Fauzia Wahab: A trailblazer for Pakistani women

Published: June 21, 2012

Fauzia Wahab's death is a colossal tragedy we can only hope to ever overcome. PHOTO: FILE

Pakistan has lost a very special person. A woman who stood up for what she wanted, who spoke out in spite of criticism, who spread smiles with her wit and played a major part in empowering Pakistani women. The demise of Fauzia Wahab is an irrecoverable loss. She was an absolutely admirable woman and the mother of the nation. May Allah bless her soul and give our bereaved nation the courage to cope with this tragedy.

Wahab fought for democracy, human rights and women’s empowerment. Through sheer hard work, dauntlessness and sincerity, she became the face of the country’s largest political party, PPP, and by virtue of her own personal background and dedication, she became the voice of the middle class.

In countries like Pakistan, it is very difficult for a woman to participate in politics and earn the kind of respect Wahab was destined to get. She was a natural and effortlessly set an example for women all over Pakistan. Through her visible and indirect role as PPP MNA and office bearer, she accomplished milestone after milestone for women’s empowerment. She played a key role in a number of bills related to women empowerment, changing the face of how women are treated in Pakistan.

Wahab never shied away from helping women who hailed from lower and middle classes. In fact, many women felt secure in sharing their problems with her. Her efforts for making quiet, oppressed Pakistani women come out of their shell and ask for their due rights is commendable.

A popular parliamentarian, Wahab enjoyed great support for her work. She embarked on her political career by volunteering for the PPP in the 1988 general elections. In 1995, she became the information secretary of the PPP Sindh Women’s Wing. She also remained a member of the party’s advisory council from 1994 to 1996 and chairperson of the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation’s information committee from 1994 to 1995. Foreign affairs, finance and women’s development issues interested her in particular. Later on, in 1998, Benazir Bhutto nominated Wahab to become the Central Coordinator of the Human Rights Cell and she was tasked to correspond with human rights defending organisations abroad.

In 2003, she attended the National Defence College course for bringing the politicians and Armed forces close to each other. She was one of the initiators of relationship with the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and was invited to attend the “Win with Women – Global Initiative” of the Institute in December 2003. In June 2004, she was invited by the NDI to attend the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston.

She was appointed central information secretary of party in 2009.

Wahab chose to side with the PPP because she believed that it was the only political party open to liberal democratic values and that it was not plagued with gender discrimination. Her dedication to PPP was matchless. She always defended her party even in the most difficult of times. Wahab was unstoppable and the most honest person and, in my opinion, the only leader who followed the footsteps of Benazir Bhutto. Her vision and practical politics were in accordance with the fundamental documents of PPP. Moreover, she upheld the liberal face of PPP in a highly polarised, fanatic and charged environment of Pakistan. No doubt, she was a courageous woman. She is described by her friends and family as a witty person who loved a good sense of humour.

It is a tragedy indeed that her outspoken and secular voice is no more.

Her sad demise is a big blow for Pakistan and the vacuum created after her death will never be filled.

Saifur.Rehman

Saif RK

An advocate for Pakistan and US relationship, he has a keen interest in humanitarian assistance programs and tweets as @SaifRK (twitter.com/SaifRK)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Parvez

    Nicely put. My connection with Fauzia Wahab was through TV. My view was clouded or rather biased because she defended a party that did not deserve the dedicated strong defence that this lady put up. Looking at her as a person I realised that I was being unreasonably judgemental. When she passed away I felt disturbed because a genuine good person had been taken away. Watching TV the same evening I felt the tribute paid to her by Mr.Saad Rafeeq was simple and powerful when he said ‘ she was an honest politician ‘.Recommend

  • Jawwad Hafeez

    I only know her for her sarcastic remarks and mocking statements against any and everyone in a cleric’s style, just to serve her cause, without realizing that how such statements would be taken by the people out there. May be they didn’t matter for her. She would add injury upon insult to the poor masses. I sometimes didn’t even want to believe that she was a mother, a word that is synonymous with love and affection. Recommend

  • Khalid Ali

    @Jawwad Hafeez:
    Just because you couldn’t agree to her reasoning, you choose to mock her right now? That is your bias. People like you and those in the media could not make any allegations about her, found her honesty and calling ‘a spade, a spade’ as too much to handleRecommend

  • Ali

    WOW!!! Someone’s been…..Recommend

  • Sanya

    @Jawwad Hafeez:
    That’s incredibly damn sexist you know? Just because you expect her to behave and act like a maternal figure all the time doesn’t really mean that whatever she was doing or in whichever way she chose to act was wrong. A woman is just not born to be a mother, in case you haven’t noticed. Maybe she was just a woman of two worlds, a woman who was very different in her professional life, as opposed to her personal one. Do not question her “motherly” attributes, and do not try to just simplify things.

    I don’t support her party, or her political views, I just think she was a very brave woman who could stand up to people and actually make her voice heard – a rarity when it comes to Pakistani women, if you haven’t noticed. But why does all of that matter anyway?Recommend

  • Sane

    @Jawwad Hafeez
    I only know her for her sarcastic remarks and mocking statements against any and everyone in a cleric’s style, just to serve her cause, without realizing that how such statements would be taken by the people out there. May be they didn’t matter for her. She would add injury upon insult to the poor masses.

    I agree only to the above part of your comments not the rest.Recommend

  • Khalid Ali

    Tehreek insaf trolls on a roll. Recommend

  • S

    @ jawwad hafeez: You are exactly whats wrong with this countryRecommend

  • Ali

    We can pray for her after her demise.. but please don’t thrust upon us as a role model.

    I agree with many points in the article
    Her dedication to PPP was matchless. She always defended her party even in the most difficult of times. Even when the party was wrong she defended the untenable stance.
    No doubt, she was a courageous woman
    No doubt at all, if you can defend the policies of PPP government day after day you are honestly very courageous.
    but Choosing PPP as a liberal democratic party !! seriously! the party might be gender biased Ostensibly! but you will have to change your name with Bhutto suffix if you ever want to run the party, no matter how talented you are.Recommend

  • Sane

    To defend a WRONG stance or party line is not courage. Opposing a WRONG stance or party line is the courage. We need to redefine the meaning of COURAGE otherwise.Recommend

  • raw is war
  • Dr Sunny Chohan

    Brilliant Dr Saif, she deserves such compliments… RIPRecommend

  • Ali

    she was admirableRecommend

  • Rabia Balouch
  • S. Zafar Iqbal

    Despite my disagreements with Fauzia Wahab’s political views, I respected her as a human being and a Pakistani. And am sad at her passing.

    May her soul rest in peace. Amen.Recommend

  • Amin Khokhar
  • Mazhar ALI

    RIP…Recommend

  • Nobody

    May Allah bless her soul, however i always hated her for her idiotic comments and views in tv showsRecommend