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Nabila Malick

Features Sinful Spouses

My Brutal Lord

A chilling tale of an injustice meted out to many women even in this day and age!

The gate opens, a car enters and stops in the garage. A man gets out of the car and walks into the house. This entire activity takes no more than three minutes, but these are the most crucial three minutes in Naheed’s life. If she manages to put the warm food on the table, get her girls to sit there and is herself also comfortably sitting waiting for her husband, then the rest of the evening will be spent in peace but if any one of these things is out of place before Amir her husband walks through that front door, all hell will break lose.

Amir is a self-made man. His is a typical rags to riches story and he proudly tells whoever cares to listen about the hardships he had to endure. His immediate family that is the wife, Naheed and two beautiful daughters, Anum and Sidra know every story by heart but are still subjected from time to time to a rerun.

Naheed’s parents were well off and she was a pampered child. That is why when she met Amir in University she fell in love with his fighter spirit. She forced her parents to agree to the match, even when they did not see it fit, and now 15 years later she wonders if that was a good idea.

Amir is an honest, sincere and straight forward man but he is a hard core disciplinarian. His philosophy of life is simple: if you want to achieve something in life you have to discipline yourself. His family did not have it easy in life.

The first time Naheed was subjected to punishment for lack of discipline came very early in their marriage. She was getting ready for an evening out with her newly wedded husband. The plan was to watch a movie and have dinner afterwards at Naheed’s favourite restaurant. She wanted to look her best and when Amir came to pick her up after office at the scheduled time of 7 pm, she was still putting on her makeup. She heard the horn of the car, but continued to apply the final touches to her face. She heard the horn thrice and smiled to herself thinking that her husband is impatient to see her. It took her 10 extra minutes to satisfy her vanity but as she reached the door, she saw her husband coming out of the car. She ran towards him apologizing but he pushed her and entered the house. She followed him and kept saying, “Let’s go we will be late!”, but he said nothing. When he opened his mouth his anger scared Naheed out of her skin. He said that they were late already and tore the tickets. He said that he could not stand people who were not punctual and wasted money and time. He did not talk to Naheed that night. He went to sleep without food in his study.

Naheed was shocked at her husband’s behaviour. She felt hurt and humiliated and wondered the whole night if she had made the right choice.

This continued for a few days, during which Amir didn’t speak to Naheed and frequently yelled at servants for their little mistakes. On the fourth day when Naheed’s parents had invited them for dinner she approached Amir, apologized for wasting time and requested him to accompany her to dinner. Amir reluctantly agreed.

Naheed was ashamed to admit to her parents that she was wrong and they were right all along in assessing Amir and rejecting him as a suitable match for their daughter.

The discipline related incidents became a routine and Naheed was seriously contemplating divorce when she found out that she was pregnant. Amir was there at every step of the way with her during her pregnancy and childbirth. Naheed’s stance softened and also Amir was very conscientious about his economic responsibilities towards his family and the house. Naheed would listen to her friends complaining about their husbands not supporting them, not paying attention to them, flirting with other women, some were sick and tired of interfering in-laws, whereas Naheed had none of these problems. Everyone around her, thought she was blessed and luckiest of all.

This made it harder for her to think about parting ways with Amir whose obsession with discipline was making her a nervous wreck. Everything had to be done on time, whether it was a minor detail like having lunch dinner or tea or a slightly more complicated adventure like taking a trip. Naheed could not enjoy any outings because she was afraid all the time that she will make a mistake and Amir will humiliate her in public.

She had another daughter two years later. Her children were her only source of joy but when they reached school going age they too were subjected to the same discipline standards which apparently was the reason behind Amir’s success in life.

Naheed’s life became even harder because she was always trying to protect her little girls from Amir’s bursts of anger and in the process she would often accept blame for their little mistakes, which she in her mind did not merit scolding or punishment.

Naheed has spent ten years of her life making sure Amir gets what he wants from her and his children and she will spend many more years doing the same. She can never relax because her mind is always trying to figure out if there is anything that will cause Amir to lose his temper. It is like she has to tip toe through life making sure another human being gets all he wants. But what about her? Is she not entitled to living her life the way she wants to? Is her life less valuable than her husband’s? She has already wasted her youth trying to measure up to Amir’s standards but what options does she have in our society?

There are many people like Amir who make their wives’ lives a living hell; some use discipline as a weapon, others have a cleanliness obsession, and many more such futile pursuits. They never try to find out what kind of a life will their wives like to have and what is important to them because they believe that wives are born to serve their husbands. Their opinions, likes and dislikes do not matter. Is it enough for a man to ensure that he has met all his family’s material needs? Is it enough that he does not cheat on the wife, works hard and provides for them economically? What about the hell such men create for that family, from which they can never break free because in our society such are the men who are supposed to be the best a woman can hope for?

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The Love Mirage

Brides & You got an interesting letter from one of our readers, sharing his story for the Sinful Spouses column and asking a question. Here is how the letter goes:

I am a fifty two year old man looking back at a 32-year-old marriage and feeling like a fool. My wife was 14 when we got married. It was an arranged marriage but I was happy and believed that my wife was happy too. We did not meet much before the marriage but we were no strangers. Being family friends for ages, we had ample opportunities to check each other out. My wife was a beauty and considered a catch, which made all my competitors very jealous of me when her parents agreed to marry her off to me. I was the most promising youth in town, so everybody more or less agreed that it was a good match or that is what I believed.

My wife is quite unaware of her beauty and her power over the opposite sex and that is one of her charms. It wins you over instantly, when you meet her. She is not just a beauty, she is intelligent and hard working. She came to live with me in my family home after our marriage. The home I shared with my parents, my two elder brothers and their families. The house was big with four portions, each brother getting one and my parents in the fourth one. We had a communal space that was in the middle of the house joining all four portions with independent entrances that were hardly ever used because we all used the main entrance leading us to the common area. The house was full of laughter and celebrations all around the year. My mother was proud of her three daughters-in-law, who never had any problems and lived together like sisters. We did not have servants, but each one of them felt obliged to the other for the care and love showered on them.

The house was blissful. They would go shopping for clothes and we would often catch them laughing and enjoying their adventures together. My mother enjoyed endless freedom and would go visit her friends and family all the time, which means she was never home. It was a fairy-tale setting.

Many things changed over the years but none of us felt the need to move out of our parents’ house. Who would want to walk away from a fairy tale existence? My brothers and I worked in our father’s shop, away from our small town and were out early in the morning and came back late at night. Mostly together but we were not stitched to each other. We had our different roles and would go about it making sure one of us is always manning the shop with my father.

I loved my wife when I married her but I fell deeper and deeper in love with her each day that we spent together till two years ago when I walked into our bedroom and found her in bed with my elder brother. And in a state of shock these were my thoughts: What was I seeing? When did it start? How is it possible? Who is this man? Who is this woman?

Trust me if you try hard enough you can still convince me that for that one fateful moment some evil spirits had taken over their bodies and they were not my wife and my brother. My brother dashed out of the private entrance before I could comprehend the situation and my wife froze and did not move at all. I kept staring at her for what felt like an eternity and she kept crying with her head down.

I left the room. I sat in the common area where the world was going on around me in the usual manner. My sisters-in-law were going on about their business but they did notice my off colour and thought I was falling sick. That is why I came home early on a working day. They made me comfortable so I could lie down and rest. I accepted their love and care and shut my eyes so they would not read what was imprinted in them. I looked at my elder sister-in-law- my brother’s wife, the man who had just stabbed me in the back or maybe had been at it for the last three decades, and I wondered if I could eye her the same way my brother looked at my wife. I was filled with disgust with the thought alone.    My mind would not stop playing the scenes I had just witnessed over and over again in my head and I felt anger, hurt and utter frustration at being unable to decide my next course of action.

I stayed like this for a whole week in the common area. My brother made an excuse and left the town for a month. I did not speak to my wife and she kept her distance. I would catch a glimpse of her every now and then working around the house but could not bear to look at her, so would shut my eyes immediately and pretend to be asleep. Many doctors were brought to my bed side and many a times blood was drawn out of my veins to get to the bottom of my disease.

Finally after eight days on bed I mustered enough courage to get up and leave the house. I tried to concentrate on work, sometimes it would work, sometimes it would not and like this a whole month passed. My brother returned home and kept avoiding being around me. I never knew my brother that well. He was eight years older than me and I was trained to keep a respectful distance. His job was to put my interest before him and mine was to obey his each and every command. I never saw or felt a reason to change that order. But my wife was my companion, mother of my only son and my life partner. I was so convinced that she loved me at least as much as I loved her if not more.

I did not know what to do or what was expected of me in the circumstances but I figured in one month that I would not be able to live with her and my brother under the same roof. I applied for a job in Dubai and eventually I managed to get it. The night before the morning I was leaving for Dubai, almost two months after the incident my wife found me in the room alone and came inside. She locked the door and sat in front of me. She spoke for the first time and this is what she said, “Are you leaving me?” I did not answer. She continued. “You should at least ask me why it happened.” I was not sure I wanted to know so I kept quiet.  “I will tell you anyway and then you can go,” she continued the monologue.

“I was fourteen when I came to this house. My mother said only one thing to me on my wedding day and that was that I should never come between the brothers. She said that they love each other and if you come between them you will have no place in that house.

On my wedding night you did not touch me because you thought I was sleeping when you came to my room. I was not sleeping I was crying because your brother paid me a visit and slept with me. I was so scared of him that I did not even stop him. Everyone was busy with guests and it was very late at night. The next morning I wanted to tell you but I did not know you that well and I knew what would happen to me if I did. It would not have been any different than today. And I was not ready for it. Living with you I fell in love with you. You took good care of me. I loved everyone in the house. I loved my life in this house and I did not want to risk it by telling anyone about the incident that nobody would do anything about; that nobody could undo! The way I saw it, staying quiet about it, was the best option I had.

I am not giving you an excuse. I am merely telling the story from my side. After the wedding night your brother would engage in the sinful act whenever he would find the opportunity of being with me alone, which was very rare so every time I would tell myself that the best way to deal with it is to stay quiet about it and when I did, things stayed the same and in a few days I would forget about it and enjoy my life. Then a few months back he made a key for our private entrance and started creeping up on me when I was alone in our bedroom. I tried to avoid being in the room alone but still he would find an opportunity every now and then.

I had now convinced myself that he is old, I am old and this will die down itself without anyone ever finding out but then that day you saw us. I wanted you to kill him but you just stood there judging me. And now you have decided to punish me by leaving me in the house alone with him and taking my life away from me.

Just tell me what was I supposed to do? I could not stop him without telling you or his wife and both options would have destroyed the household. Your parents would not have believed me. Am I sinful because I did not want you to throw me out because your brother forced himself on me?”

I did not say a word. She kept crying the whole time and finally got up and left the room. I got on the flight to Dubai the next morning and never went home but not a single day passes by when I do not think about my wife, my son, my house and the betrayal. What am I supposed to do? Please tell me if my wife’s love was nothing but a mirage?

Readers, we have brought this story to you not word by word of course, but you do get the picture clearly. The writer has asked the opinion of our readers, perhaps out of a sense of guilt or perhaps to get a validity stamp that his behaviour was justified. We cannot judge who is the sinful spouse here, the one who bailed out or the one who did what her 14-year-old mind told her to do to deal with an impossible situation and continued taking abuse because that is what our women are told to do. But if you have opinions do write to us. And what about the brother? He is the abuser but the brother did not even confront him. He lives the same fairy-tale life that he spoiled for others by the darkness in his soul.

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Mahtab Rashidi: Life On One’s Own Terms

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Most of us know Mahtab Rashidi from her TV appearances of the seventies and eighties when a young beautiful woman captured the heart of her viewers by her mesmerizing smile and her open, candid mannerism. She hosted many talk shows including ‘Farozan’ and there were rumours that this woman is not just a pretty face but also a highly educated university professor – a combination that easily won her a special place in the hearts of her viewers.

Many noticed her by her absence and by her principled stand at refusing to obey the unfair dictates of a dictator. She disappeared from the screen, like many talented people who were unwilling to sacrifice their freedom for fame, when Zia ul Haq came into power and imposed his brand of Islam on television programmes. The disobedience caused a ban on her appearance on television which lasted for 8 years.

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She reappeared after Zia-ul Haq’s death during the election transmission and is now planning a few programmes on Hum Television and Pakistan Televison Network. One of her planned programmes is Meri Kahani Meri Zubani to be aired by Hum TV and to document the lives of the living legends.

I being one of her admirers on both counts was lucky enough to meet her again recently. She may have gained a little weight but her smile retains the charm of yesteryears. We spent two three days together in Bangkok and that is where I met the real Mahtab Rashidi, who is a lot more than a pretty face and a brainy professor. he is above all a beautiful, fun loving friend who makes everything look so simple and good that you tend to forget all the painful realities of life.

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Mahtab was born in a family of four sisters and one brother. Her father was a school teacher and her mother an illiterate woman. She belongs to the village of the late Prime Minsiter Benazir Bhutto. Her father was a very liberal man despite his rural background and environment. He was a supporter of girl education and made sure all his four daughters would complete their education even if it meant for him to transfer from the village of his forefathers and move to a city where higher education was available to girls. In Nodero, where he was a school teacher there were no schools for girls so he had put his daughters in co education and when he realized that they could not continue their education in Nodero he moved to Hyderabad. So although the village Mahtab grew in was not very educated, liberal or broadminded but the house was just the opposite because of her father.

Mahtab being the youngest of her four sisters remembers her childhood as a very happy time except that when she finished her schooling from Meeran school her father made her study science and got her enrolled for FSc. He wanted her to become a doctor but Mahtab had no stomach for science subjects, maths and chemistry were totally beyond her.  She did poorly in her exams and her father had to allow her to study art subjects. That is where she excelled and got through all her exams with distinction.

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Her growing up was not tough because of her father. She had the freedom to travel and to work on televison, unlike most girls, at a young age. She remembers that they were allowed to visit friends but prior permission was very important. There were rules in the family the logic behind which was only known to the parents. For example they would visit friends but never stay at their place for the night. A rule Mahtab imposed in her household as well. She remembers that her mother was not very happy about her TV assignments but her father supported her and let her follow her dreams. She gained tremendous confidence from her work on TV.

Mahtab believes that parents should have confidence in their children and they should allow them to explore their potential. She said that we are going backwards in many ways and one is the way women are treated in our society. Girls used to have better life, a more liberal lifestyle in yesteryears compared with current times. These undue restrictions kill confidence, productivity and creativity in humans and we need to do away with them especially when it comes to women and young girls.

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Mahtab’s dream in life was to become a school teacher. She has a gift for dealing with children who love her in return. She even did Bachelors in education and joined St. Mary College in Hyderabad to follow her dreams but was pulled out because she won lecturership in Government  College.

She still remembers her short tenure as a school teacher. Children would call her the teacher with flowers as the moment she would enter college her students would offer her gifts of flowers and by the time she would reach the staff room she was loaded with bouquets that were offerings from her admiring pupils.

She was working in Sindh University, International relations department when she won full bright scholarship and went to US for higher studies. On her return she rejoined her post. That is when she met her husband.

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Mr Rashidi had won quite a reputation for being a good looking engineer who had joined university in her absence. Her first meeting with him was a memorable event. She had gone to see her chairman in connection with a complaint and he was also there, as the campus was very big so they used to move around in car provided by the university. When Mahtab came out of the chairman’s office she found out that the car that was supposed to transport her back had gone to pick someone else. The university photographer who was present at the occasion introduced Akbar Rashidi to her and also suggested that she should let Akbar Rashidi drop her off to her department as he owned his own car. Mahtab kept waiting for Rashidi Sahib to make the offer himself but when he didn’t she decided to wait for her ride and not impose herself on him exploiting the photographer’s suggestion and politely declined the offer. However, she still remembers that she was offended by the snobbish attitude.

A few days later Mr Akbar Rashidi had to visit her department for some building repairs and that is how they got to know each other. In 1981 Mahtab married Akbar Rashidi in a grand ceremony that was attended by the late Benazir herself.

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There is a historic event related to her wedding. Belonging to the same village and being the educated woman brought her close to Benazir and her family. Begum Bhutto asked the family to change the wedding date. It was announced in the newspapers that Begum Bhutto will attend the wedding on a certain date. That got the government’s attention away from Begum Bhutto, which made it possible for her to slip to Lahore and attend the Convention which the government didn’t want her to attend. She had sent Benazir in her place to attend Mahtab’s wedding.

Reminiscing about the early days of her married life she said that her marriage was not an easy one as her husband belongs to a very conservative Syed family who were not very enthusiastic about his choice for a bride. Her father in law was unhappy with the union and only changed his mind when he came to visit his son after the birth of his first grandson Rafay. Mahtab said that he came to visit her in her office and for the first time realized that his daughter in law was a high level very well respected officer. He was proud of her and was big enough to show his change of opinion.

Mahtab has two sons Rafay and Suhaib. Rafay is married and settled in Pakistan Suhaib is still studying. In 1988 Mahtab moved to Karachi and got posted as Secretary Culture, Youth affairs and sports. She is the first woman to have this title. After that she became the Director General of Environment, then Secretary Education and later Secretary Culture. She retired from administration job as Secretary Inter-provincial coordination.

Mahtab managed time for social welfare activities despite her demanding job portfolios. She became a volunteer for Rahnuma Family Planning Association of Pakistan in 1980 and continues to serve the organization in the capacity of a vice president even today. She is also a member of the Sindh Graduate Association and President of Business and Professional Women Association.

Mahtab is the Executive Director of I Television Network that looks after HUM, Masala, Oye and Style 360 channels.

She loves to read books, likes being at home more that anywhere else but doesn’t like to cook. She enjoys socializing but only with close friends. She is a calm person by nature; she does not panic or take stress. She has a positive attitude towards life which makes her a delightful person. The strengths of her characters include words like determination, integrity, faith in herself and God, humility and she says she loves people.

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She believes her biggest achievement is that ‘being a woman she is considered to be somebody who others want to follow. “When young girls come to me and say we want to be like you I feel very proud and happy.”

She protests when people compare her to Benazir on the ground that Benazir came from a highly privileged background for her to get education and to become who she became was a different kind of struggle whereas for people like Mahtab who live in the world of common people life brings many challenges. Mahtab’s success gives hope to ordinary women that they too can become extra ordinary by inculcating the qualities of determination and integrity like Mahtab.

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From Our Archives- Kashmala Tariq Brave New Woman

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I dream of a Pakistan where political parties and politicians are free to voice their concerns on the floor of the parliament; where women are treated equal to men; where there isn’t a huge gap between the rich and the poor; where every citizen gets the same education; where no one needs to hire a private guard to feel safe…. and I believe such a Pakistan can exist. All we need is a sincere leadership with vision.” A passionate Kashmala Tariq pours her heart out in an exclusive interview with Brides & You.

This bold and the beautiful young politician stands out not because she is pretty but because she is outspoken and courageous and can speak her mind at any forum. She can call a spade a spade and in our hypocritical society it is not a habit that goes down very well with the power lords. But Kashmala has not just survived in politics she has come a long way. She was elected as Chairperson of Commonwealth Women Parliamentarian from 2007 to 2010. She won the post in balloting against parliamentarians from Canada, Dominica and Australia.

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Kashmala Tariq, current Member of National Assembly, appeared on the political horizon nine years ago. This young girl, within no time became the darling of the media. However, the initial coverage of her activities in media is all biased against her because she was viewed suspiciously by the journalists. A woman as beautiful and young as Kashmala, in their minds, did not belong in the tough world of politics and coupled with this was our centuries old cultural bias that a beautiful woman is usually brainless.

I had never paid much attention to Kashmala or the other girls who joined politics around the same time but their faces were familiar because of their endless appearances on national television and in print media. Being a women rights’ activist, I was happy that young women were taking an interest in politics and thought that with time they will be groomed to become agents of change and will establish the civilized society’s rule of ‘right is might’ instead of the prevailing jungle rule of ‘might is right’.  I did wish these ladies well but to tell the truth I also shared the common suspicion about their intentions and calibre as politicians.

However, all that changed recently when I met Kashmala Tariq for the first time a few months ago. I invited her to an interface with survivors of early marriages – an event organized by Rahnuma FPAP to bring to light the atrocities committed in the name of marriage against young under-aged girls. The idea was to let the policy makers of this country interact directly with these survivors so they know how grievous the situation is.

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Kashmala was not one out of 10 women parliamentarians that I was expecting that day. I had invited her but I knew she is based in Lahore and for her to make it all the way to Islamabad for a two-hour event especially, when the parliament was not in session, was a little too much to ask. I offered to send her an air ticket which she declined and that further dashed my hopes. As a routine, I did check with her that morning if she was coming to which she said that women issues are close to her heart and she awon’t miss an opportunity to have a face to face dialogue with these girls whose rights were denied to them, but I wasn’t sure. Therefore, when she arrived at the event she earned my instant respect for being sincere to her job.

The second time that Kashmala surprised me was when I requested her for an interview and she kindly agreed. On the day of the appointment I called her at the fixed time but she excused herself saying that something had come up and she wished to switch the appointment to the next day. I have been dealing with all kinds of celebrities during my over three-decade long journalistic career and I knew that this meant, trying to get an appointment all over again. I was not looking forward to it and even started exploring other possibilities as my deadline was near. But the next day before I could have called her to make the appointment Kashmala called me herself, started with an apology for not being able to keep her appointment and told me to come over to her place for the promised interview. Those of you who are not familiar with politicians’ behaviour, let me assure you, this is most unusual and speaks volumes for Kashmala’s character.

I arrived for at her house. The house was full of artifacts collected from all over the world. Beautiful paintings adorned the walls and hundreds of law books piled up on the table bore testimony to her claim that she takes her role very seriously.

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Kashmala Tariq was born in Lahore on January 24, 1972. In 1991 she graduated from from Kinnaird College for Women, Lahore in Maths, Stats and Economics. Her passion for law took her to Punjab University Law College from where she earned an LLB in 1996 and for higher degree in law, she proceeded to London School of Economics, U.K in 1999. She came back with LLM. At LSE she remained the President of the LSE Students’ Union between 1998 and 1999. She invested a number of years in practicing law with the famous firm of S M Zafar. To date she claims that law remains her passion but she was swept into politics by incidents in her life that were not really planned that way.

However, she claims that politics is not her passion – bringing a change is, and politics is just a means and a legitimate and only way towards achieving her goal. She got into politics very early in life. She was Secretary General of an Environmental NGO (Sath) from 1992 to 1995; and the President of the Peoples Students Federation (PSF) from 1993 to 1995. During her stay at LSE, she developed her political affiliations with ‘Pakistan Tehreek-e Insaf – Imran Khan’s brain child’. For two long years i.e. 1998 – 2000, she remained ‘Chief Organizer – Pakistan Tehreek-e Insaf UK’. But got disillusioned by lack of vision in party leadership.

Ms Kashmala Tariq’s political career did start in her student life, but she her mainstream political career can be traced to her becoming the Chief Organizer of PTI in UK. On her return to Pakistan, she joined PML (Q). She was attracted to the moderate-Pakistan concept of Musharraf and remained one of his die hard supporters and admirers for a long time. However, now she feels that Musharraf too lost his way towards the end and became more concerned with his own survival than with his vision for the country.  She is in general disillusioned by all the leaders in this country. She thinks that after Jinnah the country never got a sincere and capable leader and that is why we cannot show any improvement in our situation.

Kashmala Tariq was elected to the Parliament in Pakistan on a Women Reserved Seat in the Punjab Province.  In her nine year long career in mainstream politics she has been groomed. Her open mannerism and courage earned her respect of her colleagues and media. Her background in law enabled her to contribute in major changes like formation of women protection bill and hudood ordinances.

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Her area of interest is education and she feels very strongly about it. She believes that if a change will come in this country it will only come if and when education is given due importance. There is a dire need of awareness and education for the masses. The other subject close to her heart is women rights. She feels that women are suffering in this country because their rights are shamelessly denied to them. She said that if people believe that women belonging to the elite class or the so called upper class are protected from this trend they are mistaken. A large majority of women, regardless of the economic class they belong to, are forced to suffer injustices in the name of tradition and custom and also by gross misinterpretation of religion.

Like any public figure Kashmala has had more than her fair share of scandals. However, she never feels flustered or depressed by these incidents. She said that she believes in God and leaves it up to him to deal with those indulge in mudslinging. She also said that why should I bother with such people when I know that people who do these things are actually the ones who are insecure in their positions.  And things that are not based on truth, never last – like all lies they fizzle out with time.

Kashmala is married and has one son. Her favourite pastime is to go ridding with her son. She also enjoys Swimming and listening to good music. Her message to our young female readers is ‘stand up and be counted’. She agrees that Life for women is hard in this country but if we are to change the way we are treated we will have to show the courage that is required to defeat the forces that still want to push us in dark ages and want women to be subservient to them and wish to push them back into centuries old conservative roles. It is the responsibility of every female to make herself strong so she has a voice and visibility in our society. We can only win the fight for our rights if we go for it as a force – together. The first step towards winning this war is to become economically independent so no one can suppress you.

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Maria B- Fashion Industry s Time Tested Entrepreneur

We went to meet Maria B. after a long time. She is among the very few time tested friends of Brides & You. She supported us in our initial issues and we continue to enjoy her support now, that we have almost a decade of experience behind us.

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Maria, clad in her new black and white lawn sensation, wearing exquisite pieces of jewellery from her own Mgirl collection had the aura of a woman who has tasted success after discovering her calling in life. This got us more interested in her as a person, than as designer because an artist’s personality is what defines their work. Maria’s calm demeanor is reflected in her summer designs that speak of elegance, charm and confidence that can only be achieved if one is at peace with oneself.

So what does it take to have that confidence and level of success that Maria enjoys? Is it the launching and running of five brands namely Maria B Bridals, Maria B Evening Wear, Mafia (cotton wear), Mgirl (western clothes and accessories) and Maria B Lawn; or being the single mother of the most beautiful little creature on earth called Mariam; or starting a movement in Pakistan to wake up the youth and make them realize what the country can offer only if they own it up and start taking pride in it?

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What motivates a busy designer, who is also a mother, to take time and money out for a social cause? Maria traces it back to her own childhood. She is the daughter of an Army officer who inculcated in her an undying love of the country and her spiritualism which forces her to look at the universe in totality. If she is blessed with a good life, she has to acknowledge the land that made it possible and give something back to it. According to her she owes it to Pakistan as it is this country that has given her the honour, the space and the identity that makes her who she is today.

The movement started with a single event in Lahore. She gathered the youth from universities in Lahore and got Mr Zaid Hamid to deliver a lecture on how and why we should have a positive attitude towards completing the mission that started with Allama Iqbal’s dream. The event named “Wake-up Lahore” was so successful that it turned into a nation-wide movement. Today around 20 universities from all over Pakistan are part of this movement and Maria with the support of her friends including Ali Azmat, Shehzad Roy, Fariha Jamshaid and Faiza Ansari is most enthusiastically leading it. Ary television also got involved as media partners and runs a show by the name Wake-up Pakistan every Friday at 11 pm.

There are many perks of being a successful entrepreneur and one of them is control over one’s time. In a world where most single mothers are bogged down with the guilt of being unable to spend time with their children, Maria despite her endless activities and commitments makes time for her only child. She enjoys being a mother and has no regrets about ending relations with her father. When asked to comment on why is it that most successful women are unable to maintain successful relationships she said, “Men in our country lack confidence in themselves and can’t deal with women who know their worth and are unwilling to compromise on their rights as individuals”. She also blamed women, unfortunately a large majority, who sell themselves short because they dare not violate customs and traditions, no matter how humiliating it may become.

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However, unlike most who go through relationship breakups Maria is not pessimistic and is keeping her options open in case she finds a man who is confident enough to celebrate a woman’s successes because according to her, only that person will be worthy of her companionship.

That leaves us with the five business ventures. But before we go into that let us tell you how it all started. Maria started her business almost a decade ago with the seed money of two million and within six months the business started giving profit. The secret according to Maria of a good business is very simple, make a good product and price it well – success follows automatically. Hard work is the only tool for success.

Maria even today, when she has achieved what most cannot even dream of, gets up early in the morning and by eight am, she is at her factory which is at least an hour’s drive from her home. She is always properly dressed as she believes that the right clothing and right food are essential to maintain a positive outlook towards life. A woman’s mind and body should always be in harmony. All those who think fashion is frivolous need to rethink as it is very importance in building self confidence of a person. A well dressed person is always more positive.

On the way to Maria’s factory as I was going through some notes picked from the net and since we got lost and had plenty of time to reflect on them, I came across her claim that the label Maria B is all about affordability. Aha, I thought to myself, who remembers this kind of a claim made a decade ago, so I am going to definitely question her about it. But during the interview before I could remember to ask my favourite question Maria said, “As you know I don’t believe in designing for the elite only, my success is if I can increase my out reach and see more and more women of Pakistan wearing my label. Affordability has always been a big concern of mine and remains an obsession.”  Well, it is so nice to know that there is someone out there who is not catering to the select few but thinking of the women in general and trying to reach out to maximum number by keeping the prices in check.

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The obvious query after this is don’t you lose money by not catering only to the class who possess all the money to throw away on dresses. As we hear that there are families who will spend hundreds of thousands for a label only and Maria easily qualifies to be their first choice. Does this make any business sense? To my surprise her answer was yes, it makes good business sense as I make a lot of money selling my lawn prints and the fashion line called Mafia.

Mafia? Now what kind of a name is that for a fashion label. Maria very candidly told me that it is only an F away from Maria and at the time when she came up with the name there were too many fashion mafias struggling for power so she decided to come up with her own Mafia, she added with broad smile on her face. Mafia is her most profitable venture so far.

Mafia offers cotton, staple 3 piece casual outfits, using indigenous khaddar, cottons and linens. Every season new screen prints are designed, with western cuts and silhouettes, a fusion of international trends and Pakistani styles is created.

Maria-B Brides is the haute couture, or made to measure line at Maria B. Maria admitted that this has been somewhat neglected due to her other more demanding activities but she plans to revive it this season. Bridal wear she said is not the most profitable, as many people believe. She finds it a bit boring also because usually our girls don’t want to experiment with their bridal dress. They want to stick to the traditional colours and but once in a while a bold bride comes along, who allows Maria to design for her differently, and that is where the fun lies for Maria.

Maria’s evening wear collection is dominated by chiffons, silks and georgettes, embellished exquisitely with usual and unusual materials. These are trendy and designed to make a woman feel good for a special evening.

Mgirl is the fun and fearless western wear brand. This has everything from tops, pants, dressers, shoes, bags, bracelets earrings, corsages, belts, gloves, caps, scarves and socks. Maria gets her accessories made from China and visits the country at least twice a year to ensure high quality and perfect designing. Mgirl was launched last year and so far its sales have already gone up to 50 million.

Four years ago Maria ventured into the lawn making business and today she claims to be amongst the top two designers for lawns in Pakistan. She is most proud of her 30,000 collection of lawn suits that is available at all her retail shops. Maria has 11 shops in Pakistan which is her main target market but she is also popular in the west and caters to the ever increasing demand through an on-line shop where her products are available.

This Pakistan School of Fashion Design genius has won many awards and plans to win many more. Her ambition has no limits. She is indeed the pride of the women of Pakistan.

Cover Shoots

Dr Samina Khalid: Your Friend In Need

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I remember Dr Samina from her college days when she was studying to become a doctor at Fatima Jinnah Medical College, Lahore. I think she was the reason why I decided at school that I wanted to join the noble profession. I wanted to be as impressive and graceful as she appeared to my young eyes. I saw her often briefly, as I was a frequent visitor to their house, coming in going out always in a hurry doing many things at the same time. She is one of those people who make you wonder from where they bring all that undying passion for life.
We all celebrated when she got her doctor’s license but she became even scarcer to find for visitors like myself once she started her job. Then I heard that her wedding was arranged with another doctor based in Faisalabad.
Dr Samina Anwar became Dr Samina Khalid and that was one of the luckiest things that happened to Faisalabad. And I will come to that in a minute… Dr Samina got a chance to work for a project ‘Life’ in Lahore that was initiated by the famous gynaecologist Dr Rashid Latif and which is known by the lay people as test tube baby. She equipped herself with appropriate training and experience in the field for 15 years and also added to her degrees a few more in the area of gynea and obs.
In her early years in Faisalabad she worked as assistant professor Punjab medical where she came to know about the people of her new city especially the women and more specifically the ones who were not blessed with God’s greatest gift to mankind – children…. one’s own son or daughter.
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For years she kept witnessing the pain, frustration and anguish attached to being deprived of having a baby. And all this time with her experience and knowledge in the area she knew that she could do something for them, she could help them have babies and have a full life that they desired so much. The frustration of watching couples’ despair over infertility gave birth to a dream in her heart. Her dream was to bring the services to the people of Faisalabad which they otherwise could not afford.
When she could not remain a silent spectator to the avoidable misery of so many people she decided to quit her job that was promising with lucrative incentives and promotions, at the time and started working on realising her dream. She gave her dream the name ‘Friends’ and appropriately so because who else will be bothered enough to do something about a problem but a friend indeed. This is the first of its kind clinic in Faisalabad that offers artificial reproduction techniques. It also offers latest technology testing of uterus known as Hysteroscopy in which a mini camera in inserted into the uterus to check for any abnormalities. Among its many unique features is the special homely atmosphere which provides a comfortable environment to patients seeking treatment.
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Dr Samina Khalid along with her supportive husband and partner Dr Khalid Javed decided to bring the cure of infertility to Faisalabad and make it accessible and affordable to people who wish to go through it. As one of her observation was that most couples who knew about the test tube alternative and wanted to try it didn’t opt for it because they could not afford the treatment or the extended stay it required in a different city. Very few people are dedicated enough to realise a big dream like ‘Friends’. But Dr Samina and her husband did. They established a small clinic by the name Chenab at 42 Jinnah Colony in Faisalabad and started negotiations for collaborations with the experts in the field for turning it into a full fledged fertility clinic. Dr Rashid Latif and his team were instrumental in making it happen.
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As a result of endless meetings, negotiations, quality checks and procurement of equipment, ‘Friends’ has recently started functioning fully. The occasion was marked by a graceful opening ceremony to which Dr Rahid Latif and his team were also invited as special guests.
So far, four couples have undergone the advanced procedure which is called IVF. This is one of the latest techniques in artificial reproductive techniques and is rated highly because it places the fertilized capsule inside the mother so the couple feel in control of their situation and rest their minds vis a vis any possible mistakes in handling the process till the formation of an embryo. It also helps them bond with their child from the very start of the process making it closer to the natural process than it ever was in the past procedures. ‘Friends’ offer this latest technique along with the old ones including IVF etc.
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‘Friends’ is now in business and its first batch of four patients treated so far, has shown a hundred percent success. Within nine months Faisalabad will have its very own baby as a result of artificial reproductive technique. I call ‘Friends’ a big dream not because to me any humanitarian cause is a big cause, but also it is quite big in the layout. Along with the normal consultation rooms, labour rooms, recovery area and waiting room is laboratory which is designed especially to provide the environment required for such sensitive procedures. All the equipment was acquired from the Galaxy Pharmaceuticals Company which is known globally for its high quality in lab set ups.
The team at ‘Friends’ is small but comprised of highly motivated, dedicated doctors and lab technicians. Dr Samina performs the surgeries, Dr Khalid looks after the male infertility section, Dr Sumera, MS in lab techniques was trained at Hamid Latif Hospital and is a certified embryologist, Dr Mohsina is a Fellow in Gynea and Obs, works as a counselor, performs check-ups and records initial history. Other than these there are a number of trained staff nurses who look after the patients during their stay in the clinic.
The cost for a full treatment depending on the age and many other factors, starts from 180000. If done in a different city you have to add the cost of living in that city for at least a month or two. The treatment requires frequent check ups but ‘Friends’ has brought this price down to a minimum of 150,000 and can go up to 250,000 depending on many factors. Sharing the worldwide statistics of infertility she said in a meeting. I chanced upon by sheer luck, that 15 per cent couples are infertile in the world and 35 per cent of these live in Pakistan. She has decided to bring this percentage down and if anyone could do it that is Dr Samina Khalid.
Dr Samina also revealed to us that usually an untrained birth attendant or a dai or in some cases hakeems with their endless totkas cause infertility among women. Fallopian tubes are as thin as a hair and when they induce some stuff in them they get clogged for life. Women panic if they can’t conceive within a month after their wedding and start visiting dais for advice. Dr Samina said that if after trying for six months the desired result is not achieved the couple should visit a doctor and first a man should volunteer to get his test done. One because it is a very easy test and second most of the problems caused by the male partners have simpler and quick solutions. If all is clear, then a woman should get herself checked and tested. And if there is a problem drop in at ‘Friends’ especially if you are based in Faisalabad.

Cover Shoots

Sinful Spouses: My Lord Have Mercy

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By Baila

It is easy to deal with bad husbands compared to those who are good. Don’t panic, I do have a point and I am going to make it. What is good? In the marriage context and especially in our social set up for a husband to earn the ‘good’ label there are certain parameters. Top most is the ability to support the wife i.e. economic support. A husband who earns and provides for his family is a good husband. This medal is not given on the basis of the ability to provide as the sincerity towards the family. The husband who earns little but spends it all on his family is the ideal example here. The wife is expected to remain indebted to her male partner for this sincerity and show her gratitude by complete submission to his commands.

Now imagine, if this picture of sincerity is also a man who is constantly trying to make his home a more comfortable place for his wife and children. His status rises even higher in the eyes of the constantly watching and judging society. You must be wondering how this good husband merits to feature in our sinful spouses column. Well they do… remember our definition of sinful spouses is based on how miserable one spouse makes the other regardless of how society rates them. So these social angels are sinful spouses because their noble desires have painful consequences for their partners.

There is one example which I will share with our readers. There is this very good husband living with his wife and two bratty children in a reasonably big house in a posh locality of Lahore. They have recently bought this new two storey house with five bedrooms. Children being small still live with their mother and the father being good and loving also refuses to move into any other bedroom. The granny also lives with them and very calmly occupies one small bedroom which she has modified and altered according to her needs. So the short version of this long story is that all four remain cramped in one bedroom mostly on one double bed. The result of this over use of one room and no use of other rooms is, as many experienced in this area would have guessed, utter chaos. The one room that is in constant use is always cluttered with everybody’s most essentials and remains untidy most of the time. The other rooms are also not that clean because it is kind of hard to keep the rooms that are out of use in ship shape. The bottom line is that the house remains not so well organized most of the time and the social angel complains about it frequently with the entire society backing him and commending him for his good sense for tidiness and condemning the wife for being ill organized and lazy.

There are many perks that men by the virtue of being men enjoy in our society. These perks include getting top priority in the house. They have to be put first even before the children and their needs are to be attended to with utmost efficiency. If they are resting, it is a woman’s job to make sure everybody is quiet as a mouse because the man has earned his rest and if the woman will not ensure that he takes uninterrupted rest then he can fall ill and what will happen to the family then.  Their rights include the right to clean house, clean clothes, good and warm meals.  Children’s school matters are a grey area, providing for fee is definitely a man’s job but taking care of the pick and drop, uniform, books, copies, colour pencils and most important and difficult- the homework and exam preparation – all of this mainly fall under women’s responsibilities. In some households some of these are looked after by men also. If the woman is illiterate the man has to help out with homework and exam.  Anyway the man who ensures timely submission of fee for children is considered good enough. Those who look after other aspects are rated as angels.

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Coming back to the perks including right to a clean house – well, let’s say that some women are lucky and their husbands are not obsessive when it comes to cleanliness but others are not so lucky. Unfortunately, our sinful spouse of the quarter is obsessive and his wife going out of her mind trying to please her lord and master.

Democracy may be the rage of the world when it comes to states but dictatorship is the only rule when it comes to family units. The sinful spouse, the good husband and the social angel is also a dictator in his own right. He decided to try and help out his poor incompetent wife by renovating the whole house. One day when the wife came back from her 9 to 5 job and ran into the kitchen to make sure that dinner is up to everybody’s expectations she found three workers in her house building cupboards in every room of the house. The good husband was waiting in his room for the wife’s gratitude speech and the wife didn’t have the heart to tell him that this was probably the most inconvenient time to get carpenters in the house – children’s exams were near and her office was giving her extra work as it was closing of the year – so she smiled and said it was a good surprise.  The good husband went on his official trip and disappeared from the scene leaving the wife to deal with the workers and the racket they would create every day in the house and not to mention the total deprivation of privacy with strange looking men present all the time everywhere.

She was barely managing with this additional responsibility that one day on return from office she discovered four more men in the house walking around in all rooms. These men were electricians and had been engaged by her husband to put fancy lights, set up a UPS and a generator. Now how can anyone even suggest that this is not the most noble and sincere gesture one could expect from a good husband. So the wife swallowed her anger and pretended that she was most thrilled that her husband is thinking of all these things at the same time and not to mention arranging for extra money for the sake of wife and kids.

These surprises didn’t end here. Two more men came and started painting the house, three more came and started breaking the tiles in one bathroom because they were ordered to redo the bathroom. All this to help the wife get more organized and improve the living standard and blah blah blah…..

Mr. Sinful never realised that he needed to plan these things with the wife who ended up looking after all the projects, making sure everybody had money when they needed it, took receipts for materials, kept a book on labour charges, making sure the household items didn’t get damaged due to rough handling while the good husband whose job demanded frequently travel was never there to help out. However, he was constantly on the phone giving instructions to the wife as to how he needed every job done and on his short visits home would often scold her for not following the instructions carefully and wasting his hard earned money. In reality the wife would deal with eleven workers and technicians, looking after her children making sure they don’t fail in their exams, making sure despite all of this there is warm food on the table and ironed and clean uniforms hanging in the wardrobes everyday. She applied for leave many times but her office could not let her off so she continued with work also often coming much later than her usual time due to the work load.  The cherry on the top of the icing was that due to paint in the wrong season the kids got sick right when the exams started so she had to take them to doctors and stay up all night sponging them to bring the fever down.

Being human she also fell ill during this period and one day when she was running high fever her otherwise diplomatic and politically correct self made the mistake of complaining to her husband about what he was putting her through. He went ballistic and told her that she is not only incompetent but also a very ungrateful woman who is complaining about things that he is doing for her benefit. Now, is this good husband a sinful spouse or not .. we let you be the judge.

Editor s Pick

The Realm Of Silence

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Boy X is 14 years old and has started experiencing puberty related changes. Some are completely nerve wracking for him. He shares the bedroom with four of his siblings including one brother who is 9 and two sisters who are 12 and 13. They can’t afford a separate bedroom sometimes, especially when they have visitors, even the parents are cramped in the same room with them. Nocturnal emission which is a normal thing became a big issue with this kid. He would get up in the middle of the night wash up or hide things that would reveal his experience. He got so tired of it that one day he decided to discuss the issue with his friend. The friend was equally ignorant about puberty. But he knew of a man whom the boys visit if they have issues that fall in the “realm of silence”. And being a good friend, he willingly shared the address with Boy X.

Boy X thought about it for a long time as he was uncomfortable going to a man and telling him about his problem. In his heart he was convinced that he has some disease, probably a kind that is either fatal or will turn him impotent. However, his major concern was to deal with it before any of his siblings found out about it or worse his parents discovered him. Boy X feeling guilty went on the adventure one day. He lied to his parents and the rest of his family about his whereabouts that day. He stole some money from his mother’s purse as he knew there will be some cost attached to the visit.

In a shady small room that wasn’t well lit, Boy X arrived to discuss his problem in privacy with the man who was supposed to cure him. The man gave him some medicines which he happily took and started gulping down as soon as he got home.

Many weeks passed but his problem didn’t go away. He doubled the doze to increase the impact and after a month he noticed that there was blood in his urine.  Boy X is more worried now, than he ever was before, but after losing faith in the miracle-man, he has nowhere to go. He is too afraid to talk to his parents because now sharing the problem means also confessing to the fact that he had gone behind their back to another adult for guidance. He lied to them and he also stole money to be able to afford his medicine.

Boy X was buying groceries for the house one day with the money and the list his mother had given him, when he saw an orange poster on the glass wall of a clinic nearby. The colours attracted his attention. So with a bag full of potatoes he went closer to look. It said: “‘Youth Helpline’. Call our toll free number and our qualified counsellors will discuss any of your sexual reproductive health related problems that you can’t talk about with anyone and give you advice. Your call will be confidential and your details will not be revealed to anyone. For Lahore, Peshawar and Islamabad Call 0800 44488

For Gilgit Call 05811 58376 Rahnuma Family Planning Association of Pakistan.

Boy X noted the number down. Looked around to make sure nobody was watching him and quietly went home to deliver the groceries. That night he lay awake in his bed trying to decide whether he should call or not. But the idea of dealing with a machine was very attractive to him. He decided to make the call. After all, nobody will know it was him who called. He had nothing to lose. Next morning, right after school, he stopped at a payphone and took out the neatly folded piece of paper on which he had jotted down the number. He dialled and was instantly connected to a counselor. He had asked for a male counselor so he got a male counselor.

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The counselor took his name and address and promised him that he will not use it anywhere. But he needed it for his records and his reference number. At first he got scared but his need was so great that he gave in. The counselor asked him what was on his mind. After initial hesitation for a couple of minutes, Boy X poured his heart out at him.  The counselor was very patient and listened to his entire story. Later he gave him medical information about the changes he was likely to experience during his puberty.  That information had such a calming effect on Boy X that he could not help grinning on the phone for as long as he could remember later on. The counselor told him that he should immediately go to one of the clinics that his organization runs for boys like him and get proper treatment for his bleeding problem. For the other problem he needs to talk to his father who will make arrangements for his privacy in the house and help him deal with the situation created due to poverty.

Boy X was relieved. He even went to the clinic and got himself treated. He joined the organization’s youth programme which gave him other important information about his own body that will help him develop into a confident adult. But the part where he was supposed to talk to his father was the hardest to conquer.

One night an opportunity came his way. His mother along with the younger brother and sisters went to visit his Khala. He and his father were alone watching television. He summed up enough courage and broached the subject with him. The father was first shocked to see his son talking so confidently on such a hushed up subject but later realised that it was a lapse on this part because he as a father and as an adult should have foreseen this and talked to him about it earlier. He apologised to his son and shared his own equally weird and painful experiences of growing up. The sharing brought the two of them together like never before. There was always love between them but Boy X or his father never realised that an open talk would bring them so close. After that night they were just like two friends who could share things and enjoy life as friends. Nabila Malick.

Videos

Hina Butt More Than Just A Pretty Face

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By Nabila Zar Malick

She is described as the most beautiful woman in the parliament by the press in general but that is just one attribute of her multifaceted personality; Hina Butt is much more than just a pretty face, she is a woman of substance.

Always dressed elegantly and made up with the entire paraphernalia of high heels etc she challenges the stereotype image of serious minded career women by being a successful politician and entrepreneur at the same time. She is a confident brave new woman of Pakistan who is not afraid to look kempt and manages to command respect of her fellow politicians. The respect comes from her intellect and hard work and her useful contributions to all discussion on important social economic and political matters.  The years of hard work and grooming in some of the most prestigious educational institutes of Lahore including Convent of Jesus and Mary, Kinnaird College and LUMS has given her an edge over her colleagues. She holds a Masters in Business Administration and BA Honours in Computer Science from Lahore University of Management Sciences. She topped her class in both the courses.

Politics is her passion. She got interested in politics at a very young age- she was still in school when she joined the Youth Wing of PMLN in 1999. And remained involved with the party ever since in one capacity or the other. She is a diehard leaguer because she believes in the vision of the party. She agrees with their economic policies and believes they will prove most effective in solving this country’s problems.

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Her presence in the Punjab parliament is already making a difference. She played an instrumental role in the formation of all women parliamentarian’s caucus and the Punjab young parliamentarian’s caucus. Both these forums have members who believe in bringing about a change in the lives of the people of this country. They have joined hands over and above their party lines to work together for issues that often get neglected or compromised due to more pressing issues or party politics.

Hina is aware of the issues plaguing this country and understands their importance. She is an advocate for women rights and campaigns for women’s economic independence. She has zero tolerance for violence against women and believes that Punjab Assembly should also pass a bill raising the age of marriage for girls from 16 to 18. She understands that without proper support mechanism, women will never be able to take a stand against their oppressors. Most of the violence against women is carried out within the four walls of their homes and that is why it is important to ensure effective implementation of the laws that exist to protect them and make laws that are needed to fill the gaps to make the protection mechanism a reality.She is currently working on formation of Crisis centres for women, laws regarding acid-throwing and child marriage bill. She is among very few parliamentarians who understand the importance of a good population welfare programme which is required to realize the dream of development.

After completing her MBA she got many good job offers from big multi national companies, which all her friends and well-wishers, who believe in the traditional concepts of security, wanted to her accept. Hina decided to start her own business instead. There are risks involved in businesses and people who get good job offers often decide to take the safe way out. Hina on the other hand selected the risk filled path. She believes that all those who can afford to start their own small businesses should do it because that way we generate jobs for others and can be more useful in taking this country out of the economic crunch.

Hina works under the brand of ‘Teena’ and has grown big enough to generate employment for 100 people. Her business also generates work opportunities for women in the rural areas. She is very proud of the fact that many girls who joined her as employees have now moved on to launch their own brands. The business is not just a source of income for her and her employees but also a school where skills are imparted and independence encouraged.

Hina acknowledges her father’s positive influence on her life. She has two sisters, the elder one is in the States studying and the younger one is a housewife who lives in Lahore. She believes her confidence comes from the fact that her father believes in gender equality and raised her to be her own person.

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I have to confess when I was going to interview Hina, being the product of this society I also had some preconceived notions about this rich beautiful girl who has somehow landed herself in the parliament but I am very happy to admit that after talking to her I can see why she made it to the assembly. She has strong ideas for changing things for the better and has the confidence to make her voice heard. After talking to her I am very happy to say that it is people like Hina, young and capable, who will bring the change and make politics about people and not about power.

When I asked her to give advice to our young readers and share her secret of success which has made her our role model at such a young age. She said girls need to believe in themselves and be confident that with education and hard work they can achieve any goal that they set for themselves. If we want to change the ways things are done in this land we will have to change ourselves.

Women like Hina are playing a vital role in changing the stereotypical images ingrained in our minds about women. Most societies believe that women who have above average looks do not work hard and are not serious about their careers. Hina refuses to be apologetic about her good looks, takes pride in her hard work and credits her success to it.

Videos

Syeda Shehla Raza

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Syeda Shehla Raza, who is the third woman deputy speaker of the Sindh Assembly is the first and only lawmaker of the provincial legislature to clinch the coveted post for two consecutive terms. Her achievement is more remarkable because unlike the majority of women politicians in this country she has no strong political family background. She entered politics as a student of Karachi University back in 1986 because she could not stand the military rule and believes in fighting for change.

Shehla Raza comes from a respected and well educated middle class family. She was raised among her four siblings with high moral and cultural values. She is the fourth child of Syed Mohsin Raza Zaidi who was an employee of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission. She was born in Karachi. She got her Masters degree in Physiology from the University of Karachi. She joined the Peoples’ Student Federation in 1986 at a time when all political activities were banned and became its joint secretary and girls’ wing vice president. She was elected as member of Provincial Assembly of Sindh in the Elections held in year 2008 on the reserved seat from the platform of Pakistan Peoples Party Parliamentarian. In 2008 she was elected un-opposed as Deputy Speaker, Provincial Assembly of Sindh. By virtue of this, she also became the Vice President, Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, Sindh Branch. She was re-elected as deputy speaker in 2014.

Shehla’s journey to the position of Deputy Speaker is full of hardships and sacrifices. She was arrested many a times for her bold stances against the military dictatorship. By a rough estimate she has spent a total of four months and fifteen days in several jails. She has had her share of political victimization. She was picked up and subjected to severe torture by the police’s infamous Crime Investigation Agency (CIA) in 1990 on charges of arms trafficking. She was charged with driving a taxicab full of illegal arms and opening gunfire on police with an AK-47 assault rifle when she was intercepted by the police. The police’s amusing charge of accusing a woman of driving a cab and at the same time exchanging fire using a Kalashnikov with the law-enforcers subsequently earned her bail from the court. However, by that time she had already spent four months in the Central Prison Karachi and 28 torturous days in the CIA Centre. She had been arrested before being released on bail after 50 days in the murder case of two Karachi University employees. She was exonerated of all charges in 1994.

Shehla Raza married Ghulam Qadir, a pharmacist, in 1991 and the couple had a daughter in 1992 and a son in 1994. After 1997, her husband Ghulam Qadir was transferred to Islamabad and she continued her political work in Wah Cantt and Rawalpindi. She was back in Karachi in 2000 and by 2005 became the general secretary of the PPP ladies wing Karachi division.

In 2005 Shehla suffered a tragedy that shocked Karachi. She lost both of her children, 13-year-old Aks-e-Batool and 11-year-old Shayan Ahmed, in a horrific car accident. One minute her domestic life was perfect with a loving husband and two brilliant kids and the second it was all taken away from her. Many would just crumble after experiencing such a loss but Shehla focused all her energies and her mind on her work. Her husband, who is seen with her most of the time, proved to be a big support. She marches on to work for her people and her ideals.

Shehla makes frequent appearances on television boldly talking about matters that are close to her heart. Calm, composed with a pleasant smile, this tall and elegant lady is a treat to listen to and watch.

Speaking to Brides & You exclusively about her life and her dreams she touched upon many subjects. Women empowerment is one subject that is close to her heart. Whenever she finds opportunity she encourages young girls to become independent and take charge of their lives. She acknowledges that it is not easy for our girls because of a million taboos and harmful traditions but she maintains that it is doable and all those who have dared to break free where able to improve their lives and the lives of the people associated with them. The key is in hard work, persistence and patience.

We chose Shehla to be our role model for this issue because she qualifies every bit to be one. She is often featured in the press speaking out for the rights of the down trodden. She joined Peoples Party because she believes it works for the rights of women and is the only party that talks about Pakistan as a whole and does not think in terms of separate provinces.

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Women are suppressed in terms of socio-economic and tribal formations. She believes that it is mostly women who suffer and are often mistreated given the fact they live in a patriarchal society. She made headlines when she criticised the order by Sindh High Court, which allowed what she described as an ‘underage girl’ to be married. There is a law that prohibits marriages of girls aged less than 18 years. The outraged Shehla Raza reminded the custodians of law that Sindh Assembly had enacted a law to prohibit marriage of girls aged less than 18 years. This was strongly opposed by the Council of Islamic Ideology which issued an ‘edict’ for dissolving it but her government showed its commitment to resolving women issues by standing their ground.

She is constantly speaking against the sensitive issue of forced conversion of minority girls to Islam. She has pledged to adopt a legal course to provide protection to minorities and young girls and also have legislation made against forced conversions.

Shehla Raza who was a brilliant student recalled that her childhood dream was to become a doctor but her mother was uncomfortable sending her to Nawab Shah for medical education. Looking back at it she realizes that it was a good turn of events for her as she feels she can do a better job of serving humanity in her present position. Recalling the pleasant memories of her childhood she said, she was a very naughty child and would often end up being scolded by her mother. She could not resist mimicking if someone used a pretentious accent in her presence. Sometimes she would start the mockery right in front of the person which her mother found very offensive. She remembers playing with dolls and stitching their clothes and spending endless hours doing just that.

Due to her bold positions on sensitive subjects she is often facing threats and that is why her husband becomes uncomfortable if she goes shopping. Now the only time she goes shopping alone is when she is angry with her husband. Her tastes are simple but she likes to pick for herself and has to design her own clothes. She likes reading poetry and loves Chinese and Pakistani food. Her all-time favourites are Aaloo Ghost and Daal Chawal. She likes nature and her idea of relaxation is a walk on the beach and in the mountains. She keeps busy round the clock because she said if she is not busy doing something she starts to cry, with having a heart as burdened as hers is. We wish her success for all her future endeavours for the betterment of our country.