VIEW: Dr Fehmida Mirza, one among many —Riaz Ali Toori
The papers and TV channels did not even seek Dr Mirza’s comments on the allegations levelled against her
Dr Fehmida Mirza made history when on March 19, 2008 she was elected as the Speaker of the august National Assembly of Pakistan by an over two-thirds majority. She has the honour of becoming not only the first lady Speaker of any elected house of a parliamentary democracy, but also the entire Muslim world. Her election as Speaker of the House is a source of inspiration for the women of Pakistan, Islamic world and developing countries.
During her tenure Dr Mirza has been a vehement supporter of the female parliamentarians in the National Assembly irrespective of their party affiliations. During her tenure women parliamentarians dynamically contributed in legislation. We remember the role of women parliamentarians Ms Farahnaz Ispahani, Ms Bushra Gohar and others who very dynamically participated in legislation and raised their voices against all kinds of oppression by extremists, terrorists and human rights violators.
Until now, women’s empowerment was merely a slogan in Pakistan but the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), led by President Asif Ali Zardari, practically proved that it could actually be demonstrated. After Shaheed Benazir Bhutto, it was for the first time in the political history of the Muslim world and Pakistan that a woman was elevated to such an esteemed position. In the beginning, many in Pakistan believed that appointing a woman as Speaker would just create chaos in the House but reality proved otherwise. Her fairness, constitutionally and impartially, while presiding over the House, was highly appreciated by all.
A rigid state of mind claiming to be true and sincere followers of Islam have always cast aside the role of women in politics on the pretext that the real place of women is confined to the four walls of the home. The PPP is known to have always opposed this regressive idea and mindset and has strongly believed in equality of gender, having faith in the abilities of women and entrusting them with highly important positions.
In five years, Dr Mirza with her charismatic personality and wisdom has established that a woman in Pakistan can perform just like a man if not better, provided she is given equal status and respect. Today, she appears as a role model for the women, encouraging them to come forward and actively participate in the affairs of the state. By competently overcoming all types of hurdles in her way, Dr Mirza set a record of becoming an undisputed Speaker of the National Assembly of Pakistan. She earned the respect of the Opposition by providing no opportunity to them wherein they could show their mistrust in her.
It is regrettable that instead of recognising the worth of our women for such an effective role in the political affairs of the country, a section of the media is maligning Dr Mirza’s personality by forging allegations as is often done to politicians belonging to the PPP, braving a volley of allegations, and even serving sentences pronounced by Pakistan courts for uncommitted crimes. The PPP is always declared guilty even if proven innocent while many are declared innocent despite being proved guilty.
But today where have all those conspirators and political actors gone who left no stone unturned in destabilising democracy by fake allegations and maligning the PPP leadership? Despite all allegations and propaganda, the government led by the PPP successfully completed its democratic constitutional tenure for the first time in the country’s history.
The mindset in our media not only wants to slander a political celebrity of the PPP but specifically aims to demoralise, discourage and denigrate the role of women in our society through fabricated charges. Strangely, the journalists and anchors reporting about the alleged bank loans acquired by the Mirzas never tried to verify the same from them. The papers and TV channels did not even seek Dr Mirza’s comments on the allegations levelled against her. Even then, keeping the tradition of her party and demand of her highly prestigious constitutional post of the Speaker, she refrained from the issuance of legal notices to such journalists.
In two decades of democratic politics, Dr Mirza has to her credit services towards the poor and oppressed people of her area. She has always remained a committed political activist and has never supported any dictator like others who have been known to switch loyalties as and when they liked to protect their vested interests. Her heart goes out to the victims of human rights violations, especially if they are women; she fearlessly visited women in different camps of the IDPs from FATA due to terrorism, at a time when there were many threats to political figures, in particular to those who belonged the to anti-Taliban political parties like the PPP and ANP.
Dr Mirza has donated all her body organs as sadqa-e-jariah, for the benefit of humanity, motivating others to follow suit and help the deprived sections of our society.
The dismissal of the former prime minister Benazir Bhutto’s second government had brought a round of political witch-hunt in Pakistan’s troubled environment. Dr Fehmida Mirza’s husband, Dr Zulfikar Mirza was chosen as a target, and thus during this very uneasy time, Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto brought Dr Mirza into politics. She not only fought bravely against the personal injustice to her but also became a strong voice for the PPP, which she is to date.
As a Speaker, Dr Mirza refused to spend money in millions on furnishing the new Speaker’s House constructed in the previous tenure, preferring to live in her old house. She also refused to accept the attractive incentives and benefits in the capacity of the former Speaker as suggested by the finance committee.
It is baseless propaganda that Dr Mirza sanctioned many benefits to be enjoyed by her after completion of her tenure. Such falsehood is only aimed at targeting a woman who successfully fulfilled her duties of a constitutional political slot and who ran the office far more efficiently than her previous counterparts. Today, if those who think that their shallow schemes of false allegations would subdue her high spirits or would malign her reputation or would even deter her from pursuing her political career, then they are in for a shock. These elements are hereby forewarned that the PPP may be destined to bear a loss at the hands of the judiciary, but it will always emerge victorious in another more powerful court, which is that of the people of Pakistan.
The writer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter at @RiazToori