Born on January 2, 1970, Farzana Raja hails from a family in Rawalpindi district’s Gujjar Khan tehsil. Raja went to school in Chaklala and Rawalpindi and later obtained a BA degree from the University of Punjab.

Affiliated with Pakistan Peoples Party, she was elected as a member of National Assembly in the 2008 election on one of the seats reserved for women. Earlier in 2002, Raja was elected as member of Punjab Assembly, also on one of women’s reserved seats.

She was a close associate of PPP’s former chief Benazir Bhutto and came to head the Benazir Income Support Program, a welfare scheme launched in 2008 to provide direct cash relief of rupees 1,000 per household to over two million poorest of the poor of the country.

Raja has held various positions within the party and has been actively engaged in the formulation of PPP’s policies and procedures since 1994, especially in the areas of welfare, women empowerment, foreign and media relations.

She was also detained among numerous other PPP leaders and activists during the emergency imposed by former military ruler Pervez Musharraf on November 3, 2007.

Raja was inducted as a federal minister in April 2012 in Yousuf Raza Gilani's cabinet and was retained in the cabinet formed by Raja Pervez Ashraf. — Research and text by Saher Baloch

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