The iron lady

People like Dr Yasmin Rashid rekindle hope in tough times

The iron lady


n exemplification of courage and steely resolve is how Dr Yasmin Rashid ought to be described. On the eve of the recent long march to Islamabad undertaken by her Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf on May 25, she could neither be browbeaten nor intimidated. In the face of police action, her resolve remained steadfast.

Dr Rashid, 72, is a cancer survivor. In her attempt to make it to Islamabad to join other party workers for a rally followed by an indefinite sit-in to force the government to announce an early date for general elections that the party hopes to win, she re-defined femininity.

Two vehicles used by her were damaged in the process. On one occasion, her driver was forcibly removed from behind the steering. She nevertheless seemed determined to reach Islamabad to join the protest demonstration. Her grit turned many heads in awe and admiration. This included some supporters of the rival Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz. People like Yasmin Rashid rekindle hope in tough times.

In the Punjab cabinet led by Sardar Usman Buzdar, she was one of the most educated ministers. Her efforts to contain the coronavirus pandemic were commendable. She personally led the crusade against coronavirus despite herself being ill and under treatment. After receiving a dose of chemotherapy, she would typically go straight to attend a meeting at her office. She led the anti-covid campaign with missionary zeal and zest.

She has been a missionary in all facets of her public life: as a doctor, as a philanthropist and as a political activist. She has also been raising her voice for the rights of the doctors’ fraternity.

As a teacher she inspired and enthused many of her students, including Dr Sadia Khan, a known gynecologist in Islamabad-Rawalpindi Medical University and a brilliant doctor in her own right. I saw her on several occasions when she came to GC University Lahore to collect blood for thalassemia patients. Her way of dealing with the students was exemplary. Her interaction with the students exuded affection. I remember her coming to Cambridge and she spoke with eloquence and facility to the students of that university. It was a quality speech and her confidence level was astonishing.

Throughout her life, she has devoted all her energies to the service of the people. In 2010, she joined the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf. It is pertinent to mention here that Dr Yasmin Rashid belongs to a political family. In 1970, she was married to Muhammad Rashid Nabi, the son of Malik Ghulam Nabi.

Ghulam Nabi was a minister in the PPP government of 1970s. Her political career started under the influence of her father-in-law. In terms of electoral politics, she has endured several defeats. This is because she was fielded against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif.

In 2013, she secured 52,354 votes while Sharif polled 91,683. She got another chance when the seat fell vacant as Nawaz Sharif was disqualified by the Supreme Court. When a by-election was called, she was nominated by the PTI again and ran a door-to-door campaign against Kulsoom Nawaz but lost again. She finally made it to the provincial assembly in 2018 on a seat reserved for women. She was inducted in the cabinet and appointed the minister for primary and secondary healthcare. She was also given the additional charge of specialised healthcare and medical education.

Yasmin Rashid got her early education in Neela village of Chakwal. She attended the Convent of Jesus and Mary. She studied at Fatima Jinnah Medical University (then College), Lahore, receiving an MBBS degree in 1978. Later. she went to the United Kingdom and studied at the Royal College of Gynecologists. She received an MRCOG in 1989 and an FRCOG in 1999. She is also a fellow of the College of Physicians and Surgeons Pakistan.

As a health professional, she is highly regarded. Her role in initiating health-related programmes for thalassemia, foetal medicine and Alzheimer’s disease has been commendable.

Her initiatives as a social worker have included projects like Young Champion Project in Lahore, Temporary Learning Centres, Social Mobilisation on Maternal and Child Health, Punjab and Safe Motherhood Initiative project.

Yasmin Rashid has had a rich professional career. For seven years, she was a professor and head of the Obstetrics and Gynecology Department at King Edward Medical University, Lahore. Before that, she was a professor at the Fatima Jinnah Medical College, Lahore. She is an expert in pregnancy and menstruation problems, menopause, miscarriage, preeclampsia, fibroids and ovarian and endometriosis issues.

She has taken many health-related initiatives. She initiated the Reproductive Health Research Unit at the Lady Willingdon Hospital, Lahore. She has also established an organisation working on Alzheimer’s disease and a service for parental thalassemia.

In 2004, she initiated the Punjab Safe Motherhood Programme. It was supported by the Punjab government and the UNICEF. In the same year she developed a National Plan of Action on Maternal Health for Turkmenistan.

As a social worker, Dr Yasmin Rashid has contributed greatly to the field of education. In 2009, she established the Girls Education Programme along with the UNICEF and School Education Department that aims to enroll marginalised girls in schools. It is functioning through volunteers trained to be community leaders. After the 2010 flood, she established temporary schools in Muzaffarabad. She also set up 161 temporary learning shelters.

She is an iron lady with a heart of gold.

The writer is Professor in the faculty of Liberal Arts at the   Beaconhouse National   University, Lahore.   He can be reached at 

The iron lady