- By Shireen Gul
- Writer: Shireen Gul is a LUMS graduate, working as a Young Parliamentary Associate at the National Assembly of Pakistan.
As the world witnesses the dawn of 31st July, Pakistanis are reminded of the woman, who not only was at the forefront of the Pakistan Movement but also, worked tirelessly for the resettlement of refugees in the nascent state of Pakistan, was the flag-bearer of democracy and the rights and women and is rightfully known as “Madar-e-Millat”- Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah.
Born on 31st July 1893, Fatima Jinnah was the youngest of the seven children of Mr JinnahBhai Poonja and his wife, Mithibai. A dentist by profession, she opened her dental clinic in Bombay in 1923 and continued her dental practice till 1929.
Fatima Jinnah was the face of female participation in the Pakistan Movement. She accompanied her brother at every public appearance and became one of his closest confidants. When the All India Muslim League was being organized, Ms. Jinnah assumed membership of the Working Committee of Bombay Provincial Muslim League and remained its member till 1947.
Mohtarma also attended the Lahore Conference, held from 22nd to 24th March 1940, which is famous to date for the passage of the Lahore Resolution. The Lahore Resolution, also known as the Pakistan Resolution, was the official statement by All-India Muslim League, calling for a separate homeland for Muslims. According to Stanley Wolpert, the address of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah during the Lahore Conference was the point when Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who was once an avid supporter of Hindu-Muslim unity, transformed his dedication to one directed to obtain a separate homeland for the Muslims of the sub-continent.
In addition to this, it was due to the tireless efforts of Ms. Fatima Jinnah that the All India Muslim Student Federation was organized in 1941 in Delhi. The federation played an active role in the quest for a separate homeland for Muslims.
The highlight of political activities of Ms. Jinnah during the 1950s was her visit to East Pakistan in 1954. This visit depicted the unwavering strength of the bond between East and West Pakistan, in spite of the geographical distance and the sociocultural difference between the two Wings.
After all, it was Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah, the right hand of the Father of the Nation, who had visited the Eastern Wing of the country which was, at the time, plagued with numerous social and administrative issues like floods, poverty, and foreign intervention to disrupt the peace of the area. At a time when the feeling of alienation had started to emerge in East Pakistan, this visit functioned as an adhesive, bringing both Wings together in the face of challenges and foreign controversies.
The 1960s was arguably the most popular era in the political life of Ms. Jinnah, as it was during this time that she emerged as the flag-bearer of democracy.
She united the opposition under the flag of the Combined Opposition Party of Pakistan (COPP) and ran for the presidency of Pakistan at the age of 71, contesting against the then-president and two other candidates. Her rallies in Dhaka attracted a crowd of approximately 250,000 people which increased to millions by the time her train, named “Freedom Special,” reached Chittagong. The arrival of the train was delayed by 22 hours due to repeated requests by the public for Fatima Jinnah to address the masses. Even the religious parties modified their stance in support of Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah.
Apart from her role in politics, Fatima Jinnah made significant contributions to the social development of Pakistan. Recognizing that women were among the marginalized classes, Ms. Jinnah formed the Women’s Relief Committee during the transfer of power in 1947. She also co-founded the Pakistan Women’s Association, which played an integral role in the resettlement of female migrants into Pakistan. Through this organization, Fatima Jinnah aimed to alleviate the plight of destitute women. This organization later evolved and became the nucleus of the first women-centric organization in Pakistan, the All Pakistan Women’s Association (APWA).
As we celebrate the 130th birth anniversary of the woman all Pakistanis call Khatun-e-Pakistan and Madar-e-Millat, we are reminded of the elegant lady, clad in sophisticated, minimalistic attire who stood tall in the face of every challenge. Her contributions make her an inspiration for all the citizens of Pakistan, especially women. Despite being 130 years apart, Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah has left her mark on millions of women and will continue to do so for generations to come.