|English: Begum Liaquat Ali Khan touring New York's Children's Centre. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
Begum Ra'ana Liaquat Ali Khan
: رعنا لیاقت علی خان
; February 13, 1905 – June 13, 1990) (née Sheila Irene Pant
, was one of the leading woman figure in Pakistan Movement
, along with her husband Liaquat Ali Khan
, and career economist
, and prominent stateswoman
from the start
of the cold war till the fall and the end
of the cold war
Ra'anna was one of the leading woman politician and nationwide respected woman personality who started her career in 1940s and witnessed key major events
She was one of the leading and pioneering woman figure in Pakistan Movement
and served as the executive member of Pakistan Movement committee working under Muhammad Ali Jinnah
She also served as economic adviser to Jinnah's Pakistan Movement Committee and later became First Lady of Pakistan when her husband Liaqat Khan Ali became Pakistan's first Prime minister
As First Lady of Pakistan, she launched and constituent programs for woman's development in newly founded country. Later, she would went onto start her long career as stateswoman that would last a decade.
In 1970s, she joined hands with Zulfikar Ali Bhutto
's political movement
and joined the socialist government
of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, elected Prime minister at that time. She was one of the most trusted and close government and economical adviser to Bhutto and his government, and had played influential role and involved with many key economical decisions taken by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.
Zulfikar Ali Bhutto led the appointment of Ra'ana as the Governor
of Sindh Province
and took the oath in February 15, 1973. Ra'ana was the first woman Governor of Sindh as well as first Chancellor
of University of Karachi
In 1977, Ra'ana along with Bhutto and his party, won the parliamentary elections
of 1977, but did not take the Gubernatorial office due to Martial law imposed
by General Zia-ul-Haq
, Chief of Army Staff
of Pakistan Army
Ra'ana went on to work and dedicated her life for the social and economic benefit of women of Pakistan till her death in 1990.
She died in 1990 due to cardiac arrest and was buried in Karachi with full state and military honors were given to her in her funeral.
Because of her services and efforts for the medical and woman development and woman empowerment, Ra'ana is commonly known as "Māder-e-Pakistan
" (English translation: Biography
Early life and education
Born in Almora
, now in Uttarakhand
, India, to a British Army
's senior army officer Major-General
Hector Pant, whose Kumaoni Brahmin family was a recent convert to Christianity
Sheila Irene Pant attended and was educated at the University of Lucknow
where she gained Double First Class Honours B.A.
in Religion studies
Later, she obtained double M.Sc.
with Honors in 1929.
She began her career as a teacher
in the Gokhale Memorial School after completing the Teachers Diploma Course from the Diocesan College
After her Master's degree, Ra'anna was appointed as Professor
in the Indraprastha College University
, of New Delhi
Pant met Liaqat Ali Khan
when he came there to deliver a lecture on Law and Justice at the Indraprastha College University in 1931.
In December 1932, Pant married to Liaqat Ali Khan and converted
as she married to Khan.
She changed her name from Sheila Irene Pant to Ra'anna Liaqat Ali Khan.
After the reorganization of Muslim League
, Begum Ra'ana devoted herself to the task of creating political consciousness amongst the Muslim women
society of British Indian Empire.
During this time, Ra'anna became an executive member of Jinnah's Working Committee and served there as economical adviser. Her struggle for emancipation and the support for Pakistan continued till the creation of Pakistan
for Muslims of India
With her husband, Ra'ana strongly opposed the Simon Commission
While as Professor of Economics, Ra'ana immensely moblized students from her college and went to Legislative Assembly to hear her husband's debate carrying placards of "Simon Go Home
With Liaquat Ali Khan winning the debate, became an instant hero with her friends.
She later sold him a ticket to a stage show to raise funds for flood relief in Bihar.
Ra'ana proved to be Liaquat Ali Khan’s constant partner and companion.
She became politically involved with her husband and played a major role in Pakistan Movement.
She became a defining moment in Pakistan's history when she accompanied her husband to London, United Kingdom in May 1933.
There, She and Khan met with Jinnah at Hamstead Heath residence, and successfully convinced Jinnah to return to British Indian Empire to resume the Leadership of All India Muslim League.
Jinnah returned to India, and Ra'ana was appointed as executive member of Muslim League and Chairperson of Economic Division of the Party.
In 1942, when it became apparent that Imperial Japan
was near attacking India, Jinnah summoned Ra'ana said to her "Be prepared to train the women. Islam doesn't want women to be shut up and never see fresh air
To undertake this task, Ra'ana became to organize Muslim women presented itself in the same year, when she formed a small volunteer medical corps for nursing and first aid in Delhi.
Begum Ra’ana played an important role in creating political awareness among women. Ra'ana was among the aspiring woman in Subcontinent and encourage hundreds of women to fight for Pakistan shoulder-to-shoulder to men.
Ra'ana was the first First Lady
As First Lady, she initiate reforms for woman and child development, social progress of woman and played a major role for woman's part in Pakistan's politics.
After the assassination of her husband Liaquat Ali Khan
in 1951, Begum Ra'ana continued her services for the social and economic benefit of women of Pakistan
till her death in 1990.
One of the daunting challenge for her was to organize health services for woman and children migrating from India to Pakistan.
In 1947, as the refugees poured in from across the border, amidst the most pitiable of conditions with cholera, diarrhea and small pox being common sights everywhere, she called upon women to come forward and collect food and medical supplies from government offices.
The women came forward despite the resistance they faced from certain sections of society, including certain newspapers where they were attacked in the most vicious manner by elements that did not want women to come out from their "four walls
She firmly believed that for a society to do justice to itself it was pertinent that women played their due role in reforming society alongside the men.
During this point in Pakistan’s history there weren’t many nurses in Karachi, so Begum Liaquat asked the army to train women to give injections and first aid. Women were thus trained in three to six month courses and as such the Para-military forces for women were formed. Pakistan Army
quickly established Army Medical Corps
and recruited large number of women nurses as army nurses.
During this period, girls were also personally encouraged by Begum Liaquat to take up nursing as a profession. They were also taught the rifle drill, to decode ciphers, typing and a host of other duties so they could be useful in times of national crises like the refugee crisis of 1947.
Initiatives for women
Ra'ana founded Pakistan Women National Guards (PWNG), and helped established the Pakistan Woman Naval Reserves in the Navy
, and was appointed as the Chief Controller.
For her immense services to military as civilian, Pakistan Army
notably appointed her as first woman Brigadier-General
and an honorary uniform was issued especially for her.
The Pakistan Woman National Group was intended to fight for the women's rights and aimed to prevent brutal treatment of woman either received by her spouses or caused by domestic violence. At first, the organization was successful and took strong initiatives in West-Pakistan
to lower the rate of violence against the woman, as she was organization's President.
But after her husband's death, Ra'ana left Pakistan as she was appointed Pakistan's Ambassador to the Netherlands. Following her departure, the Pakistan Women National Group was soon disbanded due to financial distress and lack of government's apathy. However, the Pakistan Woman Naval Reserves still continues as of today where many woman joined the Navy through this program.
The program has lasting effects in Pakistan Armed Forces and Army and Air Force later established Woman Reserves program as part of her vision.
Establishment of APWA
In 1949, Begum Ra'ana arranged a conference of over 100 active women from all over Pakistan. The conference announced the formation of a voluntary
and non-political organization
for the social
uplift of the women, named as All Pakistan Women's Association
She was nominated as its first President
and unlike Pakistan Women National Group, the APWA continued to grow as it continuously fought for woman's right in Pakistan.
For its services, Government of Pakistan established APWA College in Lahore as part of its struggle.Mother of Pakistan
In 1972, as Pakistan was dismembered and going through an intense crises, Ra'ana joined hands with then-President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto
and political movement
and joined the socialist government
of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.
Ra'ana was part of Bhutto's Ministry of Finance and Economics
and played a major and influential role in decisions being made concerning the economics.
Bhutto encouraged her to participate in an upcoming elections and won elections of 1973.
Bhutto did not waste time to appoint Ra'ana as Governor
of Sindh Province
Ra'ana was the first woman governor of the province of Sind and the first Chancellor of Sindh University and Karachi University.
She continued her term until 1976 when new elections were made.
Ra'ana again contested in 1977 parliamentary elections
but did not take the Gubernatorial office due to Martial law imposed
by General Zia-ul-Haq
, Chief of Army Staff
of Pakistan Army
She was one of the personality that argued against the martial law and against the execution of Bhutto.
On a day when Bhutto was executed, Ra'ana was reported to be disheartened and emotionally distressed and cried over Bhutto's death for more than three days constantly.
Ra'ana launched anti-Zia campaign and fought against the military government
of General Zia.
She single-handedly took on Pakistan’s most powerful man, General Zia-ul-Haq, at that time.
It was during the 1980s, when she, despite her illness and old age, publicly attacked the General for passing Islamic laws
that were contradictory to Islamic teachings and clearly against women. The General, out of respect for her position in society and achievements, decided to leave her alone.
Begum Liaquat died on June 13, 1990 and was buried next to her husband in the precincts of the Quaid-e-Azam’s Mausoleum.
With her has ended a historic period for the women and youth of Pakistan who, future generations, will no doubt seek inspiration from Begum’s Liaquat’s life and contributions to the emancipation of women.
Honors and legacy
Ra'ana is considered one of the greatest woman leader Pakistan as produced. In Pakistan, she is given titled as "Mother of Pakistan
" received in 1950.
Ra'ana continues to be seen as a symbol of selfless service to the cause of humanity and uplift of women.
In recognition of her lifelong struggle for women’s rights, she was awarded the United Nation’s Human Rights Award in 1978
Her other many awards and medals include the Jane Adam’s Medal in 1950, Woman of Achievement Medal 1950, Mother of Pakistan in 1950, Nishan-i-Imtiaz
in 1959, Grand Cross of Orange Nassau in 1961 (the Netherlands), International Gimbel Award 1962, Woman of the World in 1965 chosen by the Turkish Women’s Association, Ankara and Vavaliera di Gran Croce in 1966 (Italy)
Ra'ana Liaquat Ali Khan died in Karachi
on June 13, 1990.
Awards and honours