egum Jahanara Shahnawaz was born on 7th April 1896 in Lahore. She was the daughter of Sir Mian Muhammad Shafi, a leading Lawyer and Politician who co-founded the All India Muslim League in 1906. She studied at Queen Mary College, Lahore.
Born on 7 Apr 1896
Died on 27 Nov 1979
Pakistani Advocate and Politician
In 1918, Jahanara Shahnawaz successfully moved the All India Muslim Women’s Conference to pass a resolution against polygamy. In 1935, she founded the Punjab Provincial Women’s Muslim League. In the Round Table Conference of 1930, she and Radhabai Subbarayan were the only two active members of women’s organizations nominated to the conference; they argued unsuccessfully for a 5 per cent reservation for women in the legislatures.
In 1937, she was elected to the Punjab Legislative Assembly and was appointed Parliamentary Secretary for Education, Medical Relief and Public Health. In 1938 she became a member of the Women’s Central Subcommittee of the All India Muslim League. In 1942 India’s government appointed her as a member of the National Defense Council, but the Muslim League asked League members to resign from the Defense Council. She refused and was thus removed from the Muslim League. However, she rejoined the League in 1946 and in that same year was elected to the Central Constituent Assembly. That year she also went along with M.A.H. Ispahani on a goodwill mission to America, to explain the point of view of the Muslim League. She was arrested along with other Muslim League leaders during the Civil disobedience movement in Punjab in 1947.
In 1948, she led a protest of thousands of women in the streets of Lahore, protesting against the fact that a bill encouraging better economic opportunities for women had been removed from the agenda. Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan intervened, and the Muslim Personal Law of Shariat of 1948 was passed; it legally recognized a woman’s right to inherit property, including agricultural land, which had not been recognized during the British Raj.
She was president of the provincial branch of the All India Muslim Women’s Conference for seven years and also served as vice-president of the Central Committee of the All India Muslim Women’s Conference.
She was the first woman in Asia to preside over a legislative session. She was also associated with the education and orphanage committees of the Anjuman-i-Himayat-i-Islam, in Lahore, and with several hospitals, as well as maternity and child welfare committees. She was a member of the All-Indian General Committee of the Red Cross Society.
Jahanara Shahnawaz wrote a novel titled Husn Ara Begum and her memoirs titled Father and Daughter: a political autobiography. She also wrote for women’s and literary magazines.
Jahanara Shahnawaz worked for the economic independence of Pakistan. She was of the view that the foreign policy of Pakistan should be based on trade among nations and not aid.
At the age of fifteen Jahan Ara married Mian Muhammad Shahnawaz, a barrister who would become a prominent Punjab politician in the 1920s.
Jahanara Shahnawaz died on 27th November 1979 at age 83. Her burial took place at Mian Family Graveyard, Baghbanpura in Lahore.
She was survived by only one son, Dr Ahmad Shah Nawaz who had a Doctorate in Chemical Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (USA), a very well-known consultant who died in 2007 and a daughter Begum Nasim Jahan, who was a founding member of the Pakistan People’s Party and was elected to the National Assembly during Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto tenure and married to General Akbar Khan. Her other daughter Mumtaz Shah Nawaz tragically died in an air crash in 1948 while on her way to represent Pakistan at the United Nations.
In 1971 she published her memoirs titled ‘Father and Daughter’, a Political Autobiography and throughout her life she wrote for several women’s and literary magazines.