Fauzia Wahab’s untimely death at 55 years is a loss not just for her family and the PPP but for everyone who wanted to see a different kind of politics being practised in Pakistan. Here was a middle class woman, defiantly and proudly taking centre stage in an arena that was dominated by rich men. Ms Wahab had none of the privileges of wealth and gender but she compensated for that with a tenacity and loyalty that was unmatched in the PPP. Unlike so many politicians who are gifted their careers in the form of a dynasty or legacy, Ms Wahab was not born into politics. Rather she discovered an aptitude for it as a student leader at the Karachi University. After a period where she worked in television and other ventures, Ms Wahab was brought into the PPP by Benazir Bhutto in the 1990s and ever since then had become a permanent fixture in the party, usually as its public defender.
Ms Wahab’s greatest asset may have been her fearlessness. She was particularly outspoken in her calls for the Hudood Ordinances and blasphemy laws to be repealed. When Salmaan Taseer was murdered, Ms Wahab was one of the very few brave souls to publicly condemn his assassination. After replacing Sherry Rehman as the PPP’s information secretary, Ms Wahab was a constant presence on talk shows, cowering political opponents and getting her party’s point across in a forceful and combative manner.
Occasionally, Ms Wahab could go too far. She jeopardised her job during the Raymond Davis saga when she confidently said that the CIA contractor was protected by diplomatic immunity. This was not something the rest of the country was ready to hear and Ms Wahab at least had the courage to call a spade a spade. But this episode, too, served to show her loyalty to the party. Keeping relations with the US on an even keel by releasing Davis from jail was a priority for the PPP and Ms Wahab was the one willing to stick her neck on the line by publicly speaking out in favour of it. Through it all, Ms Wahab never lost her smile or her cool. She might have been outspoken but Fauzia Wahab was never bitter. For that she deserves the gratitude of the entire nation and not just that of the PPP supporters.
Published In The Express Tribune, June 19th, 2012.
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