“Ali bhai, Ammi’s surgery should have finished by now, but there are some complications, I will let you know in an hours’ time what happened”. This phone call from my sister on May 25 was the beginning of the end of my mother, Fauzia Wahab, who passed away on June 17. She was 55. We all thought that Ammi would walk out of the hospital with her trademark smiling demeanour. Even so, she fought valiantly in the face of multiple complications for 24 days.
Coming from a modest and conservative background, Ammi questioned the routes often decided by families for their daughters — a basic education immediately followed by marriage. Despite being a descendent of a leading religious scholar, Imdadullah Muhaajir Makki, she rebelled by choosing student politics and that, too, from the leftist platform of the Progressive Students Front at Karachi University. Having married my late father, Wahab Siddiqui, who was a leading journalist and one of the earliest political anchors on PTV, Ammi had 14 years of ‘inactivity’, during which she bore four children and became involved with social projects like improving cleanliness in our area and creating a public park. She also arranged corner meetings for PPP candidates in the 1988 and 1990 general elections, which became her introduction to the party. Her life changed after February 1993, when our father died of cardiac arrest. In October 1994, while working for a leasing company, she received a phone call from her political mentor: “Fauzia, congratulations, you have been notified as a councillor in the KMC (Karachi Municipal Corporation), please go and take oath.”
The PPP in Karachi did not have many women who were active as well as educated in its cadre. Ammi was chosen as the information secretary of PPP Sindh’s women’s wing by Shaheed Benazir Bhutto but she faced many barriers to entry. She was harassed, lost her job and efforts were made to oust her from politics. But she kept absorbing the pressure to achieve her political goals. The 1997 elections were a disaster for the PPP. Shaheed Benazir Bhutto saw potential in Ammi’s communication skills and appointed her central coordinator of the party’s Human Rights Cell, which worked actively in highlighting cases of victimisation. The Mukhtaran Mai case was raised on all forums on behalf of the PPP and Ammi played an important role in establishing a relationship with the likes of the Aurat Foundation. Her dream of reaching the parliament was achieved in 2002, when she was nominated for a reserved seat for women from Sindh.
Ammi openly expressed her feelings at meetings and frequently quoted that a “House divided against itself cannot stand on its own”. Her frank opinions got her into trouble as well. While quoting the relevant Vienna Convention clauses relating to the immunity of Raymond Davis, who held a diplomatic passport, she drew the ire of the ghairat brigade. She resigned as information secretary not because she said something wrong but because it was something of an exclusive domain of the forces that matter in Pakistan.
As a single mother and political activist, I am proud of what Ammi achieved. When she passed away on the night of Shab-e-Miraj and a light shower followed her soyem, we could not have been happier for her, as she had left us for a better place.
On behalf of the family, I would like to thank all those who contacted us. The prayers and love made us strong and the turnout of people from all walks of life at her funeral and soyem is something we shall always remember.
Published In The Express Tribune, June 26th, 2012.