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Family and education
Salma Rasheeda Akhtar Banu, known as Salma Sobhan, was born in London in 1937 to a prominent Indian Muslim family. Her father Mohammed Ikramullah was the first foreign secretary of Pakistan and mother Begum Shaista Suhrawardy Ikramullah, one of the first 2 women members in Pakistan's Constituent Assembly, later serving as Pakistan's delegate to the UN and Ambassador to Morocco. Her mother was a member of the Suhrawardy family of Calcutta. On her mother's side she was a niece of Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy, premier of Bengal and Prime Minister of Pakistan, and on her father's side she was a niece of Muhammad Hidayatullah, Vice President and Chief Justice of India. Her sister is the Princess Sarvath of Jordan.
Salma was educated at Westonbirt School in England and studied law at Girton College, Cambridge, in 1958. She was called to the Bar from Lincoln's Inn in 1959 and became the first Pakistani woman barrister. She began working with a law firm in Karachi. After her marriage she moved to Dhaka, where her husband taught economics. She also began teaching at the law faculty at Dhaka University. She also worked with Bangladesh Institute of Law and International Affairs (Bilia) from 1981 to 1988, and served as editor of the Supreme Court Law Reports (SCLR) for several years.
Her husband, Rehman Sobhan was a supporter of the Bangladesh movement and was close to the Awami League . He was on the hit list of the Pakistani military and had gone into hiding. Salma Sobhan and her children left the country for England.
In 1982, she resigned from the faculty and along with Dr.Hameeda Hossain founded the human rights organisation, Ain-O-Salish Kendra. She later also started Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust (Blast) and Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (Brac). For her work she was awarded US Lawyer's Committee Human Rights Award.
The organization was initially started as a legal aid organization providing free legal services to the poor, particularly women. They were also involved with Public Interest Litigation and campaigning for rights of prisoners, housing rights and rights of migrants.
Marriage and children
She married Dr.Rehman Sobhan, a noted economist. They had three sons, her eldest son Telmud died in an accident at the age of 19 in 1981. Her elder son Babar works for UNDP, her younger son Zafar Sobhan is the editor-in-chief of the Bangladeshi English daily, Dhaka Tribune (Bangladesh)