PML-N Senior Vice President and chief minister-in-waiting Maryam Nawaz. — X/@pmln_org


LAHORE: After years of partaking in politics from the peripheries, Maryam Nawaz — Punjab’s chief minister-in-waiting and daughter of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz supremo Nawaz Sharif — is set to take over the province’s reins as an elected lawmaker, making her a part of an illustrious club of accomplished Pakistani women who’ve risen to positions of power in the country’s 77-year-long political history.

Maryam’s anticipated assumption of the provincial chief executive role is just days away from making her the first-ever woman in any province of the country, as she gears up to be seated in the coveted seat.

PML-N Senior Vice President and chief minister-in-waiting Maryam Nawaz. — X/@pmln_org

Like Maryam, several accomplished Pakistani women, in the past, have been the first to assume significant posts in the corridors of power as well as other fields proving their mettle in numerous male-dominated roles.

Here follows a brief list of those who not only broke stereotypes and glass ceilings but also found a place in history books over the decades and remain a role model for many Pakistani women to follow.

Benazir Bhutto

Pakistans first woman prime minister Benazir Bhutto. — Radio Pakistan
Pakistan’s first woman prime minister Benazir Bhutto. — Radio Pakistan

In 1988, Benazir Bhutto became the first-ever female head of government in the Islamic world. She was 35 when she was sworn in as the country’s first female prime minister. This was a huge achievement for a country characterised by inadequate representation and gender marginalisation.

Begum Ra’ana Liaquat Ali Khan

Begum Ra’ana Liaquat Ali Khan. — National Herald
Begum Ra’ana Liaquat Ali Khan. — National Herald

Former First Lady, Begum Ra’ana Liaquat Ali Khan, was appointed the first-ever female governor of any province in Pakistan. She headed Sindh in that capacity.

Her husband, Premier Liaquat Ali Khan, had served as the country’s first premier from 1947 to 1951. Begum Rana also performed the role of Pakistan’s Ambassador to the Netherlands, Italy and Tunisia.

Dr Shamshad Akhtar

Dr Shamshad Akhtar, who is currently serving as the caretaker finance minister, was the first woman governor of the State Bank of Pakistan. She assumed her role at the central bank on January 2, 2006, for a three-year term.

Dr Shamshad Akhtar speaks during a presser. — X/@1sakhtar
Dr Shamshad Akhtar speaks during a presser. — X/@1sakhtar

She was appointed as SBP’s 14th governor following its inception in July 1948, bringing her prolific experience from roles in national and international exposures pertaining to managing the economy including her term as the director general of the Asian Development Bank’s Southeast Asia Department. She had also served as the department’s deputy director general among other roles.

Lieutenant General Nigar Johar

Lieutenant General Nigar Johar was the first woman in the history of the Pakistan Army to rise to this rank. She was decorated with civil awards like the Tamgha-i-Imtiaz (Military) and was also the recipient of the Fatima Jinnah Gold Medal for rendering laudable services in the Army Medical Corps from the prime minister of Pakistan. Johar also received the Hilal-i-Imtiaz Award.

Justice Ayesha Malik

Justice Ayesha Malik was appointed the first-ever female Supreme Court judge in January 2022. In 2021, as judge of Lahore High Court, she made headlines for her ground-breaking ruling, where she outlawed the use of the virginity test for examination of sexual assault survivors, terming it “illegal and against the Constitution.”

Supreme Courts Justice Ayesha Malik. — University of Oxford
Supreme Court’s Justice Ayesha Malik. — University of Oxford

She had ruled that the said test had “no forensic value” in cases of sexual violence. In a 30-page judgment, Justice Malik wrote that the virginity test “offends the dignity of the female victim.” Her decision was applauded as a powerful win for women’s rights movements across the country.

Malala Yousafzai

Malala Yousafzai is a Pakistani female education activist and the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate at the age of 17. She remains the world’s youngest Nobel Prize laureate and second Pakistani to receive this honour.

Malala Yousafzai poses for a photograph during an Apple-led project. — Apple
Malala Yousafzai poses for a photograph during an Apple-led project. — Apple 

Fehmida Mirza

In March 2008, Fehmida Mirza was elected as the first female speaker of a lower house of Parliament in South Asia. She received 249 votes and defeated her opponent Muhammad Israr Tareen who could secure 70 votes only.

Hina Rabbani Khar

Hina Rabbani Khar was appointed the first female foreign minister of Pakistan at the age of 33 in July 2011.

Hina Rabbani Khar photographed during an election campaign rally. — X/@HinaRKhar
Hina Rabbani Khar photographed during an election campaign rally. — X/@HinaRKhar

During the Pakistan Democratic Movement’s short stint governing the Centre, Khar also served as a state minister in the Ministry of foreign Affairs.

Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy

Canadian-Pakistani journalist and filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy is globally known for her work in films that highlight gender inequality against women. She is the recipient of two Academy Awards, seven Emmy Awards and the prestigious Knight Journalism Award.

Pakistani-Canadian filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy. — Asia Society
Pakistani-Canadian filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy. — Asia Society

In 2012, Pakistan honoured her with the Hilal-e-Imtiaz, the second highest civilian honour of the country, and the same year, Time magazine named her one of the 100 most influential people in the world.

Zara Naeem Dar

Zara Naeem Dar topped the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) International examinations in December 2020 and was declared a global prize winner for her accomplishment.

Arfa Abdul Karim Randhawa

Arfa Abdul Karim Randhawa was a Pakistani student and computer prodigy who became the youngest Microsoft Certified Professional in the world at the age of just nine in 2004.

Arfa Abdul Karim Randhawa. — Radio Pakistan
Arfa Abdul Karim Randhawa. — Radio Pakistan

She was submitted to the Guinness Book of World Records for her achievement. Arfa died young at 16. Ayan Qureshi later broke the national as well as international record at the age of just five in 2014.

Samina Khayal Baig

Samina Khayal Baig is a Pakistani mountaineer who climbed Mount Everest in 2013, scaled all seven summits by 2014, and the K2 in 2022, becoming the first Pakistani woman to do so. She climbed the Everest at the age of 21.

Sana Mir

Woman Cricketer, Sana Mir, is a Pakistani cricket commentator and former cricketer. She served as a captain of the Pakistan national women’s cricket team in ODIs and T20Is. She played in 226 international matches, including 137 of those as skipper of the side.

Former Pakistan captain Sana Mir. — PCB/File
Former Pakistan captain Sana Mir. — PCB/File

She was the first bowler for Pakistan to take 100 wickets in WODIs. Sana led Pakistan to two gold medals at the 2010 and 2014 Asian Games. In October 2018, she became the first Pakistani women cricketer to rank number one in ICC ODI bowler ranking.

Maleeha Lodhi

Maleeha Lodhi, the Pakistani journalist-turned-diplomat, was appointed Pakistan’s first-ever representative to the United Nations. She has also twice served Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States.

Former Pakistans ambassador to the US Maleeha Lodhi. — Diplomatic Connections
Former Pakistan’s ambassador to the US Maleeha Lodhi. — Diplomatic Connections

Liba Wahaj

In June 2018, six-year-old Liba Wahaj became the youngest Pakistani girl to achieve the Guinness World Record for solving a Tower of Hanoi (math puzzle), level six. The mathematical puzzle includes three rods and disks of varying sizes. The young record holder managed to complete the puzzle in a minute and 13 seconds only.

Natalya Najam

In 2020, Natalya Najam, a nine-year-old Pakistani girl broke the record of an Indian professor, becoming the fastest and youngest in the world to arrange the chemical elements of the periodic table in the shortest possible time.

A 9-year-old Natalya Najam poses for a photo. — Radio Pakistan
A 9-year-old Natalya Najam poses for a photo. — Radio Pakistan

She completed the task in just 2 minutes and 42 seconds on July 18, 2020, according to the Gulf News. She broke the previous record by seven seconds.

Fatima Naseem 

In September 2020, seven-year-old Fatima Naseem made everyone proud by registering a Guinness World Record for ‘most full contact elbow strikes in one minute using alternate elbows.’ Fatima snatched the record from an Indian woman, Sharuti, as the latter had earlier registered the record with 211 elbow strikes.

Emma Alam and Syeda Kisa Zehra

In 2021, two Pakistani girls bagged three Guinness World Record titles in total, beating India and Sweden. According to the statement issued by the Guinness World Records, Karachi’s Emma Alam broke two world records. She first broke the record of ‘Most random words memorised in sequence in 15 minutes.’ She memorised a total of 410 random words and broke a record earlier held by India.

Syeda Kisa Zehra (left) and Emma Alam. — The Brown Identity/File
Syeda Kisa Zehra (left) and Emma Alam. — The Brown Identity/File

Along with that, she also broke the world record of memorizing ‘Most names and faces in 15 minutes.’ Later, she broke another record held previously by Sweden, by memorising 218 names and faces. Meanwhile, her teammate, Syeda Kisa Zehra, emulated her and broke the world record of ‘Memorising most historic/future (fictional) dates in five Minutes.’ In addition to this, she memorized a total of 241 dates of historic significance.

Ayesha Farooq

Ayesha Farooq was the first woman in 2013 to become a fighter pilot in the Pakistan Air Force.

Ayesha Farooq poses while sitting inside a fighter jet. — Reuters/File
Ayesha Farooq poses while sitting inside a fighter jet. — Reuters/File

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