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August 14, 2020

As the first member of Hyderabad Deccan State Assembly


August 14, 2020

Zuleikha Zar told that in the 1940s, Begum Khurshid was the only Muslim Member of Hyderabad Deccan State Assembly, where she used to be elected every year. “As an Assembly member, she introduced the Dowry bill through which she fixed the upper and lower limits of the amount which was mandatory to be paid \ by the girl’s family to the to a boy’s as “Jore tk paise” It was in addition to actual dowry for the girls. Those who couldn’t afford, their daughters were never married. This bill was passed at a time, when no one could dare to talk about dowry tradition in India,” she added.

She was also instrumental in the passage of a bill against an old custom of Satti, in which a woman after the death of her husband was burnt alive along with the deceased. “I don’t remember exactly but this bill was also passed from the Assembly,” shared Mrs Zaar.

Pakistan Movement and beyond

As movement for Pakistan started, Mrs Hafiz devoted her entire energies for the creation of Pakistan. As the General Secretary of the Woman Central Wing of the All India Muslim League, she would accompany Ms. Jinnah and Mr. Jinnah at every place and give motivating strong-worded speeches in favour of Pakistan and women rights. Her book “Hurriyat, published in Hyderabad Deccan, was based on the rights of women enshrined in Islam, how our society exploits these rights and what independence means to women.

“She created Women National Guard in Hyderabad Deccan, at a time when India wanted to retain Hyderabad Deccan at all costs. Nizam of Hyderabad was the richest person of India and it was the richest and the most educated Muslim state of India. With people in fear of war, local parties started training people for self-defense. Through Women National Guard, women and young girls were trained in the big backyard of my mother’s house for their self defence.

“Probably in 1946 or early 1947, my mother invited Mr Jinnah to a dinner party in Hyderabad Deccan, arranged to raise funds for Pakistan. I was very young at that time. She also invited a group of girl choirs and taught us a song, “agay barh agay barh millat-e-Islamia, Quaid-i-Azam k sath, Qaum k parhcam k sath, azam-e-musammam k sath”. We sang this long heart-warming song in a chorus, while being so overwhelmed to see our charismatic Quaid in person. While telling us the Quaid’s struggle for Pakistan she handed him a cache (bag) full of Ashrafis (gold coins) on this occasion she collected for Pakistan. She herself would go and raise funds for Pakistan. When people would ask her why she wanted a separate homeland, she would say: “You’ll see for yourself once you have a separate homeland, where everything will be yours and you will be able to breathe and live freely.”

Migration story

Mrs Zar terms her family’s migration from India a long series of painful and frightening events. “After taking charge of Hyderabad Deccan, Indian government charged my mother for being against Indian government and having contacts with different spies and agents due to her strong support for Pakistan. My father, who was abroad on Government duty, couldn’t come to India because of his arrest warrant and charges against my family. My father contacted his dearest Hindu friend Mr Motilal, who was the owner of a bank, and requested him to rescue us from Hyderabad. Uncle Motilal with his other friend Raghunath uncle helped us in getting our travel permits with some pseudo names to save us from any uncovered incident. With her jewellery box with all gold in it and few clothes we left our furnished house, the house we grew in, played, and had fun, at midnight. I remember we kids were strictly forbidden to utter a word to anyone before leaving. Motilal uncle sent few of his trusted Indian guards to escort us. I don’t remember exactly, we went by train or by car first to Bombay, where we stayed at a small house and by the dusk we were again seated in a huge carrier and sent to a ship and came to Karachi. The fear and the trauma during the whole journey cannot be explained in words. Our family settled in Nazimabad after migrating to Pakistan and the gold my mother brought with her helped us in establishing ourselves here in Karachi, as the Indian government had stopped my father’s salary despite his government service. At that time, Malik Ghulam Muhammad, a graduate of Aligarh Muslim University, who later became Pakistan’s first finance minister and later third Governor General, knew my father since his days in the GIP Railways, India where he was posted as a civil servant (Chartered Accountant), and my father was serving as Senior Public Relations Officer there, asked him to come to Pakistan and join civil service. My father, also a graduate from Aligarh University, didn’t want to join civil service as he was more inclined towards journalism. My paternal grandfather was the first Muslim Deputy Collector in UP, India.

My maternal grandfather had a newspaper called Humdum, the first Urdu newspaper published from Lucknow and an English daily Pioneer also from Lucknow. My father used to write in Hamdam as well as in Bombay Chronicles, an English newspaper published from Bombay. He declined that offer and joined journalism. He was the Resident Director of United Press International, which later became United Press of India. After returning to Pakistan he established United Press of Pakistan (UPP), which was the first ever Muslim news agency in Pakistan.”

Post- partition welfare work

Mrs Zuleikha Zar says after coming to Pakistan in late 1949, Begum Khurshid continued her social activities along with Ms. Fatima Jinnah, who trusted her a lot and would seek her advice in important matters. She was in almost all the organizations or committees formed by Ms Jinnah.

“There was an influx of migrating people, including women who after losing their spouses, brothers, and fathers had been left high and dry. Ms. Jinnah pursued my mother to do something for these destitute women. The Commissioner of Karachi was my father’s friend, and his wife was a member of Woman’s Refugee Rehabilitation Association” (WRRA) which was formed by my mother. She along with other women had a meeting with Mr. Hashim Raza and his wife, seeking their help to form a colony for those women and giving them some skill to earn. A piece of land was granted by the commissioner free of cost, where she formed Hajirabad Colony, later named as Qayyumabad Colony, named after Begum Qayyum, who was the wife of the then Central Minister for Industries, Food and Agriculture, Abdul Qayyum Khan. Presently, it is called Shah Faisal Colony. While giving the land the Commissioner said the government didn’t have fund to build houses in the colony. My mother immediately gave her gold bangles as an instant donation for constructing this colony. Other women followed suite but that was not enough. In order to collect more funds she organized carnivals, lottery ticketing and meena bazaars, where women, who learned some skills earned from their products, which were sold there.”

“At the time of its inauguration, I was studying at Mama Parsi School. It was a grand opening with Muhammad Ali Bogra Sahib and his wife as guests of honour and Ms Jinnah as the chief guest. Construction of the colony started with 10 quarters built initially in the first two months with the funds raised. The price of the house was kept Rs 750. This colony has now developed immensely, with many multi-storey buildings and third generation is living there.”

Mrs Zar says, “After the 1965 Indo-Pak war, Mrs Khursheid started a Friday congregation of ladies (Duaa Committee) who prayed for Pakistan's security and solidarity which continued till her last breath. In Nazimabad house, she used to do preaching for women from Holy Quran and Sunnah. In her free time, she used to write poetry and Naats. She wrote many sehras (wedding duaas for groom and bride groom) for the children of her family. She was awarded the title of First Lady Khalifa of Qadri Silsila by late Abdul Qadir Jilani, Ambassador of Iraq and descendant of Syedna Abdul Qadir Gilani-Ghaus-e-Azam.

Mrs Zar is saddened on the fact that Begum Khurshid after the demise of Ms. Jinnah was very upset. “The passion she had for Pakistan cannot be described in words. She was disappointed to see dishonest people ruling Pakistan. This was not the country which my mother or people like her acquired after so many sacrifices,” she concluded.

—The writer is a staff member and serving as Editor Supplements and Special Reports