If ‘Elegance is an attitude’, Fatima Jinnah had it pinned down to perfection. The white cotton gharara, chiffon dupatta and string of pearls was a timeless classic look created by Ms. Jinnah that would not be out of place on today’s fashion scene. Beside the ensemble, the dignity and poised confidence exuding from her photographs make them never seem dated.
Fatima Jinnah was not the timid consort to her brother you might imagine. She was a qualified dental surgeon who changed her career track to politics; a conscious decision made after taking into consideration the unfolding geo-political scenario of the time.
No shrinking violet, she was very vocal in her criticism of the British colonial mindset, the Raj holding no charm for her. As a leading member of the Muslim League, she strongly advocated the two-nation theory.
Ms. Jinnah went to school at the Bandra Convent in Mumbai, then pursued a college education at the University of Calcutta, studying dentistry. After graduation, she set up a dental clinic in Mumbai in 1923. She moved in with her brother after his break-up with Ruttie Jinnah, and according to the Quaid, became his greatest confidante and support in what would be a long and arduous political journey.
In the days after Partition, Ms. Jinnah immersed herself in rehabilitation of refugees, the resettlement and financial empowerment of women refugees her main focus. She created the Women’s Relief Committee for migrants, which later evolved into APWA, the All Pakistan Women’s Association, a prototype for all the NGO’s fighting for women’s rights in Pakistan today.
Seeing her brother’s dream being frittered away by power-hungry autocrats, Fatima Jinnah, a frail old lady with a core of steel, stood up for democratic values and participated in general elections against Ayub Khan. The election was marred by widespread rigging, but though she lost, the moral victory was hers because the majority of people felt that Ayub had cheated her out of her rightful position as the elected head of the country.
The first woman to lead the Pakistani nation would come years later in the person of Benazir Bhutto, but Ms. Jinnah was the one who set the tone for what the Pakistani woman should be – fearless, liberated and stylish!