A brave woman

Through your esteemed columns, I wish to pay tribute to Begum Ra’ana Liaquat Ali Khan on her birth anniversary.

Indeed, world history is the biography of great men. The people who achieve eminence in their life are the role models for generations. Ra’ana Liaquat Ali Khan is one among them. She was born on February 13, 1905, and died on June 13, 1990. She was a Muslim by choice and commitment. She was 46 when her husband was assassinated in 1951. Neither Ra’ana nor Liaquat Ali Khan had any movable or immovable property in Pakistan or anywhere else.

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Unlike others, they did not claim compensation for their valuable property left in India on the eve of partition of the subcontinent but gifted their huge estate to the government of Pakistan for opening a diplomatic mission in New Delhi. The salary of her husband as the Prime Minister was the only source of income for their livelihood which was discontinued on his sad demise.

In such circumstances, one could understand her financial difficulties to survive. Ra’ana Liaquat Ali Khan was the symbol of courage, determination, and dedication. She preferred to join government service instead of relying on a family pension. This unique quality of Ra’ana Liaquat is most inspiring. She was the second lady in the Muslim world who had founded and organised a women association ‘APWA’ which had played a significant role in the empowerment of women in Pakistan.

As a visionary, she initiated several projects to empower the womenfolk in the country like the Women National Guard, cottage industry and colleges of Home Economics. The Women Naval Reserve was also established in the Pakistan Navy at her suggestion. She successfully undertook diplomatic assignments in Europe and Africa. She firmly believed in decolonization and as such, she supported the Egyptian claim of the right to the Swiss Canal. During the Swiss crisis in 1956, in her diplomatic dispatch to Pakistan’s foreign office from Hague, she opposed Pakistan’s role of siding the British, French and Israeli forces of aggression on Egypt and urged her government to support the nationalization of the Swiss Canal. She played a memorable role in promoting democratic norms as the first-ever female governor of a province in the country.

Her contribution to patronizing academic and extracurricular activities in public sector Universities of the province as the Chancellor is also historic. The UN Human Rights Award was also conferred on her in recognition of her contribution to human rights and civil liberties in 1978. She can rightly be described as ‘The Pioneer of Women Movement’ in the third world.

MAHFOOZ UN NABI KHAN

KARACHI

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