سہیل نے اپنی ماں کے ساتھ کیا ہوا آخری وعدہ پورا کیا اور عید سے پہلے ہی گھر پہنچ گیا فرق صرف اتنا تھا کہ سہیل شہید اپنے اُوپر سبز ہلالی پرچم اوڑھے ہوئے تھا۔
ماں ہمیشہ اپنی گود میں آنے والے بیٹے کو اُونچی سے اُونچی پوسٹ پردیکھنے کی متمنی ہوتی ہے‘ والدین کے لئے کبھی کوئی خیال اور خواب اس چیز سے خالی نہیں ہوتا کہ اُن کا بیٹا بڑا ہو کر ڈاکٹر بنے گا، انجینئر بنے گا ، فوجی افسر بنے گا اور دنیا میں نام روشن کرے گا۔ اپنے لال کے سر پر سہرا بندھے دیکھتی ہے۔ پھر اُسے تصور میں پھلتا پھولتا دیکھتی ہے اور ہمیشہ اُسے درازئ عمر کی دُعا دیتی مگر کبھی اُسے لہو میں ڈوبا اور کفن میں لپٹا نہیں دیکھتی بلکہ ایسا تصور یا سوچ آتے ہی کانپ سی جاتی ہے ۔ مگر اس کے باوجود پاکستان کی اس دھرتی سے ابھی میجر عزیز بھٹی اور راشد منہاس جیسے لال اور اُن کا جذبۂ شہادت ختم نہیں ہوا۔لیفٹیننٹ سہیل بھی ایک ماں کا وہ راج دُلارا ثابت ہوا جس پردھرتی ماں فخرکرتی ہے۔ لیفٹیننٹ سہیل نے دھرتی پر مانسہرہ کے ایک متوسط گھرانے میں28جنوری 1987ء کو جنم لیا۔
سہیل کے والدِ محترم اب بھی انہیں والہانہ یاد کرتے ہیں اور بتاتے ہیں کہ میرے ہاتھوں کی اُنگلیوں پر سہیل کا لمس اب بھی محسوس ہوتا ہے۔جب میرا ہاتھ پکڑ کو وہ مُجھے دُکان پر لے جاتا اور ہمیشہ پستول، ٹینک اور تلوار لینے کی ضد کرتا، پھر وہ ان کھلونوں سے کھیلتا اور ہونٹوں پر ہمیشہ یہ الفاظ ہوتے بابا میں دشمن کو ماروں گا بابا آپ رونا مت۔ پتا نہیں تم مُجھے کیا کہنا چاہتے تھے سہیل! یہ بات مجھے اب سمجھ آئی وہ پستول سامنے پڑی اب بھی میرا حوصلہ بڑھاتی ہے۔ تمھاری ایک ضد پستول خریدنے کی پوری کی اور ایک ضد تمھارے جذبے کے آگے ہار کر کیونکہ جن کے بیٹے اس جذبے سے سرشار ہوں وہ ہارا نہیں کرتے۔ اولاد کی محبت بہت سی جگہوں پر والدین کو کمزور کر دیتی ہے۔مگر جب سہیل جیسی اولاد ملے تو بابا کے دل پر صبر کا مرہم رکھ دیا جاتا ہے اور بابا فخر کرتے ہیں کہ اللہ تعالیٰ نے اُن کو ایسے لال سے نوازا۔ لیفٹیننٹ سہیل (شہید) بطور کیڈٹ 18اپریل 2005ء کو پاکستان ملٹری اکیڈمی روانہ ہوئے اور 14اپریل 2007ء کو اپنی تربیت مکمل کر کے دس آزاد کشمیر رجمنٹ میں بطور سیکنڈ لیفٹیننٹ کمیشن حاصل کیا اور اوکاڑہ چھاؤنی سے عسکری زندگی کا آغاز کیا۔11جولائی 2007ء میں اپنی یونٹ کے ساتھ عسکریت پسندوں کی سرکوبی کے لئے بنوں روانہ ہوئے۔ رمضان سے پہلے جب سہیل اپنے والدین اور بہن بھائیوں سے مل کر رُخصت ہوا تو بہنوں اور والدین نے روتی آنکھوں مگر مسکراہٹوں کے ساتھ اُسے رخصت کیا اور وہ وکٹری کا نشان بناتے ہوئے اس وعدے کے ساتھ آنکھوں سے اوجھل ہو گیا کہ چھوٹی عید سب کے ساتھ گھر پر کرے گا۔
10آزادکشمیر رجمنٹ کو ستمبر 2008ء میں بنوں سے باجوڑ جانے کا حکم ملا یہ رمضان کا مہینہ تھا 25دسمبر 2008ء کو لیفٹیننٹ سہیل بطور پلاٹون کمانڈر اپنی کمپنی کے ساتھ خار سے لوئی سم کی طرف روانہ ہوئے۔ 26ستمبر 2008ء، 25رمضان المبارک جمعۃ الوداع وہ دن ہے جب وہ دشمن کے ناپاک ارادوں کو روندتے ہوئے آگے بڑھے۔ دشمن سے دوبدو مقابلہ شروع ہوگیا۔ دشمن نے پہلے سے بہتر پوزیشن کا انتخاب کیا ہوا تھا اور اس کا فائر کافی کارگر تھا۔ تاہم لیفٹیننٹ سہیل اور ان کے سپاہیوں کی پیشہ ورانہ مہارت اور جوش کے سامنے جلد ہی اسے شکست کا سامنا کرنا پڑا۔ دشمن نے اپنی پوزیشن خالی کی اور پسپائی کا راستہ اختیار کیا۔ تاہم لڑائی جاری رہی۔ لیفٹیننٹ سہیل اپنے سپاہیوں کے ساتھ آگے بڑھتے گئے کہ اس اثنا میں دشمن کا فائر کیا ہوا ایک راکٹ ان کے سینے پر آ لگا۔ پاکستان کے اس عظیم بیٹے نے اﷲ اکبر کا نعرہ لگایا، کلمہ شہادت پڑھا اور جان جان آفریں کے سپرد کر دی۔ تاہم وہ اپنا مشن شہادت سے پہلے مکمل کر چکا تھا۔
ماں کی پُکار پر’’ جی‘‘ کہنے والا دھرتی کی پُکار پر کیونکر لبیک نہ کہتا کیونکہ بہادری اورشہادت کا جذبہ بچپن ہی سے خون میں شامل ہوتا ہے اور ماں کبھی اپنے بچے کو لاڈ و پیار کے باوجود بزدل نہیں بناتی۔ اُسے بہادری کا درس دیتی ہے اور اُسے اس جذبے سے آشنا کرتی ہے۔سہیل نے اپنی ماں کے ساتھ کیا ہوا آخری وعدہ پورا کیا اور عید سے پہلے ہی گھر پہنچ گیا فرق صرف اتنا تھا کہ سہیل شہید اپنے اُوپر سبز ہلالی پرچم اوڑھے ہوئے تھا۔ لیفٹیننٹ سہیل شہید کو اُن کی جرأت اور بہادری کے اعتراف میں ستارۂ بسالت سے نوازا گیا۔
The region of Tharparkar is spread over 22,000 square kilometres, and has a population of about 1.5 million, residing in 2,300 villages and urban settlements. The area is divided into six talukas – Mithi, Islamkot, Chhachhro, Dihly, Diplo and Nangarparkar – the area receives rainfall in varying degrees and sometimes, none at all.
2014 happened to be an unfortunate year for the people of Tharparkar as this year, the area didn't receive rainfall and this resulted in the onslaught of drought. The scattered, uneven rainfall affected thousands of people and their families as major source of income in these areas, apart from live stock, is farming. The famine had devastating effects on the population and tens of thousands of people became a victim, including innocent children. Driven by desperation, people had to leave their homes in order to look for a place where water was available. Starved children, shortage of water and sick cattle were seen everywhere. Pakistan Army coloured this bleak, dark and gloomy picture by extending their help.
One of these inopportune, yet lucky, families was a Hindu family of Khaita Ram, living in the outskirts of Mithi, in a small dwelling area usually called Goth. The family consists of 12 people, who live in a kacha hut, which is locally known as Jhuggi or Ghopa. “If it was not for Pakistan Army, we would have lost all hope”, said Khaita Ram, the head of the family who was very grateful for the aid that Pakistan Army provided. Ram lives with his wife Gayeti, three daughters; Leela, Saavi, Mukhi and his son Rahul. Rahul's wife Aasha and their kids Nirmal, Komal, Neha, Makhul and Sunny, also live with Kahita Ram. Although Khaita Ram and Rahul get minimal jobs as sanitary workers or crop-harvesters – but they are not enough to feed 12 people in their home. Their major source of income, like other people in Tharparkar, is live-stock but due to the fact that they are poor, they only have a flock of 20 goats. Moreover, because of the drought, even animals got sick, were malnourished and were suffering from several ailments. The family was in dire need of help and their prayers were answered in the form of Pakistan Army's helicopters bringing relief goods. Rahul, Khaita Ram's son, was ecstatic to receive the relief goods and said, “If the soldiers were not here with these goods, I would have lost something very important: my family.” During the relief operations by Pak Army, Khaita Ram's family has been provided with sufficient quantity of flour, rice, ghee and lentils, which are good enough to last a season. They've also been provided with clean drinking bottled water.
Pakistan Army has set up their relief camps at Mithi‚ Chhachhro‚ Nangarparker‚ Islamkot and Diplo to lend a hand to the families in this hour of need. Family of Kahita Ram is not the only one that been helped by the troops of Army. There are hundreds of them who have been provided help at their door steps by soldiers. There has not been any discrimination whatsoever and everyone has been fully helped and assisted. In its relief operation, Pakistan Army has, so far, dished out approximately 110 tons of food supplies to the famished Tharparkar families. Relief camps, food/water supply, provision of basic necessities, medical facilities and what not… The Army did more than it could to lessen the problems of drought-stricken families. Doctors and healthcare specialists from Army Medical Corps have established field hospitals and are aiding people round the clock. Checkups, medicines, consultations; the doctors are doing their best to support the affected people. These medical camps, have provided medical assistance to around 3500 patients in that area during the past few weeks.
Khaita Ram, with tears in his eyes, told an official “I thought I would lose my family; hunger, thirst and sickness would envelope us, but these soldiers saved us…I am grateful for their help”. It is a common misconception that Hindus or other minorities are not considered important in our country but the kind behaviour of Pakistan Army towards Khaita Ram's family has set an example that we all are linked together through the bond of humanity. Race, religion, colour, caste, creed doesn't matter; what matter the most is that they are humans and are in a bad condition. Helping them doesn't give anybody a higher status; it gives a sense of relief and satisfaction. Not only to the soldiers, but to the countrymen, also; they are content that innocent children are safe, they have food, water and clothing and are not going to die. Being tied together by the notion of humanity is like making an unbreakable vow where you have to reach out and help those who are in need. Our religion focuses on this aspect as well. The soldiers of Pakistan Army did what they are taught to do. Pakistan Army trains its men to serve and defend each Pakistani without any discrimination.
As I was communicating with my '2nd-in-Command', Maj Jalal Ud Din Tareen Shaheed, and other command echelons through wireless-set on 21 May 2014 – while we were engaged in exchange of fire with the foreign terrorists in North Waziristan Agency (NWA) – there was suddenly a silence on the communication network. And before I could use the alternative means of communication to know about the situation, Capt Haider Khan, another officer participating in the same operation, reported to me that Maj Jalal had been hit by bullets of the enemy. I was also informed that two more soldiers from my proud unit, Sepoy Saleem Ullah and Sepoy Imtiaz had also received bullet injuries and had embraced Shahadat at the spot. I ordered Capt Haider Khan to immediately assume the command of the situation in place of Major Jalal and also ordered for evacuation of causalities to Field Treatment Centre (FTC), Mir Ali Camp in NWA, as we kept the enemy engaged. “He has been hit in the chest and bullet has damaged his internal organs that resulted in excessive blood loss,” shared doctor at the FTC with me.
He was in critical condition. We realized it, but were equally proud of the fact that Maj Jalal was another addition to the already long list of gallant soldiers of Pak Army who are always ready to lay their lives for the country. A tall, quiet, humble and graceful Maj Jalal Ud Din Tareen was born and brought up in a far flung area of Gulistan, located in Qilla Abdullah District of Balochistan. Hailing from a Pakistan-loving-patriotic-family, Maj Jalal joined Pakistan Military Academy (PMA), Kakul with 94 PMA Long Course in 1994, and was commissioned in 54 Baloch Regiment in 1997. His younger brother, Tariq Tareen, shares that Maj Jalal was very regular in communication with all family members and would always advise them to become useful citizen and was often found talking about Pakistan. Recalling his words, he tells, “Pakistan cannot go weak as along as its people work hard with zeal and enthusiasm and love their country.” I have the privilege of being coursemate of Maj Jalal, and was fortunate enough to be his Commanding Officer, too. Although Maj Jalal could not be promoted last year, but not even for a single moment did he give any gesture of being unhappy and was as good an officer as he used to be before his Selection Board. This is indeed beauty of Pakistan Army and its system that the soldiers prefer to work for country rather than for promotions and privileges. Maj Jalal was one such example besides many, who continue to serve the country in their own way.
“We should continue to work on training aspects of the soldiers as better trained soldiers will prove their mettle during the conduct of operations,” said Maj Jalal while discussing professional affairs of the unit with me, a day prior to his Shahadat. He was a driving force for all of us in the unit. One day once I asked him to proceed on leave, and his reply was simple: “I am not tired. I am never tired of wearing uniform and will only proceed to meet my family after spending the coming Eid with my troops.” Probably that Eid may never arrive now but his under command troops recall his words each day and admire his love for his soldiers. So intense was his love for his men that while being evacuated to FTC, he was not much worried about himself but was continuously asking about the health and condition of his two fellow soldiers who received bullets in the same incident and was reciting the Kalima continuously, recalls Subedar Major Alam Hussain, who was with him in FTC, Mir Ali.
Major Jalal was a marvelous support for me in the extension of my command in the unit. He was highly motivated and a true regimental officer who was involved in every affair of the unit and all operational tasks assigned to the paltaon. We went together to neutralize the terrorists in Mir Ali area on 19 December 2013 and returned victorious, and were happy to fight the terrorists again on another day. That day was to come five months later, on 21 May 2014, to leave its scars on my heart forever.
Although we were course-mates and good friends, but Maj Jalal never addressed me with my name after I assumed the command, and would always call me as 'Sir', which at times was embarrassing for me. And if I expressed un-easiness to be addressed so formally by him, he would say, “Allah has bestowed this rank upon you and you deserved it; it is my duty both officially and in person to respect you for this. I will In-Sha-Allah call you by your name once you are over with the command.”
Dear Jalal, now, I eagerly wait for you to address me with my name. Major Jalal loved his family very much. He was blessed with two sons and two lovely daughters. I never got the chance to talk to his eldest daughter, Umme Kalsoom, but his son Adil Tareen was almost a member of our unit community and we often talked to each other. Maj Jalal remained in touch with his wife on daily basis and was always concerned about their comfort and good life. Haji Muhammad Akhtar (father of Maj Jalal), a brave and courageous Baloch, after receiving Maj Jalal's coffin at home, said “It is Will of Allah and I am proud of my son who has sacrificed his life for Pakistan.” Maj Jalal often discussed situation of Balochistan with me. “I feel so happy that Army has opened many schools in Balochistan and is doing so much for the welfare of the people. I have a strong desire that people of Balochistan get best education and facilities,” Jalal shared with me the other day. He always motivated the troops from remote areas to bring their families in cantonment and educate their children. The bullet wound on the chest of Maj Jalal resulted in excessive blood loss. Although he was transfused three pints of blood during surgery at FTC, but could not sustain the injury and left for eternal abode in the midway to Peshawar, where he was being air-lifted to, for advance treatment. Before evacuation to Peshawar, at Mir Ali, I carried Jalal's stretcher from ambulance to the chopper. That was the last and final moment that I saw Jalal asleep, peacefully, though alive at that time.
Maj Jalal was buried with full military honour in his ancestral town, Saigai (Gulistan), Balochistan. He will always be remembered by his friends, colleagues, family members and above all, 54 Baloch Regiment.
It is not usually realized that by merely accompanying Jinnah wherever he went during the 1940s, Fatima Jinnah had psychologically prepared the Muslim women to stand shoulder to shoulder with men during the freedom struggle. Numerous pictures of the period show Miss Fatima Jinnah walking alongside Jinnah, not behind him. The message was loud and clear – the message both the brother and the sister wished to convey to the nation.
Over the decades a good deal has been written on Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah’s (1893-1967) singular contribution to national politics. The focus in most writings on her and about her is almost exclusively on how she stood for and beckoned the people to the pristine principles that had impelled the demand for Pakistan; how she had inspired the strivings and sacrifices in their quest, how she had enabled the beleaguered nation to own them up; how she had provided an unfailing source of inspiration to them during the 1950s and the 1960s; how she had helped, substantially and significantly, to keep the torch of democracy aflame in the most un-fortuitous circumstances; and, thus, how, above all, she, more than anyone else, had sustained the nation’s quest for democracy during president Ayub’s (1907-74) marathon semi-authoritarian rule.
Fatima Jinnah’s contribution in the social development sector, though as singular, substantial and critical, has however lain ignored somewhat. This has largely remained overshadowed by her political role despite the fact that she, along with Begum Rana Liaquat Ali Khan (1905-90), had made the greatest contribution in the realm of women’s awakening and participation in national affairs, in their emancipation, their regeneration, and their empowerment. Indeed, since her early life Fatima Jinnah had served as a role model for Muslim girls/women in several areas as the various roles she had donned would indicate.
Indeed, if you cast a glance at the various vicissitudes of her life, you will see that from the beginning she had cast herself in the role of a modern Muslim female persona. That role calls for equipping oneself to shoulder the tasks, along with its male counterpart, at various levels – domestic, public, and/or national – and contribute fully and significantly its share in accomplishing them.
Consider, for instance, her early life. In an age when few Muslim girls took to English education, she went in for modern education. In an age, when convent schools and boarding schools for girls were shunned, she enrolled herself in the Bandhara Convent School (1902) and, later in St. Patrick School, Bhandara (1906) from where she did her matriculation. And all the while she stayed on her own in a hostel, much against the family and Khoja traditions. She did her Senior Cambridge in 1913. In an age when few Indian (not to speak of Muslim) women went in for a professional degree or diploma and training, she went in for one. She moved to Calcutta in 1919, and got herself enrolled in Dr. Ahmad Dental College. Interestingly, she decided to stay on her own in a hostel, although her elder sister, Maryam, was living along with her family over there. Not only did she train herself as a dentist; she also, with Quaid’s encouragement, opened a dental clinic on Abdur Rehman Street, a Muslim locality in Bombay, in 1923. Indeed, a rare phenomenon even for cosmopolitan and modernized Bombay. In an age, when social work was not an in-thing, nor a sort of fashion, even with educated and affluent womenfolk in India’s most modern society except for the tiny Parsi community, she exhibited a passion for social work. She worked simultaneously at the nearby Dhobi Talau Municipal Clinic, on a voluntary basis.
Although Fatima Jinnah had lived with her elder sister during this period, her choice of a modern profession and leading a busy professional life indicated that she was determined to live on her own, that she wished to lead a useful life, instead of being a burden on the family or living off the family. Indeed, she was determined to pursue the values she deemed important to give meaning and purpose to one's life. Above all, she wished to contribute for the social uplifting and welfare of the community, rather than being a drain on it.
All this, inter alia, indicated her independence and will power, her capacity for decision-making and for hard and sustained work, and her penchant for social welfare activities and social and economic uplift of the downtrodden and poor womenfolk. This also indicated the progressive streak in her thinking in those days. A streak that required women to take to the professions and make themselves useful to the community and country at large, instead of wasting their talents and frittering away their energies, just sitting at home and engaging themselves in routine domestic chores and idle pursuits. Even in those days she believed that women should take part in nation building activities – a view she propagated repeatedly, later. But life is much more than a mere career, as Hillary Rodham Clinton pointed out years earlier when reigned supreme as the First Lady. When the call from the family comes, the profession inevitably takes a back seat, however committed one is professionally. Thus, when Rutten Bai (b. 1900) died on February 20, 1929, Miss Jinnah sacrificed her career, wound up her clinic, took charge of Quaid-i-Azam’s palatial Malabar Hill mansion, and assigned herself the most critical task of helping her illustrious brother out in terms of his personal needs and comforts, and in providing him with a salubrious atmosphere at home, so that he could give undivided attention to the critical problems Muslim India was confronted with. Additionally, she served as his confidante and advisor: she stood by him all the time, giving him hope and encouragement, and trying to sustain him during the most strenuous period of his life. She remained his constant companion for the next twenty years (1929-48).
Years later, Jinnah, who is seldom known to give public expression to his private feelings, acknowledged unreservedly. “My sister was like a bright ray of light and hope whenever I came home and met her,” Jinnah told the guests at the first official dinner, hosted by Ghulam Husain Hidayatullah (1879-1948), Premier and Governor designate of Sindh, at the Karachi Club on August 9, 1947.
Interestingly though, despite her closeness to Jinnah during all these years when he was almost the uncrowned “king” of Muslim India, Fatima Jinnah kept herself behind the scene; she was content to live under the shadow of the towering Quaid. She never utilized her vantage position to take to public office or public platform, leaving it to other women leaders like Begum Maulana Mohammad Ali (d. 1944), Begum Aijaz Rasul (1908-2001), Begum Jahanara Shah Nawaz (1896-1979) and Begum Salma Tasaduq Hussain (1908-1995), to assume leadership roles. She was, of course, active in organizing women (e.g., as Vice President, Women’s Wing of the All India Muslim League; founder, All India Muslim Women Students Federation, etc.), but she never aspired for public office, nor was she nominated by Jinnah for one. In both these cases, the brother and the sister broke the prevailing sub continental tradition of dynastic succession in the political realm.
Despite his democratic penchant and orientation, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru (1889-1964), for instance, had nominated his sister, Vijay Lakshmi Pundit, as leader of the Indian delegation to the UN, and later as the Indian nominee for the presidentship of the UN General Assembly. He also got his daughter, Indira Gandhi (1917-1984), elected as the Congress president during his own life time, paving the way for her to succeed him. The super populist Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (1928-79) got Nusrat Bhutto (1929-2011) elected to a woman’s seats in the NA in March 1977. More explicable, he had her nominated as his successor for life as PPP Chairperson. Nusrat got her daughter, Benazir Bhutto (1953-2007), nominated as PPP’s Co-Chairperson. This all indicate of a tendency and setting the trend for dynastic rule in Pakistan and India. Bhutto’s trend was followed by Khan Abdul Wali Khan (d. 2006) getting his wife, Nasim Wali Khan, and son, Isfandyar Wali Khan, to get “elected” as NAP’s NWFP President and as NAP’s President respectively. Likewise, in Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) Bandaranaika followed her husband in the seat of power in the 1950s, and in Bangladesh Hasina Sheikh and Khalida Zia assumed leadership roles in the wake of her father’s/husband’s assassination, since the 1980s. Thus, Fatima Jinnah alone had set her face against the dynastic tradition, so characteristic of, and so prevalent, in the entire region.
But, despite Fatima Jinnah’s cloistered approach and low-key profile for over a decade, the nation was able to discover in her a leader in her own right, after she emerged from the Quaid’s towering shadow. Thus, in the post-Jinnah period, she donned the role of a supreme guide and became the foremost symbol and advocate of Jinnah’s cherished principles. Thus, in a real sense, leadership came to be thrust on her. Indeed, she had to don the leadership role, whether she liked it or not.
Thus, Miss Jinnah did come to the public platform – but only at the fag end of her life, some fifteen years after Jinnah’s death and even then, only, at the imminent and desperate call of the nation. This she did to head the democratic movement against the incumbent Ayub regime in September 1964. And when she took to the public platform she did it with indefatigable courage and unflinching determination, whatever the disabilities, whatever the odds, whatever the consequences. And despite being a septuagenarian, she dutifully went through the strenuous campaign all the way – though it meant great discomfort to her personally, wrecking her physically, and putting her to all sorts of mean attacks by her opponents.
Indeed, the inexhaustible energy, the unrelenting stamina and the unflagging enthusiasm she displayed during the election campaign surprised almost everyone, friend and foe alike – including President Mohammad Ayub Khan. All this could have been, and was, made possible if only because of her strength of character and conviction, and her tenacity of purpose. In all this, again, Fatima Jinnah served as a role model for Pakistani women. It is not usually realized that by merely accompanying Jinnah wherever he went during the 1940s, Fatima Jinnah had psychologically prepared the Muslim women to stand shoulder to shoulder with men during the freedom struggle. Numerous pictures of the period show Miss Fatima Jinnah walking alongside Jinnah, not behind him. The message was loud and clear – the message both the brother and the sister wished to convey to the nation. And by 1945-46 the message had sunk deep enough, to induce Muslim women to participate to the hilt during the critical election campaign. Mian Mumtaz Daultana told me that almost one-third of the audiences in the election meetings in the Punjab comprised women. Women volunteers campaigning door to door in the urban areas, he said, made the Muslim League’s success at the hustings possible.
Likewise, Miss Jinnah’s political role during the 1950s and the 1960s helped a good deal in making women’s role in public life both respectable and credible; it facilitated other women in later years to don public roles without let or hindrance, without raising an eye brow. Indeed, her candidature in the 1965 presidential elections settled once and for all the knotty question whether a woman could be the head of a Muslim state. In the circumstances it was her candidature alone that could have induced a favourable fatwa from Maulana Abul Ala Maududi. And once that was acquired, the controversial issue ceased to be all that controversial for all time to come. In perspective this represents a singular contribution towards women’s regeneration, women’s empowerment and women participation in public life in Pakistan.
Even otherwise, Miss Jinnah believed that “Women are the custodians of a sacred trust – the best in the cultural and spiritual heritage of a nation”. And all through her life she called on women to equip themselves as best as they possibly could and play out their due role in the onward march of the nation.
To sum up, then, apart from leading the nation in its democratic quest at a critical hour in its history, her genius lay in helping the development of a modern Muslim female persona which would equip itself to shoulder, along with its male counterpart, the tasks of nation building the dramatic birth of the new nation in the most treacherous circumstances had called for.
The writer is HEC Distinguished National Professor, who has recently co-edited Unesco's History of Humanity, vol. VI, and The Jinnah Anthology (2010) and edited In Quest of Jinnah (2007), the only oral history on Pakistan's Founding Father.