KLF celebrates heroic lives of Fatima Jinnah, Benazir Bhutto, Asma Jahangir
Speakers at a session on Friday on the first day of the 11th Karachi Literature Festival agreed that a common achievement of Fatima Jinnah, Benazir Bhutto and Asma Jahangir was their struggle against the military dictatorship of their eras. They said progress and prosperity of every society required that women fully participated in different walks of life.
Sheema Kermani, a women rights activist and art performer, Victoria Schofield, a British writer and commentator who writes extensively on South Asia, and Karamat Ali, a noted labour rights leader, spoke to a session titled ‘Women Of Substance: Fatima Jinnah, Benazir Bhutto and Asma Jahangir’.
Fouzia Saeed, an expert on gender and culture and head of the Pakistan National Council of Arts (PNCA), moderated the session. Speakers said the three women were the voices of the oppressed and their bravery and courage would be remembered for forever.
Kermani, who also heads the Tehreek-e-Niswan, said the three women were courageous and outspoken persons who not only reshaped the political history of the country by confronting military regimes of their eras but also struggled for a just society and equal rights.
Mentioning the hot issue of the forthcoming Aurat March, she said that backlash which the organisers of the march had been receiving showed anti-women mentality. “Defeat of this mentality will pave the way for a just and equality-based society, for which Fatima, Benazir, and Asma struggled for in their lives.”
Schofield, who was also a close friend of Benazir since their studies at the University of Oxford, said the three women had raised a strong voice when others were silent due to oppression.
She added that these women were role models and Pakistan should celebrate their heroic lives. She also shared her experiences of working with Benazir and Asma. Citing the speech of Federal Education Minister Shafqat Mehmood at the KLF’s inaugural ceremony, she said that it was very important to teach gender equality at school. “It will help in removing gender stereotyping from society.”
Ali, who is also the executive director of the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (Piler), said Fatima challenged the dictatorship of Gen Ayub Khan when there were silence and fear everywhere, and she was able to rattle the foundations of his reign.
He said Asma started her struggle at a young age when her father was detained by Gen Yahya Khan. Similarly, Benazir had a history of struggle against Gen Ziaul Haq, challenging his fascist dictatorship.