Sunday, November 29, 2015

Fatima Jinnah from Pakistan: Woman of Substance

Fatima Jinnah the Woman Who Defied the Ulema and Contested Against General Ayub Khan

Fatima Jinnah was the sister of Mohammad Ali Jinnah the Muslim leader who created Pakistan. Her grandfather was a Hindu and her father was a first convert to Islam. She was born in 1893 and at a young age her father expired in 1901. From then on she was under the guidance and patronage of her brother Mohammed Ali Jinnah. She opposed the Ulema by fighting against General Ayub Khan for the post of President of Pakistan in 1965
Pakistan and women
Pakistan has a tortured history particularly with regard to women, who are effectively reduced to second class citizens in the Islamic republic. One woman who blazed a different trail was Fatima Jinnah who is now greatly respected in Pakistan as Madar-e Millat (mother of Nation). But all this is lip service as in real terms the position of women in Pakistan had deteriorated over the years with leaders like general Zia ul Haq introducing the Hadood ordinance that effectively reduced the status of women by accepting certain principles of jurisprudence as outlined in the Sharia.

Fatima Jinnah was the sister of Mohammad Ali Jinnah the Muslim leader who created Pakistan.  She was a Shia Muslim and defied orthodoxy to study dentistry at the Dr Ahmed Dental College in Calcutta in 1919. Later after getting her degree she opened her dental clinic in Bombay in 1923.

In 1929 she gave up her practice to be with her brother after the death of his Parsi wife and look after his house in Malabar Hill, Bombay. This took its toll and one does not hear of any love liaison of Fatima Jinnah and she did not marry. She however learnt the nuances of politics by being along with Jinnah in his agitation for the creation of Pakistan. After 1947 and the creation of Pakistan Fatima went into hibernation and withdrew from active politics. But fate took a hand during the 1965 presidential election which Ayub Khan the military dictator had himself called. She became the candidate of the combined opposition against Ayub.Fatima attracted huge crowds and this unnerved Ayub Khan, who started by blaming her as an American and Indian agent.
Sick minds product in Pakistan.Simply ludercous

The Election

Ayub panicked and decided that the best course to defeat Fatima was to rig the election. In a rigged election the massive crowds that thronged her election meetings failed to translate into votes and Fatima lost. Historians feel that in case there was a direct election Fatima would have won, but Ayub had introduced a restricted voting system in the form of the election being confined to basic democrats who numbered just 80,000.

The Ulema a factor in Pakistan politics opposed her and declared that people should not vote for her as Islam does not permit a woman to be President. Later General Zia up Haq made an amendment during his dictatorship to effectively amend the constitution to debar a woman from being president of Pakistan. This law is in force even now.
Effect of 1965 election
 The 1965 election is a watershed in Pakistan politics as Fatima Jinnah defied the Ulema and toured the length and breadth of the country to rouse the people against the Military general. Millions lined her campaign trail and it was apparent that the Ulema were side lined.
Last word
The fight of Fatima for the President of Pakistan is a shining episode in Pakistan’s history as for the first and only time a woman despite opposition from the Ulema fought for the post of President of Pakistan. Fatima died in 1967 ostensibly of a heart attack, but rumours abound that she was murdered as her head was severed. It’s anybody’s guess as to what actually happened as a cloak of secrecy surrounds the event in Pakistan.