Cowards die many times before death; the valiant never taste death but once”, said Fatima Jinnah. A leading founder amongst the giants in the creation of Pakistan and a walking distillation of these words. Fatima Jinnah graduated as a dental surgeon in 1923 from the University of Calcutta.
This in an era when women going for medical education could be counted on the fingers. After Pakistan’s independence, she formed the Women’s relief committee which later was the nucleus of the All Pakistan’s Women’s Association which played a significant role in the settlement of women who migrated to Pakistan.
In a true democratic society the people have to play a very positive and significant role. They must not be mute spectators of what is being done in their name and on their behalf with regard to the conduct of the affairs of the State. The people are the real sovereign power.
She worked alongside her brother – shoulder to shoulder until the day of his death. When she made her speech on Radio Pakistan on 11 September 1948, to announce the death of Quaid-e-Azam, her speech was cut off when she started criticizing the government for its careless attitude to the Quaid on his death.
Subsequently after his death, her strong views on democracy and the direction Pakistan was going in – made her an opponent of the status quo establishment and she was sidelined for many years.
In the 1965 election, she was persuaded to return to politics and she ran for the presidency of Pakistan as a candidate for the Combined Opposition Party of Pakistan (COPP) against General Ayub Khan.
She even received support from the religious parties including Maulana Maududi’s Jamaat-e-Islami – that were otherwise against a woman holding the highest political office.
She drew enormous crowds in all cities of East and West Pakistan, in one meeting held in Dhaka she drew over 225,000 people to come out and support her.
On one occasion, she said, “When you see evidence of deviation from your cherished ideals and values or find things going wrong it is not only your right but your duty to create by all legitimate means open to you a climate of opinion which would rectify errors and compel respect for the people’s wishes and aspirations”. Fatima Jinnah remains extremely popular in Pakistan to date.