|An icon of social mobilization, Begum Rana Liaqat Ali Khan’s services in promoting women’s emancipation and empowerment will long be remembered. A dedicated and self-less soul, she rose to prominence in 1942, when under the threat of immanent Japanese attack on Indian Sub-Continent, the Quaid-e-Azam instructed her to organise women for Civil Defence and she organised a small voluntary nursing corps. The Quaid advised her:“Be prepared to train the women. Islam doesn’t want women to be shut up and never see fresh air.”
Her course for the rest of her life was thus set. In 1947, with independence came the pains and horrors of sectarian riots and mass migrations. In such challenging times, Begum Khan formed women’s voluntary groups to serve the humanity in distress, lurking in the refugee camps. In 1949, under her own initiative, she formed “Women National Guards” and “Pakistan Women Naval Reserve” and was appointed as the Chief Controller of both with the rank of a Brigadier. The same year, Begum Rana called the first-ever Conference of women leaders and activists from all walks of life and announced the formation of “All Pakistan Women’s Association – APWA”. A voluntary and non-political organisation, APWA has rendered tremendous contributions in the social, educational and cultural uplift of women in Pakistan. Begum Rana remained APWA’s lifetime President. An ardent supporter of women’s education, she patronised the opening of Home Economics Colleges in Karachi and Dhakka. She also encouraged women’s entrepreneurship by organising Industrial Homes in the country. The formation of Pakistan’s first “Professional and Business Women Club” also owes its existence to the efforts of Begum Rana.
Her meritorious services earned her the coveted “Human Rights Prize” by the US — the first Muslim woman to receive this honour.
While she also served the nation as its Ambassador to the Netherlands and Italy, she’s also the first and the only woman to have served as a Governor of a Province, when she was appointed as Governor of Sindh in 1974.
It is thus no wonder that even two decades after her death, she continues to be seen as a symbol of selfless service to the cause of humanity and uplift of women.