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August 14, 2020

The other half of Pakistan

National

August 14, 2020

We belong to a nation whose founder proudly says to the world, “No struggle could ever succeed without women participating side by side with men.” The fact that we have roots from men with such ideology is why we have women who laid down their lives, children, and homes in efforts for their Quaid to build this nation where women can proudly be at places they worked hard for like Nigar Johar, first female lieutenant-general of Pakistan. “The movement of Pakistan which Quaid-i-Azam launched was ethical in inspiration and ideological in content. The story of this movement is a story of the ideals of equality, fraternity, and social and economic justice struggling against the forces of domination, exploitation, intolerance, and tyranny.”, said Mother of Nation, Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah. She stood side by side with her brother and became one of those stateswomen who founded the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Following her legacy, Begum Raana Liaqat Ali Khan founded the most accomplished NGO of Pakistan (All Pakistan Women’s Association) APWA, a welcoming platform for all women who intend to uplift all women in all aspects of progress. Till today it helps society with their input during this 2020 pandemic by initiating a fundraising program. Fatima Sughra another amazing woman who worked at Women Refugee Relief Committee helping those who migrated to a newly founded country and received a gold medal for her “Services to Pakistan.” Begum Shahnawaz, the first woman in Asia to preside over a legislative assembly. Salma Tasadduque Hussain who won Punjab provincial assembly seat by a majority, she worked hard during Bihar riots for refugees, and other countless women who dedicated their lives for the Pakistan movement. Like Jinnah said, “Half of Pakistan is yours because you have put in no less effort to achieve it than men.”

She, who stands as a figure of strength and forbearance, has dealt with discrimination as a result of patriarchal society being dominant from 1947 to date. Over 75,000 women faced rape, abduction, and mutilation during the communal violence that accompanied the 1947 Indo-Pak partition. It was violent and brutal handling of a Zina case under the newly introduced Hudood Ordinance, which gave birth to a social movement: a 16-year-old girl from Karachi, Fehmeida Allah Bakhsh, had been sentenced to flogging for merely exercising her choice in marriage. It was an injustice that needed to be righted, but those dispensing justice had changed the rules and, not many dared to speak up but, 17 like-minded women in Karachi weren’t about to accept Fehmeida’s fate without a fight. On Sept 16, 1981, the Women’s Action Forum (WAF) came into being in Karachi, pledging to resist Gen Zia’s newly formulated Hudood laws that reduced the status of all Pakistani women to second-class citizens. Perhaps, these 17 women didn’t realise at the time what WAF would mean, to many young Pakistani women and activists in the years to come: WAF was simultaneously an identity as well as an expression of identity. In the throes of the pro-democracy struggle, where women’s sexuality was being caged by law, WAF created space for women’s voices to be heard in the larger democratic movement.

However, with growing literacy and education women rights have been improved in Pakistan timely, confirmed by the reports of Gender Concerns International. Courageous women survivors of Pakistan have fought for their rights and have stood up going places and serving the state from their extraordinary services. Begum Jahan Ara Shah Nawaz and Begum Shaista Ikramullah represented women in the first Legislative assembly of Pakistan and played a role in demanding special seats for women in 1956. Benazir Bhutto, a phoenix to raise from ashes, the first woman to be elected as a Prime Minister of any Muslim country, gave a new perspective and became a hope for struggling women in Pakistan. With her unbelievable ascent to power but also with her charm and wit, her political intellect and personality that refused to cower before the toughest of opponents she just didn’t inspire women of Pakistan but also around the Globe.

The road to women's right development was a long, rusty road. Whether it be flying the first fighter plane by Lieutenant Ayesha Farooq, to Malala Yousafzai the first Pakistani activist for female education and youngest Noble Prize Laureate, a lot of women have proven themselves to be the pioneer for the younger generation looking up for a better future.

Today, with the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, Pakistan suffers along with the globe, women again struggle majorly during the crisis, and they fear that socio-economic benefits women have worked so hard for can be lost again. Domestic violence has increased sharply due to financial constraints and, for that Punjab government upgraded their Women Safety smartphone app and is paying more concern to the complaints launched at help lines. Many business women due to inadequate infrastructure and improper transportation are facing drastic income losses since the virus broke down. Due to downsizing in various sectors mainly women are fired or suspended from their jobs. On the other hand, they are shouldering the extra burden of house chores as families being at home due to lockdowns. Due to increased poverty, women's education is seen at stake as people aren’t ready to send their girls back to school but to earn. Pakistan comprehends the future disastrous situation affecting Pakistani women, and for that State with the help of the World Bank is working on initiating plans like revive micro-enterprises specially owned by women.

The crisis of 1947 or the pandemic of 2020, our women have never been lesser heroic than men. Women have always been there to serve, to give birth to fresh beginnings. Our country has seen women like Shaukat Ara, an active member of Muslim League who mentions exemplary women of Pakistan which till date fills our heart with pride, “The surprise on Quaid-i-Azam’s face was a sight to behold as we marched alongside him, swords in our hands and escorted him to stage.”