A Beacon of Light
by Rehana Rasul
As the Muslim freedom movement gained momentum a graceful and dignified figure began to symbolize the Muslim women. This figure was Miss Fatima Jinnah.
Miss Jinnah, younger sister of the Quaid-i-Azam, was born in Karachi on July 31, 1893. She received her early education at the Convent School, Bombay. Then she went on to do a diploma course in Dental Surgery from Calcutta. In 1923 after completion of the course she set up her practice in Bombay. Thus she became the first Muslim woman to enter dental surgeon profession. However, in 1929 she left her practice to join the Quaid-i-Azam in September 1948, once and for all.
Miss Jinnah supported him throughout his struggle for Independence. In fact, she was the only one who knew his inner-most feelings. She also gave an impetus to the freedom struggle by organizing Muslim under the guidance of the Muslim League.
After 1929 Miss Jinnah accompanied the Quaid-i-Azam everywhere. In 1930 she accompanied him to London and participated in the first Round-Table Conference. She also attended the 1937 session of the Muslim League. After 1940, she participated in all Muslim League sessions.
Once the fruits of Muslim struggle had been realized, Miss Jinnah did not abandon her participation in active life.
Being an educated lady, she understood the importance of education. For her, the only path that Muslim women could follow was the path of enlightenment by acquiring knowledge.
At the time of partition, only few Muslim women had adopted the professional life. In fact, there were only five lady doctors in Pakistan. There was no medical college for women in Lahore. One was being constructed by Hindus. After partition, when Hindus left Lahore, there were some qualms in official circles, whether the construction should be continued? Dr. Shuja’at Ali, a prominent surgeon, approached Miss Jinnah as he was in favour of construction. She was agreed upon the idea of continuing the construction. She told him to go ahead with the plan and left the official approval to her. Today Fatima Jinnah Medical College stands as a monument to her efforts.
Like her brother she was wary of mullahs and obscurantists. She considered them great hindrance to the progress and welfare of Pakistan. She said: “We are not a state run by priests or a hierarchy. We are a state organized according to Islamic principles.”
She was being mostly remembered for her role in the 1964-65 elections. With her election emblem of a lantern she became a symbol of democracy. As the unanimous choice of all opposition leaders of Pakistan she rose to challenge Ayub Khan Authority. Ulema, maulanas, veteran politicians all had blind upon her. Now they saw her as the ‘Mother of the Nation’ who had come to their rescue in beleaguered times to lead the country on the road to democracy as envisaged by the Quaid-i-Azam. They gave her the title of Madar-i-Millat.
She toured extensively and tirelessly across the country and wherever she went, crowd turned up to hear and cheer her where women always turned up in large numbers.
Recalling one such event, while she was ill, a public meeting had been arranged in Faisalabad. Her well-wishers had requested her to cancel the meeting. She refused to do so because a huge crowd had turned up to hear her. The meeting ground was jam-packed. There was no way to reach the dais. But when she appeared, the crowd parted quietly and she walked to the dais. Once she started to speak women standing near the dais were so chocked with emotions that tears began to flow down their cheeks.
She was also received with warm welcome even in East Pakistan. Wherever she went, crowds gathered to catch a glimpse of her. Often they would lie down on rail tracks, refusing to budge till she came out and addressed them. To them, she was a replica of their great leader. Had the elections been fair, she would have been won it with great margin.
Miss Jinnah breathed her last on July 9, 1967. This slender, white-haired lady always clad in white shalwar kameez still being remembered with respect.
Frontier Post (Peshawar), 31 July, 1989.