Pakistan: Zari Sarfaraz

Zari Sarfaraz challenged the regime of military dictator Zia-ul-Haq in the mid-1980s by preparing a report on the status of Pakistani women that was fearless, progressive, and independent.

— Zari Sarfaraz

Zari Sarfaraz (born 1923) has been in public service ever since her country was born in 1947. Starting out by working for the relief and rehabilitation of refugees who had poured into the new nation from undivided India, Sarfaraz went on to become a politician and parliamentarian with the Muslim League party, and to work for tuberculosis patients in her native North Western Frontier Province. This multifaceted woman also runs industries such as sugar mills and ceramic factories in the region.

Zari Sarfaraz is remembered for her report on Pakistani women during Zia-ul-Haq's regime. Appointed chairperson of a commission on the status of women (1983 to 1985), Zari prepared a report that was fearless, independent, and progressive. The regime so hated her comments that the report remained classified until 1989, a year after Zia's assassination. Belonging to the Pakhtoon tribe, and growing up in the extremely conservative North Western Frontier Province (NWFP), Zari's actions marked her out as a determined woman. Only in her mid-20s when undivided India was partitioned, she worked day and night to provide emergency relief and rehabilitation to refugees pouring into the newly created Pakistan. Already associated with the Muslim League, the party that spearheaded the creation of Pakistan, she embarked on a career as an active politician. In 1952, she won a seat in the NWFP provincial assembly, one of the rare women to do so. At the end of her four-year term, Zari was elected a member of the national assembly for another four-year term. In the 1960s, working with NGOs in NWFP, she became involved in the care and rehabilitation of tuberculosis patients. For 14 years, she served as the chairperson of the Pakistan Tuberculosis Association, and headed the NWFP Tuberculosis Association. This multifaceted woman's involvements include the care of orphans through the SOS Children's Villages, wildlife conservation, the care of the mentally handicapped, and running a charity hospital in her district. Zari is a life member of the Pakistan Red Crescent Society, NWFP. She is involved with the family planning association, and has served on the governing bodies of universities. An octogenarian today, Zari is chairperson of the Premier Sugar Mills and Distillery Co in Mardan, her place of birth, where she is based.

Pakistan Tuberculosis Association (PTA)