Amidst horror stories of rape, murders and acid attacks, Pakistan has nurtured some of the brightest, most beautiful women on the planet. While Pakistani beauty is a world-renowned idea, young women of this country are fast emerging as global players. What makes this emergence even more heartening is that they have managed to break free of the bonds that traditionally hold Pakistani women back – religion, society, patriarchy. Their achievements are not only significant because they managed to break free, but because they excelled in whatever fields they pursued, outshining and outsmarting many men and women from far richer countries with a lot more resources.
So without further ado, here is a list of women who have made Pakistan proud:
10. Jugnu Mohsin: publisher, editor, satirist
Jugnu Mohsin’s claim to fame is her weekly newspaper, The Friday Times for which she also writes her a monthly column. Her life has not been easy – especially because of the public nature of her husband’s journalism. In 1999, her husband, Friday Times editor-in-chief Najam Sethi, was imprisoned by Inter-Services Intelligence for some of his controversial writings and held for a month without charge, causing Mohsin to launch an international campaign for his release. That year, she and Sethi were awarded the International Press Freedom Award of the Committee to Protect Journalists.
9. Sana Mir: cricketer
The beautiful 25-year-old has gone on to prove that cricket is not just a gentleman’s sport – it can be played by a lady and often, a lady can do a better job. She led the Pakistan women’s cricket team that won gold at the Guangzhou Asian Games. She was announced Player of the Tournament at the 2008 Women’s Cricket World Cup Qualifier, and currently ranks 16th in the Women’s ODI Bowlers in the ICC Player Rankings.
8. Asma Jahangir: Lawyer, human rights activist
Jahangir is a leading Pakistani lawyer, advocate of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, President Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan and human rights activist, who works both in Pakistan and internationally to prevent the persecution of religious minorities, women, and exploitation of children.
She was the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief from August 2004 to July 2010 (first attached to the former Commission on Human Rights, now to the Human Rights Council). Previously, she served as the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Arbitrary and Summary Executions. She is also chairperson of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.
7. Marvi Memon: politician, Twitterati
A conservative politician and businesswoman, Memon is serving as the central and public figure of the Pakistan Muslim League presided by Nawaz Sharif. Prior to her career in national politics, Memon had a successful career in country’s corporate world. In 2003, she served in the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) as the military’s operational media director and served as highest ranking civilian official in General Pervez Musharraf’s military staff. Finally, she brought up in national politics by Shaukat Aziz in 2004 and important assignments in defense, economics and foreign affairs.
6. Nafisa Shah: Nobel Peace Prize nominee
She was among 1,000 women nominated for the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize. Encouraged to enter politics by the late Benazir Bhutto, she excelled as the mayor of Sindh’s Khairpur district and is currently a Pakistan Peoples Party member of the National Assembly.
5. Major General Shahida Malik: first female two-star ranking officer
She is the first woman in the Pakistan Armed Forces to have reached to a two-star rank, and was also a first woman general officer in the history of Pakistan as well as in the Muslim world. Trained as an army medic and a field combat officer, her army career well served in the Indo-Pakistani wars and is also a recipient of highest military decoration as well as the most-decorated female general officer. She took an honorary retirement in 2004 and retired as the inspector-general and deputy commander of the Pakistan Army Medical Corps.
4. Abida Parveen: world-renowned Sufi singer
Singer of Sindhi descent and one of the foremost exponents of Sufi music, Abida sings mainly ghazals and her forte, Kafis, a solo genre accompanied by percussion and harmonium, using a repertoire of songs by Sufi poets. Parveen sings in Urdu, Sindhi, Saraiki, Punjabi and Persian, and together with Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan is considered one of the finest Sufi vocalists of the modern era. She is currently a Judge on a musical show Sur Kshetra.
3. Sherry Rehman: journalist turned politician
Politician, political journalist and diplomat, Sherry was appointed the Pakistan’s Ambassador to the US on November 23, 2011 succeeding Husain Haqqani. Previously, she was the Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting from March 2008 until March 2009. Born in Karachi, to a prominent Sindhi family, Rehman’s father, was a lawyer and educator. Her mother served as vice president of the State Bank of Pakistan—the first woman to hold the post.
She attended Karachi Grammar School, Smith College and the University of Sussex where she studied art history and political science.
Rehman worked as a professional journalist for twenty years, writing for national and international newspapers and news magazines. She was editor-in-chief of Pakistan’s leading news magazine, The Herald, for ten years and served as a member of the Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors (CPNE) from 1988 to 1998. She also anchored a television show on current affairs in 1999. Rehman was the first Pakistani to be recognised with an award for independent journalism by the British House of Lords in its Muslim World Awards Ceremony 2002.
2. Hina Rabbani Khar: businesswoman, politician
Hina Rabbani Khar is a stateswoman and economist and was the former 26th Foreign Minister of Pakistan. Hailing from a powerful feudal family, she began her political career in 2002 in the government of Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz and subsequently served in the Finance Ministry and Foreign Ministry as Minister of State. After successfully contesting the 2008 general election, she served again in the Finance Ministry and directed policies concerning the national economy in the absence of the then Finance Minister in 2009.
She was appointed the first female Foreign Minister in July 2011 following the resignation of Mehmood Qureshi. Since 2008, she has been a senior and high-ranking member of the Central Executive Committee, and is widely regarded as one of the highest ranking women in Pakistani politics.
1. Anti-Polio workers
The ladies who have been voluntary campaigners for the anti-polio polio drive deserve top mention on the list of Pakistani women who have made the nation proud. Working under dangerous conditions, these women have been targeted by extremist elements. Nonetheless, their work goes on. They venture out every day to provide vaccinations to Pakistani children against the disease that threatens to be a number one ailment in the country. So, to the martyrs of vaccination campaigns and hundreds of women who still carry on the work, salut!
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