Fauzia Wahab: Likes of her are not born everyday
Fauzia had made her mark at the Karachi University as a firebrand speaker, a top class debater both in English and Urdu and a liberal secular student activist. Her love for democracy was embedded in her from her student days when she used to be in the forefront of democratic movement against dictatorship.I had known Fauzia since late 1970s when her husband Wahab Siddiqui joined the Jang Group. He got associated with me when I was editing Daily News and Weekly Mag. He was also TV anchor in those good old days when PTV was the only channel. Despite PTV being state owned Wahab maintained neutrality which is rare among TV anchor these days.
Her husband Wahab Siddiqui died in the prime of his life and Fauzia as a young widow became a single mother to bring up four children. It were her singular qualities that she not only proved herself to be a caring mother but also took upon herself task of earning a respectable livelihood in a male chauvinistic environment as well as pursuing her political ambitions as an activist totally committed to the cause of democracy and a liberal Pakistan. I fondly remember with enormous admiration her forceful presentations in support of democracy, empowerment of less privileged including women and minorities. I could see her blossoming into a politician of high repute. The judicial murder of Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in 1979 was a turning point in her life. As one striving to hold on her own she was beholden to martyred Bhutto Sahib’s politics. Obviously when she decided to be in politics she opted for PPP under the leadership of martyred Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto as the means to achieve her higher ideals. And once she joined PPP her talents and organisational capabilities caught Benazir Bhutto’s attention and she was chosen by her for an important role in PPP.
Fauzia became a career woman by working for a commercial leasing as a Marketing Manager between 1993 and 1996 while pursuing her political activities. In recognition of her sterling qualities she was nominated as Member Advisory Council of Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) in October 1994. She was also nominated as Chairperson of the Information Committee of KMC.Having tested and tried her loyalty the then Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto nominated her to become the Information Secretary of Women’s Wing of the PPP in Sindh. She proved her mettle by making PPP’s women wing an effective arm of the party.
After the unconstitutional dissolution of the PPP In the general elections in October 2002 Fauzia was nominated by PPP leadership as a candidate for the reserved seats for women in the National Assembly. As MNA she was also made part of Standing Committee on Privatization and Standing Committee on Economic Affairs. In both she performed immensely well. Her contribution was laudable as member of the NA Finance Committee that looked after the budget of the assembly.
Fauzia attended in 2003 the National Defence College course for bringing the politicians and Armed forces close to each other. She made her mark as one of the main initiators of relationship with the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and was invited to attend the “Win With Women – Global Initiative” of the Institute in December 2003. In recognition of her services she was also invited in June 2004 by the NDI to attend the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston. Fauzia also represented PPP on a study tour of the German Parliamentary System in 2004.
During the National Assembly of 2002- 2007, she was a very active member of the opposition involved in legislative business. She was also a mover of a number of bills including a bill on the environment and a ban on polythene bags. She was nominated again for a second term by the PPP and returned to the National Assembly. Because of her communication skills she was appointed PPP’s Information Secretary. As Information Secretary, Fauzia became an ex-officio member of the Central Executive Committee of the Party. She earned appreciation for her defence of the government and leadership.
In her death PPP and Pakistan have lost one of the most dynamic, vociferous and dauntless defenders of democracy and rights of the people. Like of her not born every day.
—The writer the High Commissioner for Pakistan to UK.