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Raana Liaquat Ali Khan
Begum Raana Liaquat Ali Khan was one of the leading women and prominent figures in the Pakistan movement along with her husband who not only witness the creation of Pakistan but also give her services to newborn Pakistan. She was the radical lady with new thoughts and ideas who always become ready to give her 100% whatever the situation was.
Begum Rana Liaquat Ali Khan was born in Almora in India to a British Army senior officer, whose Brahmin family was a recent convert to Christianity in 1887. Her real name was Sheila Irene pant. She passed her matriculation from her native school. She got her B.A Economics and B.T in Religion studies in 1927. Later she obtained a double M.S.c in Economics and Sociology 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, Calcutta. After her Master’s degree, Raana was appointed as Professor of Economics in the Indraprastha College University, of New Delhi in 1931.
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, she got married to Liaquat Ali Khan after embracing Islam. She changed her name from Sheila Irene Pant to Raana Liaquat Ali Khan. With her husband, Raana strongly opposed the Simon Commission. While as Professor of Economics, Raana immensely mobilized students from her college and went to Legislative Assembly to hear her husband’s debate carrying play cards 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. Raana 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, the 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 an executive member of the Muslim League and Chairperson of the Economic Division of the Party.
In 1942, when it became apparent that Imperial Japan was near attacking India, Jinnah summoned Rana 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, Raana 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 Raana played an important role in creating political awareness among women. Raana was among the aspiring woman in Subcontinent and encourage hundreds of women to fight for Pakistan shoulder-to-shoulder to men.
After the creation of Pakistan, she became the First Lady of the country. As First Lady, she initiates 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 Raana continued her services for the social and economic benefit of women of Pakistan till her death in 1990. One of the daunting challenges for her was to organize health services for women and children migrating from India to Pakistan.
In 1947 begum Raana Liaquat Ali khan instigates a mission for refugees especially for children who became a victim of many diseases like measles, cholera, Diarrhea at very movement she asked the army to give training to nurses so that they can be able of providing first aid.
To prevail awareness for the rights, social uplift of women she formed Pakistan women Association and women national guard which disbanded after few years when she leaves appointed as ambassador of the Netherland due to the apathy of the government.
After her husband’s death, Raana went onto start her career as a stateswoman that lasted more than 2 decades. In 1952, Raana was the first Muslim woman delegate to the United Nations 1952. In 1954, the Government of Pakistan had appointed her as Pakistan Ambassador to the Netherlands and also was the first woman ambassador of Pakistan. She represented Pakistan in the Netherlands until 1961 and was also the Doyen of the Diplomatic Corps. In June 1966, she was appointed as Pakistan Ambassador to Italy and stayed there until 1965. Later, she was directed to Tunisia as Pakistan Ambassador and held this position until March 1966. Following her return to Pakistan, Raana joined Rana Liaquat Ali Khan Government College of Home Economics as Professor of Economics and stayed there until 1973. The Government College University awarded her honorary doctorate in economics and conferred her with a Doctor of Philosophy in Economics in 1967. In 1972, as Pakistan was dismembered and going through an intense crisis, Raana joined hands with then-President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and the political movement and joined the socialist government of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Raana was part of the Bhutto Ministry of Finance and Economics and played a major and influential role in decisions being made concerning economics. Bhutto encouraged her to participate in upcoming elections and won the elections of 1973. Bhutto did not waste time and appointed Raana as Governor of Sindh Province. Raana 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. Raana again contested in 1977 parliamentary elections but did not take the office due to Martial law imposed by General Zia-ul-Haq, Chief of Army Staff of Pakistan Army. She was one of the personalities that argued against martial law and the execution of Bhutto. On a day when Bhutto was executed, Raana was reported to be disheartened and emotionally distressed and cried over Bhutto’s death for more than three days constantly. Raana launched an 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 Quaid-e-Azam Mausoleum. With her has ended a historic period for the women and youth of Pakistan whose, future generations, would seek inspiration from Begum Liaquat’s life and contributions to the emancipation of women.
Rana is considered one of the greatest female leaders Pakistan has produced. In Pakistan, she is given titled “Mother of Pakistan” received in 1950. Rana continues to be seen as a symbol of selfless service to the cause of humanity and the uplift of women. In recognition of her life-long 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)
She has given her hard and painstaking work for the cause of Pakistan till to her last breath and become inspirational personality for the woman’s as well as for males. She never gives up in her life, gave her all support to her husband shoulder to shoulder, her life which was full of valor, gallant and dare is a big example for women of Pakistan. She will always remain in our hearts.