Extraordinary Pakistanis: Muniba Mazari

Published: May 19, 2016


PHOTO: FILE The writer is the recipient of the James A Wechsler Award for International Reporting and a graduate of Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. He tweets @Mbilallakhani

“I pretended to sleep in my hospital bed when the women came to visit,” shares Muniba Mazari. “The women would tell my mother that a husband would never keep a wheelchair-bound wife. Poor girl, she’ll get divorced, they used to say, as I lay there lifelessly, pretending I couldn’t hear them. My mother responded to them positively by saying if Allah took away my daughter’s legs, there must be something important Allah wants my daughter to do without them. Despite my mother’s optimism, this was a really tough time for me. I was tired of wearing white, of the hospital, of the negativity and colourless life. Doctors asked my mom if there was something I used to do before the accident. Mom told them I used to draw. I laughed when the doctors asked me to start painting. Although I couldn’t hold a brush, I kept trying.”

The Accident

“The driver slept and my car fell into a ditch,” shares Muniba, while recalling the accident that would change her life. “When the driver jumped out of the car, I believed I was going to die. My first thought was I’m 21 and I’ve done nothing with my life. I’ve never lived for myself. I spent my life studying hard, instead of becoming the artist I wanted to become. I was only 18 when I got married… I lost consciousness after the car toppled and my backbone was crushed. After taking me out of the ditch, I was put in a Potohar jeep as there weren’t any ambulances nearby in Balochistan. I asked people where my legs were. They said, “They are right here.” I was very composed, I didn’t cry. At the hospital, I told the doctors, ‘I’m half paralysed, I can’t feel anything.’ I was in severe physical pain, but I didn’t cry.

Muniba Mazari appointed UN’s first woman Goodwill Ambassador to Pakistan

“I didn’t cry till I was alone in the hospital room with my mother weeks later,” Muniba shares. “My mother asked me to write something with my deformed hand. I tried to write Allah on a piece of paper but I couldn’t manage. That’s when I finally broke down and started screaming and crying. I realised I had lost something really big. And many people who were close to me had given up on me. For the next two years, I was bed-ridden. I couldn’t brush my teeth or make my hair properly. I used to hang my hair upside down from one side of the bed so I could brush it. Once, the brush got stuck in my hair. I was so annoyed I took a pair of scissors and chopped it off. I still remember my hair was long in the front and short in the back.”

The Recovery

“I was so happy when I sat on a wheelchair for the first time,” shares Muniba. “So what if I lost my legs? I have two wheels now. The first thing I did was to put on some lipstick and check myself out in the mirror. I thought that I looked like a clown and that a person on a wheelchair can never look good, so I removed the lipstick. But then I put it back on because I decided to accept myself for the way I am. I became so brave after the accident. After losing so much and being surrounded by so much negativity, I realised I had nothing left to lose. I wanted to prove to the world that a disabled person can live a happy, fulfilling life too. I started a job as a content writer to earn money and started drawing and painting to pursue my passion. Everyone is fighting a battle on the inside. I’m fortunate that my battle is visible. Most of us are fighting battles that aren’t visible. The key is to keep fighting with a smile on our face.”

Two Pakistanis part of BBC’s 100 inspirational women 2015

Coming back to life

Today, Muniba is an accomplished artist, works two jobs, is a single mother of an adopted son (who completes her life) and she’ll be representing Pakistan in the prestigious Forbes 30 under 30 list of top promising young leaders, daring entrepreneurs and game changers from around the world. She’s also a UN Goodwill Ambassador for women to advance gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls. Her message for Pakistan on behalf of disabled people is worth spreading on social media: “Before you ‘dis’ our ability, always remember that a person who is differently abled only needs your empathy, not your sympathy!” #MunibaMazari #ExtraordinaryPakistani

Extraordinary Pakistanis seeks to find and share inspirational stories about everyday Pakistani heroes (if you know someone who should be profiled, send us a tweet @Mbilallakhani). If we don’t share these stories about Pakistan, no one else will. 

Published in The Express Tribune, May 19th, 2016.

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Reader Comments (20)

  • Trollslayer
    May 19, 2016 - 11:17AM

    A great human interest story for Pakistan and Pakistanis. In the West, handicapped people routinely pick up the pieces of their lives and become productive members of society. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was handicapped and he held his nation’s highest office in the 1930s and 40s. Recommend

  • Farzan Mushtaq
    May 19, 2016 - 11:50AM

    Real inspiration for the people who really want to do something and don’t stop because of hurdles in their way. Good job Muniba. Stay blessed.Recommend

  • Husna Khan
    May 19, 2016 - 1:02PM

    success start when you leave your comfort zone. But this lady proofs no matter in which circumstance you have been through. With positive attitude you can do anything. Thumb ups. nation proud and keep shinning keep moving. You have more to achieve. Recommend

  • Kamran
    May 19, 2016 - 1:25PM

    Indeed a miracle , loss of half body with no hope and rebranding heself is extra ordinary effort with unique courage and blessings of God.

    Interested to read how her husband supported her where man get social presure to abondon in such circumstances.

    This is where our government should offer highest responsibilty to such personalities who have priven track record of bringing change and its liitle strange idea but i would say she should be part of a derive for anti corruption, and public will see she will make a huge change.

    Thank you for sharing your experience with life. Recommend

  • Hanif
    May 19, 2016 - 3:28PM

    Great lady, God bless her and give her more courage.Recommend

  • SYED
    May 19, 2016 - 10:02PM

    ” The key is to keep fighting with a smile on our face”, Muniba Mazari. RESPECT REGARD SALUTE PROUD LONG LIVE PAKISTAN !Recommend

  • Korn
    May 19, 2016 - 10:26PM

    “The women would tell my mother that a husband would never keep a wheelchair-bound wife. Poor girl, she’ll get divorced, they used to say”

    That says all about Pakistani society & in particular, Pakistani men. Recommend

  • Ali J
    May 20, 2016 - 1:11AM

    Muniba: Will you marry me?Recommend

  • Raheem
    May 20, 2016 - 5:22AM

    Great piece of writing, Good luck to the daring, Charming and beautiful Muniba, She really is an inspiration for disabled and abled persons.Recommend

  • Avinash Advani
    May 20, 2016 - 11:14AM

    When there’s a will, there’s a way. You are successful women and inspiration for the youngsters.There are few people who can not faces these uncertain tragedies, simply they give up but you’ve proved yourself and empowering the women, at the same I wish you good luck and wanted to meet such an exhilarating people. Recommend

  • Zubair wazir usa
    May 20, 2016 - 5:52PM

    Agree 110% . Take a more important challenge muniba. Fighting corruption Recommend

  • Tea
    May 20, 2016 - 5:55PM

    Pakistani guys are supporting her because shes good looking.Otherwise they dont care about handicapped people.Recommend

  • Zubair wazir usa
    May 20, 2016 - 5:56PM

    Voice against corruption in Pakistan. Muniba lets lead this.Recommend

  • Kamran
    May 20, 2016 - 6:43PM


    I agree with you, good looking is a quality not a only reason for supporting her, she is multidimensional , eloquent and a good singer, that`s why a suggestion was to put her on anti corruption derive which she will bring an impact.

    Don`t for get public supported Malala, and public have different perception for Meera ( is this a good looking only reason).Recommend

  • Fact
    May 21, 2016 - 2:26AM

    Ideal personalities of the Upper Class youth of Pakistan; Muniba Mazari,Pervez Hoodbhoy,Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy,Malala Yousafzai,LUMS.
    Ideal personalities of the Middle/Lower Class youth of Pakistan; Maulana Tariq Jameel,Qandeel Baloch,Amir Liaquat Hussain,Mathira,Madni Channel.
    This is a fact,not an opinion.Recommend

  • hilalxik
    May 21, 2016 - 2:46AM

    Just those lines in the content “Everyone is fighting a battle on the inside. I’m fortunate that my battle is visible. Most of us are fighting battles that aren’t visible. The key is to keep fighting with a smile on our face.” Not more.
    Bravo MunibaRecommend

  • Farn
    May 21, 2016 - 11:04AM

    @Fact: instead of rambling like a grumpy old guy, get out of ur air conditioned room n start talking to real middle class .. #StupidStereotypesRecommend

  • Asad
    May 21, 2016 - 11:09AM

    All i know is that she was an Air Force officer Sqn Ldr Khurram’s wife. She was in Quetta when i was also posted there. They were a newly married couple when this terrible accident happened. Khurram (Her husband) was driving car when he dosed off and car fell in a ditch. God’s will…Khurram was minorly injured while Muniba suffered from multiple back bone fractures. Khurram got her out of the car….called rescue services and took her to nearest hospital. He was posted in No 17 Sqn Quetta. Being a friend to me he confided to me a number of times that he felt guilty for her loss. He tried his level best to get her best inland treatment but doctors were not hopeful for her. Due her condition she was not able to bear a child ….so Khurram took a bold decision and adopted a child….so she could stay occupied with him…..he left his core profession of fighter flying and made all his effort to support her in these torrid times….Khurram encouraged her to focus her self on music and arts ..being her strengths…he supported her.
    Later on Khurram came to know about a physical support suite which could bring back normalcy to Muniba’s life so he tried to get information about it but to their dismay it cost around $50000 and was available from USA. Khurram asked PAF higher authorities to buy him that suite under the medical insurance policy but the request was turned down as he was told that it was way too expensive. Thus Khurram took a drastic step and applied for retirement from service so he can pursue for it while going and earning more in civil aviation thus generating enough means to buy her that suite but due to stringent retirement policy he was refused and higher officials doubted his claims …He tried to convince them but to no avail….meanwhile Khurram brought Muniba to the forefront of the stage as he introduced her in Ted-X forum …(video is available online). At this point i want readers to know that without Khurram’s support she wouldn’t have reached where she is today. Meanwhile 3-4 years went by and PAF was not letting him go ….Muniba got famous….became a symbol of hope for many…got support from various NGOs ….frustrated by her husband’s organization…..their relationship got a turn for the worse…..she could see herself becoming a brand name ….opted to take seperation from her husband… “Right Decision” or not …time will tell…..but i thought that time and again i see blogs and newspapers writing fairy tales about her…i thought i should just tell the other side of story as well……Khurram has been finally released from service but not after his divorce….court has given custody of their adopted child to him as it was Muneeba who asked for separation. Muneeba charges around Rs 300,000 for her appearance in motivational lectures and TV shows….she has created an opportunity out of a crisis but at the expense of her biggest supporter…. Her Husband!Recommend

  • Kamran
    May 21, 2016 - 2:45PM


    If it’s true a very surprising. If her demand of divorce was malafided always remember this success scale is very temporary , we all have whole life ahead and God always set things up for us to understand the right path before time ends.

    This rule applies to you as well if you are narrating half truth, she got all qualities and leveraged quite well on those leaving behind her past and if so ,by letting down those who supported her. Recommend

    May 21, 2016 - 5:57PM

    I admire her for being strong and keep fighting I am very impressed that there are parents and families in the world who actually support disabled people When I was in 2nd university semester all I got from my Mother was discouragement she used to wake me up at 2:00 am and tell me daily that no one will marry me because i am diabetic well i know it was true then and its true and in the end she beat me to marry anyway I am always happy when I hear that there are very supportive families out there Good Luck to you dear :)Recommend

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