KARACHI, May 30: Syeda Shehla Raza, who is the third woman deputy speaker of the Sindh Assembly, has set a new record by becoming the first lawmaker of the provincial legislature to clinch the coveted post in two consecutive terms.

Jethi Tulsidas Sipahimalani was the first woman in the province who made it to the Sindh Assembly by getting elected on a general seat and became the first woman deputy speaker in 1937 after Sindh was separated from the Bombay Presidency and received the status of a province.

Ms Sipahimalani migrated to India after Partition and went on to win a constituency to become a member of the Maharashtra legislature.

The Sindh Assembly’s second woman deputy speaker was Rahila Tiwana, who was a frontline leader of the PPP’s student wing with Ms Raza.

The duo were picked up and subjected to severe torture by the police’s infamous Crime Investigation Agency (CIA) during Jam Sadiq Ali’s government in Dec 1990 on charges of arms trafficking.

Ms Tiwana later left the party and joined Gen Pervez Musharraf’s allies. She was elected deputy speaker of the Sindh Assembly in 2002.

Ms Raza was her deputy in the Peoples Students Federation’s girls’ division in 1990 when both were picked up by CIA officials and implicated in cases of arms trafficking.

Ms Raza was charged with driving a taxicab full of illegal arms and opening gunfire on police with an AK-47 assault rifle when she was intercepted by the police. The police’s amusing charge of accusing a woman of driving a cab and at the same time exchanging fire using a Kalashnikov with the law-enforcers subsequently earned her bail from the court. However, by that time she had already spent four months in the Central Prison Karachi and 28 torturous days in the CIA Centre.

She had been arrested before being released on bail after 50 days in the murder case of two Karachi University employees along with Ms Tiwana, PPP leader Masroor Ahsan and six others. She was exonerated of all charges in 1994.

Ms Raza married Ghulam Qadir, a pharmacist, in Nov 1991 and the couple had a daughter in 1992 and a son in 1994. Unfortunately, both children died in an accident when their car drowned in a drain on Abul Hasan Ispahani Road in 2005.

Ms Raza’s father was an employee of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission. She was born in Karachi on Jan 8, 1964. She did her matric from Government Girls School, Latifabad No 10, and passed her intermediate from Government Girls College, Khairpur. She got her master’s in physiology from the University of Karachi. She joined the PSF in 1986 and became its joint secretary and girls’ wing vice president.—Hasan Mansoor

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