Abida Hussain

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Syeda Abida Hussain
Syed Abida Hussain Press Photo (cropped).JPG
Pakistan Ambassador to the United States
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif
Succeeded by Maliha Lodhi
Personal details
Born Jhang
Citizenship  Pakistan
Nationality Pakistani
Political party Pakistan Peoples Party
Other political
Pakistan Muslim League
Residence Lahore
Alma mater Convent of Jesus and Mary, Surval Montreux
Occupation Landlady

Syeda Abida Hussain (Urdu: سيدہ عابدہ حسین‎) is a Pakistani conservative politician, diplomat and socialite who served as the Pakistan Ambassador to the United States and a member of the federal cabinet between 1996 and 1999.[1]

Early life and education[edit]

Hussain was born into a privileged feudal family, her father Syed Abid Hussain went on to serve as a member of the Constituent Assembly of undivided India pre Partition. Adhering to the Shia Qalandariyya sect, Hussain received her Junior Cambridge from the Convent of Jesus and Mary followed by International Baccalaureate from the Surval Montreux, Switzerland. She later spend a year in Florencein Tuscany in Italy studying history of art. On return from Italy, Hussain married her cousin Syed Fakhar Imam. Imam was a bureaucrat turned politician who went on to serve as the Speaker of the National Assembly. The couple would go on to serve both in the cabinet and the parliament together.[2] n 2000s, she received her B.A in economics from Bahauddin Zakariya University after a constitutional amendment in 1999 required a bachelor's degree for a membership of national assembly.[3]


Hussain entered politics in the 1971 as a member of the Pakistan Peoples Party and was elected to the Provincial Assembly of Punjab in 1972 and sat as a backbencher until 1977 military coup.[4] In 1979, Hussain successfully contested elections to the District Council of Jhang, and became the first women to head a district government in Pakistan as the Mayor of Jhang District.[5] She remained a head of the district until 1985 when she resigned to contest the 1985 non-partisan elections. In 1985, Hussain became the first women to be elected to the National Assembly on a general seat.[6] She was re-elected to the National Assembly from Jhang in 1988 as a member of the center-right Pakistan Muslim League and remained until 1991. During her time as a member as a member of the treasury benches in the National Assembly in 1990, Hussain was accused receiving funds from the intelligence agencies. Later, in an interview with The Telegraph, she admitted on receiving money, adding that "we were led to believe that it was an election fund for members of the government."[7]

Pakistan's Ambassador to the United States[edit]

In 1991, Hussain was appointed as Pakistan's Ambassador to the United States, making her the first women to hold the position. Hussain's tenure as Pakistan's envoy to the US is generally considered as a troublant time for the Pakistan–United States relations particularly due to the Pressler amendment, which was enacted against Pakistan for its nuclear weapons program. Later in her autobiography, Hussain identified the nuclear program as the principal source of distress between Pakistan and the US.[8] Hussain wrote in her memoir that “the conversations in the offices with US functionaries and with US representatives were quite rough. Because they would make only one demand – ‘Roll back your nuclear programme’. And, since I was quite clear that we can’t do that, our conversations were not friendly."[9][10] Hussain claimed that when she recommended that Pakistan cancel their contract for F-16 Falcon jets and get the money refunded, she was offered a bribe by General Dynamics to continue paying the money till the end of the contract. According to Hussain, the chairman of the board of General Dynamics said to her, “You have two daughters studying in Harvard which is a very expensive school. Could we help you out with their education?” According to Hussain she was later also offered a house in Washington, D.C., she rejected the offer.[9] in an interview with The Telegraph, Hussain claimed that, former US vice-president Al Gore twice mistook her deputy as the ambassador.[7] Hussain was re-called by Benazir Bhutto in 1993 who replaced Hussain with Dr. Maleeha Lodhi.[11]

Federal Cabinet[edit]

Hussain returned to Pakistan in 1993, and in 1997 was elected to the National Assembly and became part of the Nawaz Sharif's cabinet broadly overseeing food, agriculture and population ministries.[12][13][14] She remained both a frontbencher and a member of cabinet until the 1999 coup, when she disassociated herself from the center-right Muslim League and went into political retirement. Hussain joined Pakistan Peoples Party in 2006.[15][16] Hussain advised Benazir Bhutto not to attend the 2007 ill-fated rally in Rawalpindi which left Benazir dead.[7][17]

Relationship with Benazir Bhutto and Lady Diana[edit]

According to Hussain, Benazir expressed her marriage insecurity to Abida in a lengthy, informal meeting that lasted an uninterrupted eight hours at Benazir estate at Emirates Hills in Dubai in October 2005.[18] Hussain wrote in her memoir that “she (Benazir) asked me whether my husband had ever been unfaithful in our marriage. I told her that like any wife who had clocked thirty-five years with her spouse, I had certainly had my moments of suspicion, but in all fairness to Fakhar, there was nothing that could ever be seriously pinned on him.” Hussain continues: “Whereupon, Benazir said with ineffable sadness, that perhaps she had not been so fortunate, but she loved Asif very deeply, so she forgave him, even when he hurt her.”[19]

Of her encounter with Diana, Princess of Wales in 1991, Hussain writes in her memoir;

Careful to keep her voice low, the Princess said to me that she could confide in me, as I seemed to be a wise person, and certainly did not look like a cushion but appeared to be as comforting as one. I thanked her, assuring her that whatever she said would remain with me and it did in her lifetime. She said her in-laws were very difficult, and her husband did not love her. She adored her children, and wanted them always to be with her. Willy, she said, was a lot like his father, while Harry was more like her. She found it unbearable to be in a loveless marriage, asking me for advice as to what she should do. I thought for a moment about what I would do in her situation and responded.[18]



  1. ^ "COVER: A gilded life: Power Failure by Syeda Abida Hussain". DAWN.COM. 2015-07-13. Retrieved 2016-12-04. 
  2. ^ "Syed Fakhar Imam". Pakistan Herald. Retrieved 2016-12-17. 
  3. ^ "Bittersweet memories of Abida Hussain". www.pakistantoday.com.pk. Retrieved 2016-12-17. 
  4. ^ "Punjab Assembly". www.pap.gov.pk. Retrieved 2016-12-17. 
  5. ^ "Abida narrates political autobiography". The Nation. Retrieved 2016-12-17. 
  6. ^ Recorder, Business. "Confessions of a feudal lord's daughter | Business Recorder". Business Recorder. Retrieved 2016-12-17. 
  7. ^ a b c "'I don't think Mr Modi is politically interested in starting a serious conversation with Pakistan'". 2016-03-13. Retrieved 2016-12-17. 
  8. ^ "Pakistan". 
  9. ^ a b "Political musings: Abida recalls her experience as ambassador to US - The Express Tribune". The Express Tribune. 2016-05-16. Retrieved 2016-12-17. 
  10. ^ Farooq, Nasra Talat (2016-07-01). US-Pakistan Relations: Pakistan’s Strategic Choices in the 1990s. Routledge. ISBN 9781317358497. 
  11. ^ DAHLBURG, JOHN-THOR (1994-04-05). "Profile : New Envoy Aims to End Pakistan's 'Rogue' Image : Maleeha Lodhi's credentials include an eye for power, a blue-blood pedigree, a career in journalism and a thousand-watt smile". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved 2016-12-17. 
  12. ^ "Pakistan's political history in the words of Abida Hussain". DAWN.COM. 2015-01-13. Retrieved 2016-12-04. 
  13. ^ Pakistan’s political history in the words of Abida Hussain
  14. ^ "Abida Hussain to be appointed new UN envoy". Daily Times. 2010-11-10. Retrieved 2010-01-10. 
  15. ^ "Abida and Fakhar all set to join PPP conditionally". Daily Times. 2006-11-27. Retrieved 2010-01-10. 
  16. ^ "Row deepens after Abida, Fakhr join PPP". www.thenews.com.pk. Retrieved 2016-12-17. 
  17. ^ "We have failed to handle power, says Abida Hussain". DAWN.COM. 2015-02-09. Retrieved 2016-12-17. 
  18. ^ a b "Book Review: Power Failure | Newsline". Newsline. Retrieved 2016-12-17. 
  19. ^ "Cheaper bliss". DAWN.COM. 2015-01-15. Retrieved 2016-12-17. 
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Najmuddin Shaikh
Pakistan Ambassador to the United States
November 1991 - March 1993
Succeeded by
Maliha Lodhi