Madr-e-Millat, Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah, is remembered for the selfless, courageous and vital role she played in the creation of Pakistan. She was a beacon of hope for the women of the undivided India, who struggled side by side with the men for the creation of a separate homeland. Her effort and struggle were rewarded when she was awarded the title of Madr-e-Millat or Mother of the Nation.
Fatima Jinnah was born in Karachi on July 31, 1893. Mohammad Ali Jinnah was the eldest in the family, and Fatima Jinnah was the youngest child of the family and the closest to Mohammad Ali Jinnah. After the death of their father in 1901, her brother became her guardian. She joined the Bandra Convent in 1902 and in 1919 gained admission to the highly competitive University of Calcutta, following which she practiced as dental surgeon in Bombay (Mumbai). Fatima Jinnah never married and when her brother’s wife Rattanbai passed away, she closed her clinic and moved into her brother Jinnah’s bungalow. Thereafter she took charge of his house and played a pivotal role not only in nursing the Quaid but infusing a new spirit among the Muslim women to share in the various developments taking place in Muslim India. She encouraged the women to come out and serve the people by playing their role in the national life outside the confines of their own home. She believed that it was necessary for both men and women to contribute their full share for the wellbeing of the society of which they all formed an essential part.
Companion of Quaid-e-Azam
Fatima Jinnah was a close associate and adviser to Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah. Once she had joined the All India Muslim League she attended the annual sessions of the party and along with Begum Liaqat Ali Khan made the greatest contribution in the realm of women’s awakening and participation in national affairs. Her contribution in the social development sector, therefore, cannot be ignored. She played an important role in the Pakistan Movement, supporting the two-nation theory and strongly opposing the British Raj. After the independence of Pakistan, she co-founded the Pakistan Women’s Association (APWA) which played an integral role in the settlement of the women migrants in the newly emerged state of Pakistan. The Quaid paid tribute to her companionship and active participation in the Pakistan Movement in these words: "Miss Fatima Jinnah is a constant source of help and encouragement to me. In those days when I was expecting to be taken as a prisoner by the British Government it was my sister who encouraged me, and said hopeful things when revolution was staring me in the face."
The Madar-e-Millat was involved in politics side by side with her brother. In 1938, the Muslim League created a Muslim Women’s Sub-committee which remained active under her leadership until the creation of Pakistan. When the All India Muslim League was being organized, Mohatrama Fatima Jinnah became a member of the Working Committee of Bombay Provincial Muslim League and worked with it until 1947. In March 1940 she attended the Lahore resolution of the Muslim League and it was because of her effort that the All India Muslim Students Federation was organized in February 1941 at Delhi. Throughout her life, she remained a selfless and sincere worker for the cause of Pakistan and the good of its people.
Election of 1965
In the 1960s, Fatima Jinnah returned to the forefront of political life when she ran for the presidency of Pakistan against the then President General Muhammad Ayub Khan. She questioned the validity of the Presidential system which she stated had to be abolished and replaced by the old Parliamentary System. The campaign of Fatima Jinnah generated the people of Pakistan’s feelings of hope and crowds in all cities of the then East and West Pakistan flocked to see her. Nearly 250,000 people turned out to see her in Dhaka, and a million lined the 293 mile route from Dhaka to Chittagong. Her train, called the Freedom Special, was 22 hours late because men at each station pulled the emergency cord, and begged her to speak, hailing her as the mother of the nation. In her rallies, Fatima Jinnah argued that, by coming to terms with India on the Indus Water dispute, Pakistan had surrendered control of the rivers to India. Although she lost the election, the nation remembers the sacrifice and struggle that marked her life. As a tribute to her struggle for women’s empowerment, several women’s educational institutions, including the first women’s medical college were named after her.
Madr-e-Millat, Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah passed away at the age of 73 years on July 9, 1967 and was laid to rest next to her brother at the Mazaar-e-Quaid in Karachi.