Notably, the establishment of the Sindh Provincial Sub-Committee owed itself to the relentless endeavours of Begum Nusrat Haroon. Beyond her role as President of the Provincial Women’s Sub-Committee, she fulfilled the duty of Treasurer for the Women’s Central Sub-Committee. Her ascendancy to the presidency of the Central Sub-Committee in 1943 persisted until 1947.

Begum Jahan Ara Shahnawaz: A trailblazer in politics

Being the inaugural female representative of the AIML, Begum Jahan Ara Shahnawaz played a momentous role in advancing the Pakistan Movement.

She effectively conveyed the concerns of Indian women during conferences and assumed a pivotal role in elucidating the League’s stance during a goodwill mission to the United States.

Following Pakistan’s attainment of independence, she gained a seat in the Pakistan Constituent Assembly and spearheaded protests in Lahore aimed at bolstering women’s economic prospects.

In tandem with the establishment of the All-India Muslim Women’s Conference, she wholeheartedly dedicated herself to its cause, and largely due to her influence, the organisation passed a resolution against polygamy during its 1918 session in Lahore.

In 1942, the Government of India appointed her as a member of the National Defence Council, but her refusal to comply with the League’s decision that its members should resign from the Defence Council led to her expulsion from the All-India Muslim League.

In 1946, she reintegrated with the League and secured election as a member of the Punjab assembly. Begum Jahan Ara Shah Nawaz and Begum Shaista Ikramullah were the first women to represent themselves in the Legislative Assembly of Pakistan.

Begum Fatima Sughra Hidayatullah: A fearless activist

Begum Sughra Hidayatullah embarked on her engagement with the Pakistan Movement during her early years, displaying audacity by substituting the Union Jack with the All-India Muslim League flag at the civil secretariat in Lahore.

Her contributions to the Muslim League were pivotal, and her unwavering dedication to women’s rights was relentless, resulting in her being honoured with the Gold Medal for her services to Pakistan.

Begum Viqar-un-Nisa Noon: A visionary leader

Born in Austria, Begum Viqar-un-Nisa Noon became the wife of Sir Feroz Khan Noon in 1945.

In the same year, she and her husband relocated from Delhi to Lahore following his resignation from the Viceroy’s Cabinet in September. She orchestrated marches and demonstrations against the Khizr Ministry, which was supported by the British government.

In alignment with the League’s objectives, she assembled a group of female students and other dedicated women volunteers, embarking on swift tours across the major districts of the province to propagate the League’s cause.

During the period characterised by the mass movement of population after partition, when a multitude of homeless and destitute refugees streamed into Lahore, she provided invaluable aid to various refugee committees and camps.

Begum Amjadi Bano: Guiding light in the quest for freedom

Taking inspiration from both her husband and mother-in-law, Begum Amjadi Bano emerged as one of the earliest female Muslim political figures in the era of British India.

Side by side with her husband, Muhammad Ali Jauhar, she stood resolute in political conferences, fervently advocating for a nation emancipated from British dominion.

In a notable occurrence during the 1937 annual session of the All-India Muslim League held in Lucknow, she established a distinct segment for Muslim women, thereby consolidating their efforts within the framework of the AIML.

The Begum held a role within the Committee that formulated the momentous Lahore Resolution.

Furthermore, she assumed the presidency of the inaugural annual session of the Women’s Central Sub-Committee, convened at Habibia Hall in Lahore in 1940.

Begum Salma Tassaduq Hussain: An audacious campaigner

Born into an erudite family in 1908, Begum Tassaduq Hussain embodied a multifaceted identity. Beyond her role as a talented writer and poet, she delved into entrepreneurship.

Having graduated from the University of Punjab, she actively contributed to the Punjab Provincial Women’s Subcommittee.

Her influence extended to the Bengal Relief Fund Committee, and in 1946, she secured a seat for Muslim women in the Punjab Provincial Legislature elections-a pivotal moment in the quest for a homeland.

Dedicated to humanitarian causes, Begum Tassaduq played a pivotal role during the Bihar riots, offering refuge to countless refugees. Her political acumen was evident when she represented the Muslim League at the Conference of Kisan Sabha in Jalundhar, even chairing a session.

Her perspective on Pakistan revealed a sincere yearning for a free and independent nation, devoid of religious bias.

A prominent Women’s League member, Begum Tassaduq epitomised the political awareness, education, and activism that characterised Muslim women during the Pakistan Movement. They served as models for modern Pakistani women, guiding them to prioritise national nurturing over personal interests.

Begum Mumtaz Shahnwaz: A voice for women

Mumtaz Shahnawaz, a committed political activist and astute observer of the evolving role of women in India, found herself profoundly influenced by the vision of Pakistan, leading her to align with the AIML.

With a focus on Muslim women’s drive for independence, she skillfully depicted their stories as educated and politically engaged figures in her novel, “The Heart Divided”.

The novel richly narrates these women’s journeys during the Pakistan movement.

Tragically, Shahnawaz’s life was cut short at 35 due to a plane crash, a few months after Pakistan’s establishment. She was en route to New York to represent Pakistan at the UN General Assembly-a historic feat, making her the first Asian woman to preside over a UN legislative session.

This untimely demise in 1947 proved a substantial loss for Pakistan, as Shahnawaz had already left a significant imprint on the nation’s struggle for independence.

Begum Fatima: A courageous revolutionary

Fatima Begum was born to a highly influential, literary family in Lahore in 1890 — her father was Munshi Mahbub Alam, publisher and editor of the famous newspaper, Paisa Akhbar.

She stood among the founding members of the Anjuman-i-Khawatin-i-Islam and held the position of its inaugural secretary. Her impact in rousing Muslim women in the NWFP was noteworthy, and her influence persisted during the civil disobedience movement in the region.

As the agitation against the Khizr Ministry stirred in Punjab, she assumed leadership of women’s processions and stood as one of the few female leaders who shared the honour of imprisonment. She had been a member of the Punjab Provincial Women’s Sub-Committee within the All India Women’s Conference.

In April 1943, Fatima Begum once again secured a nomination to the Central Sub-Committee and later exhibited dedicated efforts towards the Bengal Relief Fund.

In the 1946 elections, she orchestrated numerous gatherings for Muslim women, urging them to cast their votes in favour of Pakistan.

In the tumultuous times of partition riots, she fearlessly visited the afflicted areas to provide aid to the distressed populace. Amidst the mass population transfers, she undertook the responsibility of assisting refugees. She passed away in December 1958.

Faizi sisters: A catalyst in women’s empowerment and freedom struggle

Renowned as the Faizi sisters — Atiya Begum Faizi, Zuhra Begum Faizi, and Nazli Begum Faizi (Begum of Janjira) — they stood at the forefront of championing educational and social progress for Muslim women in the subcontinent.

Stepping out of the traditional norms, they embarked on journeys to Europe, engaging in social and political gatherings.

Among them, Begum Atiya Faizi emerged as a fearless advocate. She challenged prejudices that restrained women from participation in society and politics and proposed the establishment of a Women’s University for Muslim women.

These audacious and progressive women, joined by numerous others, formed the impetus behind the inception of Pakistan. It remains crucial to perpetually honour their contributions to the struggle for independence.


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