Begum Jahanara Shahnawaz
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April 7, 1896|
Lahore, British India
|Known for||Pakistan Movement|
The family to which Begum Jahan Ara Shahnawaz belonged , known as the Main family, from a title probably confered in the late fifteenth Century, belonged to one of the largest tribes of the Punjab, the Arains. Tradition has it that the tribe migrated from Arabia to Egypt and from there came to the Indian sub-continent sometime in the eleventh century. Ishaqpur, a small village about four and a half miles from Lahore , used to be the family seat until the Emperor Shah Jahan acquired the land as the site for the new Shalamar gardens. In exchange for it he gave the family two revenue-free villages. The two villages, as well as the custody of the gardens, were retained by the family till the 1950s, as both the Sikh and British Governments officially recognised the Emperor's gifts. A new village was built on the Grand Trunk Road , about one mile from Shalamar Gardens, and became known as Baghbanpura. it was there, in her grandparents's house, that begum Shahnawaz was born on 7th April,1896. Shafi founded the Punjab muslin league and was a Consistent advocate of the Muslim right to separate electorates. He use his powerful position as a member of the Imperial Council and later as education and law member of the viceroy's executive council to argue for both community and nationalist causes. Begum Shahnawaz emerged from a family background of purdah and of giving birth to her beloved daughter Tazi at the tender age of sixteen to be a major advocate of woman's causes both from the platform of the all India women's association and the Muslim league. Like many other elite Indian women, she moved into the mainstream of the freedom movement as British rule drew to a close and displayed an influence and autonomy which appears remarkable not only for her generation, but for contemporary south Asia women. The modern reader may also be surprised by the close social contacts which were maintained between the Baghbanpura Arain family and their political rivals. Muslim league politics were as fractious as they are today, but without personal animosity. Equally striking is the warmth with which begum Jahan Ara Shahnawaz describes her relationship with Uncle Moti Lal Nehru. A further reminder of a bygone era is the public services ethos of the Arain family. Its entry into public life was not with a view to make money, but rather to expend it in the advancement of community and national causes. None of this is to present the late colonial period as a golden era. The narrative clearly brings out the importance of family connection and influence in political advancement. The author on occasion displays a patronizing elitist attitude towards the less fortunate whose cause she is advocating. Similarly there is little warmth in the reference to her husband whose own political contribution was notable, but receives in these memories only passing mention. Father and daughter thus deserve to be made available to a modern audience through this reprint because of the important insights it provides into the social and political mores of the late colonial era. Its dramatis personae include not just the influential Arain family of Lahore, but the larding Indian and British figures at the endgame of empire. The observations on such leading figures as Jinnah and Gandhi sustain the interest in a sweeping narrative which begins in the eighteenth century and concludes with Ayub khan's promulgation of material law. The behind the scenes description of the round table and simla conference are the especial interest to the historian. A topic frequently ignored in general accounts, but which comes across clearly in this memoir, is the significance of the congress Muslim league propaganda war in the United States of America. The government of India equally founded itself outflanked by assiduous congress lobbyists during the Second World War and made considerable efforts to put its view across. Begum jahan ara shahnawaz was well placed to argue the muslim league case in America. This contribution has been seldom acknowledge and is impossible to quantify, but may well have been one of her most significant achievements in the Pakistan cause. Finally, father and daughter fits well into this series because of the insights it provides into the differential impact and ambiguities which surrounded the tearing asunder of the subcontinent in august 1947. Forewarned by the nawab of mamdot of an impending sikh attack on batal , where many arain tribesmen were settled, the author sends her car to fetch uncle Rashid. Jahan Ara shahnawaz's family connection with the Nehrus are then deployed to prevent the assault with both uncle Rashid ringing Nehru and her mother who was still in new Delhi seeing Pundit Jawahar Lal Nehru, who respected her much, and he promised to help in the matter. While ordinary people were being swept along by the tide of communal violence, elite connection still counted for something and were it was possible could be used to stem its flow. Tazi and I could not sleep the whole night, the author recalls, but thank God, Batala was saved. Her eldest daughter Mumtaz Shahnawaz was also a Pakistani diplomat and writer. Her younger daughter Begum Nasim, was married to Major General Akbar Khan. They were both arrested in the Rawalpindi Conspiracy Case. The last tragedy described here is the death of her daughter Mumtaz Shahnawaz in 1948 very shortly after writing a book called the Heart Divided. Had she survived she might have written a sequel to the present work.these are very few glimpses of what the reader has in store. The age she presents was historic, the characters she potrays was heroic and she herself was an insider. Her account bears the impress of an extraordinary personality as well as a seasoned stylist.
An active social worker, she pushed for reform of Muslim law, campaigning against polygamy through the All India Muslim Women's Conference, and was an office bearer of the organization for many years. She was nominated to be a member of Lahore Municipal Committee in the 1920s. She also became involved in the All India Women's Conference which had been set up in 1927 by Margaret Cousins. These were but small victories in a situation in which communal violence used by politicians to serve their own ends spiraled out of control. Like many elite women, the begum shahnawaz and her eldest daughter played important humanitarian roles in the weeks which followed. Indeed, Tezi, who was to die in an air tragedy in 1948, organized the women's voluntary services which helped in the resettlement of refugee women and orphans. An office was set up in the former residence of Rai Bahadur Ram Saran Das at 11 egerton road. Tezi personally prevented the looting of the owner's property and helped his son, Gopal Das pack the belongings when he returned from delhi to Lahore several months after partition. This episode which begum shah nawaz records in a matter of fact way provides yet further evidence that the elite experienced the upheaval of paritition differently to the common people. It also reminds us that an iron curtain did not come down in the months immediately after partition. Indeed the freedom of movement across the border at this time remains an envied goal for those currently seeking a normalization of relations between the subcontinent's distant neighbors. The later periods with the struggle for independence and towards the emancipation of women Begum Shahnawaz had the honor of being the only woman to have attended the Round Table Conference. She had the hour of being the only woman to address an audience in the Guildhall in the 600 years of its existence. After independence, she worked selfishlessly for Pakistan. Twenty one years of provincial legislature and seven years of both the legislative. Building of the constitution and fight for women rights in the fundamental rights committee, the fight for the charter of women rights with complete success. During her life, she gave more than a million rupee in cash as charity and donated 62 squares of land for educational and welfare purposes. In 1932, she was nominated by the Viceroy as one of two representatives of Indian women at the Round Table Conference. Along with Radhabai Subbaroyan, she campaigned for increasing women's suffrage and providing reserved seats for women in the legislature. On her return to India she joined active politics and was elected as a member of the Punjab Legislative Assembly.
Begum Shahnawaz closely worked with women across party lines to work for social reform. She was a part of a committee headed by Sarojini Naidu and Mridula Sarabhai that investigated the conditions of women in India and stated steps that the government required to take. The Report was submitted to the National Planning Board of the Congress Party.
Muslim League and Partition 
In 1935, she formed the Punjab Provincial Muslim Women's League. In 1937, she was elected a Member of the Punjab Legislative Assembly and was appointed Parliamentary Secretary for Education, Medical Relief and Public Health. In 1938, she formally joined All India Muslim League and was inducted in the Woman's Central Sub-committee.
In 1942, the Government of India appointed her as a member of the National Defense Council. She refused to abide by Jinnah's call to resign from the league and was expelled from the party. In 1946, she was again elected a Member of the Punjab Legislative Assembly. Along with Mirza Ahmad Ispahani, she were sent on a goodwill tour to the United States of America to campaign for Pakistan.
In 1947, she played an important role in the Muslim League’s civil disobedience movement against the Punjab government, getting arrested along with other leaders of the Punjab league. Under the terms of the Cabinet Mission Plan, she was elected a member of the Constituent Assembly of India. However, like most Muslim League members she did not take her seat and left for Pakistan.
She and Shaista Ikramullah were the only two women in the Pakistan Constituent Assembly and Central Legislature. She was noted for her opposition to Sardar Abdur Rab Nishtar's proposition that Pakistan be an Islamic country, arguing that Jinnah envisaged it as a secular state.
Post independence, she remained active in public life in Pakistan. She was one of the founders of the All Pakistan Women's Association which was active in women's rights. She, along with Begum Rana Liaquat Ali Khan, were instrumental in pushing for reforms in family law. She was one of three women appointed to the Commission on Marriage and Family Law Reform, 1954. The Commission submitted its report in 1958 by suggesting various reforms to the existing laws governing marriage, divorce and provision of inheritance to the orphaned grandchildren. The recommendations were duly incorporated through the adoption of the Muslim Family Law Ordinance 1961. This helped in restricting polygamy, and ensuring that women were guaranteed their rights as was promised in the Koran.
Literary work 
Begum Jahanara Shah Nawaz wrote several pamphlets on educational and social matters. She wrote a book titled Husn Ara Begum in Urdu and her memoirs titled Father and Daughter in English.The oldest avenue for women's liberation in south asia has been literature. Begum shahnawaz contributed prolifically to women and literary magazine and published a novel Husu Ara Begum which enjoyed wide popularity. Being the daughter of Sir Muhammad Shafi, her family back ground opened for her avenue of social reform and party politics. She came into contact with the maharani of baroda during an All India ladies conference. She reserves her highest praise for Mrs. Kamla Devi Chattopadhya, the outstanding author and parliamentarian as one of the best women in India. National and communal politics went side by side and she was persuaded by the begum of Bhopal to form an All India ladies Conference as well.
Family Wealth and Donations Begum Jahan Ara Shahnawaz owned 1600 squares areas of land (one thousand six hunderd) in the district of Layyah and surrounded areas like Fatepur, D.I Khan, Chubara and as far as Dera Ismail Khan according to the Thal Development Authority (TDA records at partition).This made her the largest single land owner in Punjab. Begum shahahnawaz moto was : life is to give and not to take. She surrendered almost 75% of her lands during 1948. When the Thal development Act came into force. She felt that if this land can be used for the betterment of this country, then it let it be so. She further surrendered the required land during Ayub Khan and Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto land reforms. She never compromised on her ethics and never had the land transfered as fictious transactions e.g ' Benami transactions' which the other Rich Fedral of Punjab e.g Tiwanas , Leghari etc did those Turbelent times. Begum Shahnawaz belonged to an affluent Family whose roots went back over 400 years to the time of Emperor Shah Jahan. During her life extending over 83 years she gave more than a million rupees in cash as charity (equivalent to perhaps 250 million rupees in todays terms after adjustment for inflation) and donated 62 squares of land for educational and welfare purposes. She declined to accept a seat; many times in the Central Cabinet, including an offer as Pakistans first Ambassdor to the Soviet Union, for she believed the cabinets were incapable to do constructive work. Recounting the servics rendered to the nation by Jahanara, a big gathering of the writers and intellectuals of pakistan passed a resolution for the creation of Jahanara Shahnawaz women university in Pakistan in 1980 and requested the President General Mohammad Zia-ul-Haq to turn the Queen Mary College, Lahore of which she was the first student, into the Jahanara Shahnawaz university forthwith as an expression of the nation's gratitude to her.
See also 
- Father and Daughter: a political autobiography. Lahore: Nigarishat, 1971. Also: Karachi: Oxford University Press, 2002 0195796462
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