Despite the negative forces of our orthodox Pakistani society, it’s a matter of pride for us that we have a handful of women who have managed to fight the male dominancy and earn a name for themselves through hard work and determination. Nasreen Jalil is one of those rare gems of our society.
With ancestors from U.P., India, Mrs. Nasreen Jalil was born in Lahore on 22 February 1944. She came from a family with a sister like Yasmeen Lari, a paramount name in the field of architecture and a father who was deputy commissioner in Lahore. She got her primary education from Adabistan-e-Soophia and then went to Savernake School of London, UK. After her return to Pakistan, she completed her secondary and higher secondary education in Karachi from 1958 to 1962. She did her Matriculation from PECHS College in 1960 then she joined Home Economics College later on she got admission in Karachi University. Her interest and aptitude for learning the Occidental languages and literatures motivated her to go to Paris in 1963 and learn the French language. She came back to Pakistan after a year, rejoined Karachi University and completed her Honors in English Literature in 1966.
Along with her masters in an international language, Nasreen Jalil is also a licensed Commercial Pilot. She learned to fly at Aero Club and then later, taught there as well.
Mrs. Nasreen Jalil is one of the pioneer members of the MQM. Her commitment for Human Rights impelled her to get herself affiliated with the Human Rights Cell of the MQM. She was Deputy Governor of the MQM Coordination Committee from 1994-2002. Mrs. Nasreen Jalil was elected as the member of the Senate of Pakistan in March 1994. She was a member of the Senate Standing Committees on Commerce and Foreign Affairs, Kashmir Affairs and Northern Affairs and on Health, Social Welfare and Special Education and also elected as chairperson on Functional Committee on Human Rights.
In the recent Local Bodies election, she was elected as City Naib Nazim/Convener of City Council Karachi and assumed the office on January 03, 2006. She is the first lady in Pakistan who was elected as City Naib Nazim Karachi.
She started off her journey with inspiration from Mr. Altaf Hussain. She heard him talk about his party’s struggle for equal rights for all and commitment to abolish the feudal system. He also mentioned a qualitative change in the echelons of power by getting the educated lower and middle class persons elected to the Assemblies. Both She and her husband, Jalil, offered to help after the speech. In 1988 General Elections were in the held, and they became a part of a team collecting funds for the elections. As an observer, they had lots of suggestions for Mr. Altaf Hussain. While Jalil was accepted as a Technocrat because of his knowledge and experience, she was considered just a socialite who had nothing better to do. It took number of years to convince the party that she was seriously interested and had the qualities and talent of working for the masses.
Despite being a woman, she has endured all sorts’ difficulties in her pursuit. She was even held in police custody from 1994 to 1997. She spent 6 months in jail and two-and-a-half year in house arrest.
Nasreen Jalil is a dynamic person, who took keen interest in the extra-curricular activities during her academic career and was very active in social welfare activities at the academic institutions she attended and also at the community level.
Through her numerous experiences during her career, Nasreen Jalil has witnessed many things that a normal man would find difficult to endure. But her spirit and zeal kept her going. She had a vision to make things better for everyone. She had seen poverty at close quarter, where conditions were so dire that you could not even have an aspirin if you have a splitting headache. While she was in the jail, she had seen uncountable women imprisoned on fake and fabricated charges. 80 to 85% were those who were rapped and then were imprisoned for the reason that they were unable to present four witnesses to prove their innocence and thus imprisoned for Zina.
She feels strongly about the eradication of feudal system in our society. She has spoken on numerous occasions about need for justice, partiality in the judicial system according to the status of a person, and specially rights of women. She has been a member of ‘Behboud Foundation’ since 1970.
On a very personal level, she looks up to her mother for inspiration. Her mother, who came from a village, could barely read or write Urdu. She was married to an ICS officer, who was from the same family. She has to struggle and learn to accompany him in his life and to learn how to dress, how to behave, etc. At that time ICS officers had to sit with the British officers and had to dine with them using knives and forks. It may seem very simple to us but for an eighteen years old girl, who used to wear Burqa, Parda and such, it was not simple. But soon she learnt it all. Activities which were alien to her, like shooting, driving, etc. became a part of her life. Her spirit to learn and adopt new things always would serve as an inspiration for her daughter.
Since 03 January 2006, Nasreen Jalil has resumed the office as a Naib Nazima and the development around the city is for all to see. She has a few objectives that she plans to achieve in order to make Karachi a better and safe place. She abhors the feudal system and plans to reach out to the common man, provide health facilities, transport, basic facilities like water & Sewerage.
Her main concerns for the recent times are the safety and curbing of urbanization. While she was a part of MQM, she played an active role in the huge rally at Laiquat Abad to dispel the impression of ‘Jahadi City’ that was given to Karachi after 9/11. To a question regarding security of the citizens and frequent blasts around the city, she responded, “This kind of thing could happen any where in the world like London has experienced the bomb blast. We are trying hard to curb these sorts of activities and have been fairly successful too. The culprits in many such blasts have been caught and brought to the court.”
As for the preservation of our cities and peaceful Karachi, she emphasizes on the need for implementation of rules. She believes that we should send the Afghani, the Barmis and the Bengalis to their native countries and if any one wants to work here, they must acquire the work permit. In order to restore peace, it’s mandatory to curb urbanization and develop the rural areas of Sindh and all Pakistan.
Also, she intends to restore all the tarnished tourist attraction of Karachi and preserve the old buildings. The development of tourist attractions and city tours would enhance the image of Karachi as a tourist-friendly city. Other objectives that are on top of her priority list are health education and water supply. She believes that these are the most encore problems in our society and if these problems get corrected, then a lot of other areas can be advantaged.
When questioned about rampant poverty and lawlessness all around the country, Nasreen Jalil thoughtfully commented that poverty breeds crime. The only way we can progress is through lawful state and minimal poverty. For this, the government has encouraged investment in our city and numerous provisions are provided to the industrial areas, like Korangi Industrial Area did not have any proper sewerage line but now they do. So progress is being made in this arena as well.
The Social Worker!
Nasreen Jalil has seen women being treated worse than animals, had been in prison for a while, so she understands the potential of women and their actual condition thoroughly. She had been an active political member of MQM during crisis. She has even seen women carrying coffins of their beloved during Army Operation (1992-1998).
She believes that women’s issues need to be discussed and resolved by both men and women. Differentiating your children on the basis on gender is one of the root causes and mistakes. Following are some of her opinions about women’s issues and their solutions:
– Where Government has introduced quota for women, the political parties should have more women representation in the party itself and give them opportunities to work.
– All discriminating laws should either be amended or repealed like the Hudood ordinance.
– Educate women
– Provide opportunities for women to be financially independent.
– Abolish the feudal system.
It’s worth mentioning that today in the City of Karachi, there are 830 women Councilors. Since Independence in the Municipal Service the representation of women did not exceed 23 in numbers. The present Government has done a remarkable job by introducing 33% reserved seats for women at the Local Bodies level. In the City council Karachi alone, there are 59 women out of 255 total members. The passing of Women’s Protection bill in the Parliament and introduction of the bill against Domestic Violence are steps in the right direction. The present Government has created an environment for improving the status of women. The very presence in assemblies of such large number of women will ensure that women’s issues are brought to the forefront and the decisions at the policy making level will safeguard women’s rights.
In the end, she did mention that she would like to hear from his beloved fellow citizens of Karachi, where it is a compliant, suggestion or a compliment, it’s more than welcomed. Her email address is email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.
Maybe we can see the future of our city with hope for now that we have leaders like Nasreen Jalil.