Ra'ana Liaquat Ali Khan (Urdu: رعنا لیاقت علی خان; February 13, 1905 – June 13, 1990) (née Sheila Irene Pant), DPhil, NI, was one of the leading woman figures in the Pakistan Movement, along with her husband Liaquat Ali Khan, and career economist, and prominent stateswoman from the start of the cold war till the fall and the end of the cold war. Ra'anna was one of the leading woman politicians and nationwide respected woman personalities who started her career in 1940s and witnessed key major events in Pakistan. She was one of the leading and pioneering woman figures in the Pakistan Movement and served as the executive member of Pakistan Movement committee working under Muhammad Ali Jinnah. She also served as economic adviser to Jinnah's Pakistan Movement Committee and later became First Lady of Pakistan when her husband Liaqat Khan Ali became Pakistan's first Prime minister. As First Lady of Pakistan, she launched programs for woman's development in the newly founded country. Later, she would went on to start her career as stateswoman that would last a decade.
In 1970s, she joined hands with Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's political movement and joined the socialist government of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, elected Prime minister at that time. She was one of the most trusted and close government and economical adviser to Bhutto and his government, and had played influential role and involved with many key economical decisions taken by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto led the appointment of Ra'ana as the Governor of Sindh Province and took the oath in February 15, 1973. Ra'ana was the first woman Governor of Sindh as well as first Chancellor ofUniversity of Karachi. In 1977, Ra'ana along with Bhutto and his party, won the parliamentary elections of 1977, but did not take the Gubernatorial office due to Martial law imposed by General Zia-ul-Haq, Chief of Army Staff of Pakistan Army. Ra'ana went on to work and dedicated her life for the social and economic benefit of women of Pakistan till her death in 1990. She died in 1990 due to cardiac arrest and was buried in Karachi with full state and military honors were given to her in her funeral. Because of her services and efforts for the medical and woman development and woman empowerment, Ra'ana is commonly known as "Māder-e-Pakistan" (English translation: Mother of Pakistan).
Early life and education
Born in Almora, now in Uttarakhand, India, to a British Army's senior army officer Major-General Hector Pant, whose Kumaoni Brahmin family was a recent convert to Christianity in 1887. Sheila Irene Pant attended and was educated at the University of Lucknow where she gained Double First Class Honours B.A. in Economic and B.T. in Religion studies in 1927. Later, she obtained double M.Sc. in Economics and Sociology with Honors in 1929. She began her career as a teacher in the Gokhale Memorial School after completing the Teachers Diploma Course from the Diocesan College, Calcutta. After her Master's degree, Ra'anna was appointed as Professor of Economics in the Indraprastha College University, of New Delhiin 1931. Pant met Liaqat Ali Khan when he came there to deliver a lecture on Law and Justice at the Indraprastha College University in 1931. In December 1932, Pant married to Liaqat Ali Khan and converted to Islam as she married to Khan. She changed her name from Sheila Irene Pant to Ra'anna Liaqat Ali Khan. After the reorganization of Muslim League, Begum Ra'ana devoted herself to the task of creating political consciousness amongst the Muslim women society of British Indian Empire. During this time, Ra'anna became an executive member of Jinnah's Working Committee and served there as economical adviser. Her struggle for emancipation and the support for Pakistan continued till the creation of Pakistanfor Muslims of India in 1947.
With her husband, Ra'ana strongly opposed the Simon Commission. While as Professor of Economics, Ra'ana immensely moblized students from her college and went to Legislative Assembly to hear her husband's debate carrying placards of "Simon Go Home". With Liaquat Ali Khan winning the debate, became an instant hero with her friends. She later sold him a ticket to a stage show to raise funds for flood relief in Bihar. Ra'ana proved to be Liaquat Ali Khan’s constant partner and companion. She became politically involved with her husband and played a major role in Pakistan Movement. She became a defining moment in Pakistan's history when she accompanied her husband to London, United Kingdom in May 1933. There, She and Khan met with Jinnah at Hamstead Heath residence, and successfully convinced Jinnah to return to British Indian Empire to resume the Leadership of All India Muslim League. Jinnah returned to India, and Ra'ana was appointed as executive member of Muslim League and Chairperson of Economic Division of the Party.
In 1942, when it became apparent that Imperial Japan was near attacking India, Jinnah summoned Ra'ana said to her "Be prepared to train the women. Islam doesn't want women to be shut up and never see fresh air". To undertake this task, Ra'ana became to organize Muslim women presented itself in the same year, when she formed a small volunteer medical corps for nursing and first aid in Delhi. Begum Ra’ana played an important role in creating political awareness among women. Ra'ana was among the aspiring woman in Subcontinent and encourage hundreds of women to fight for Pakistan shoulder-to-shoulder to men.
Ra'ana was the first First Lady of Pakistan. As First Lady, she initiate reforms for woman and child development, social progress of woman and played a major role for woman's part in Pakistan's politics. After the assassination of her husband Liaquat Ali Khan in 1951, Begum Ra'ana continued her services for the social and economic benefit of women of Pakistan till her death in 1990. One of the daunting challenge for her was to organize health services for woman and children migrating from India to Pakistan.
In 1947, as the refugees poured in from across the border, amidst the most pitiable of conditions with cholera, diarrhea and small pox being common sights everywhere, she called upon women to come forward and collect food and medical supplies from government offices. The women came forward despite the resistance they faced from certain sections of society, including certain newspapers where they were attacked in the most vicious manner by elements that did not want women to come out from their "four walls". She firmly believed that for a society to do justice to itself it was pertinent that women played their due role in reforming society alongside the men.
During this point in Pakistan’s history there weren’t many nurses in Karachi, so Begum Liaquat asked the army to train women to give injections and first aid. Women were thus trained in three to six month courses and as such the Para-military forces for women were formed. Pakistan Army quickly established Army Medical Corps and recruited large number of women nurses as army nurses. During this period, girls were also personally encouraged by Begum Liaquat to take up nursing as a profession. They were also taught the rifle drill, to decode ciphers, typing and a host of other duties so they could be useful in times of national crises like the refugee crisis of 1947.
Initiatives for women
Ra'ana founded Pakistan Women National Guards (PWNG), and helped established the Pakistan Woman Naval Reserves in the Navy, and was appointed as the Chief Controller. For her immense services to military as civilian, Pakistan Army notably appointed her as first woman Brigadier-General and an honorary uniform was issued especially for her. The Pakistan Woman National Group was intended to fight for the women's rights and aimed to prevent brutal treatment of woman either received by her spouses or caused by domestic violence. At first, the organization was successful and took strong initiatives in West-Pakistan to lower the rate of violence against the woman, as she was organization's President. But after her husband's death, Ra'ana left Pakistan as she was appointed Pakistan's Ambassador to the Netherlands. Following her departure, the Pakistan Women National Group was soon disbanded due to financial distress and lack of government's apathy. However, the Pakistan Woman Naval Reserves still continues as of today where many woman joined the Navy through this program. The program has lasting effects in Pakistan Armed Forces and Army and Air Force later established Woman Reserves program as part of her vision.
Establishment of APWA
In 1949, Begum Ra'ana arranged a conference of over 100 active women from all over Pakistan. The conference announced the formation of a voluntary and non-political organization for the social,educational and cultural uplift of the women, named as All Pakistan Women's Association (APWA). She was nominated as its first President and unlike Pakistan Women National Group, the APWA continued to grow as it continuously fought for woman's right in Pakistan. For its services, Government of Pakistan established APWA College in Lahore as part of its struggle.