PESHAWAR: Even at the old age of 85 and despite her wealth and privileged upbringing, Begum Zari Sarfaraz pursued public service, her main interest in life.
Only death brought to an end the social and charity work that became her identity. She breathed her last Sunday in Islamabad after a brief illness. She would be laid to rest today in her hometown, Mardan, by the side of her father, Sarfaraz Khan, and younger brother and former NWFP chief minister, Mir Afzal Khan.
“She was a minaret of light. Everyone knew her as a committed social worker. After having worked as her secretary for almost 35 years, I can vouchsafe that she was also a good human-being,” remarked Ghulam Murtaza when reached in Mardan for his reaction on her death.
He recalled that Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah had written a letter to Begum Zari Sarfaraz praising her services during the Pakistan movement. This was recognition of the work that she did in a conservative place like Mardan and elsewhere in the NWFP to seek support for the creation of Pakistan. Her contribution to the cause of independence made her one of the rare female freedom fighters.
Begum Zari Sarfaraz worked for the relief and rehabilitation of refugees who migrated from India to the new state of Pakistan. Subsequently, she became involved in charity work for tuberculosis patients. Every organization wanted her to sit on its boards of directors or become patron.
She served as chairperson of NWFP Zakat Council and Trust for Voluntary Organizations (TVO). She was on board of directors of NRSP and NCHD. She headed the All Pakistan Women Association (APWA) and was president of the NWFP TB Association and the Frontier Association for Mentally Handicapped. She was life-member of Pakistan Red Crescent Society.
Among other positions, she was president of an SOS Children’s Village and patron-in-chief of Sarfaraz Khan District Hospital Charity Trust, which was named after her father and contributed funds to the main public hospital in her native city. She also headed the ZAMA Trust, set up by her family to give scholarships to talented students.
Amjad Zeb, who has been working with NGOs and CBOs and monitoring their work as a senior official at the TVO, said Begum Zari Sarfaraz cared for her people and tried to be of service to all those in need of help and guidance. He described her as a multifaceted woman with varied interests, foremost being public service.
Begum Zari Sarfaraz was also a successful businesswoman. He was associated in various capacities to her family business, which included sugar mills in Mardan and Dera Ismail Khan, a ceramic factory in Lalamusa in Punjab and industrial units in Gadoon-Amazai in Swabi district and Hattar in Haripur.
The lady from Mardan also took part in politics. She was elected MNA as member of the Pakistan Muslim League. Later in life, she served as federal minister for women development in General Ziaul Haq’s regime. She also headed the commission for women. It was during her stewardship that the commission recommended measures for improving the lot of women and putting an end to discriminatory laws against the female population of the country.