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Deputy Speaker Rehana Leghari
Deputy Speaker Rehana Leghari

KARACHI: Rehana Leghari, a Pakistan Peoples Party lawmaker from Sujawal, is going to join an elite club of women who have been elected as deputy speakers of the Sindh Assembly in its history of more than 80 years.

A lawyer by profession, Ms Leghari will replace Syeda Shehla Raza, who had successfully completed two tenures in a row — from 2008 to 2018 — as the deputy speaker.

She will be the fourth woman deputy speaker of the house. Ms Raza is so far the only woman who got the coveted post twice.

Jethi Tulsidas Sipahimalani was the first woman who made it to the Sindh Assembly by getting elected in general vote and became the first woman deputy speaker in 1937 after Sindh seceded from the Bombay Presidency and got provincial status.

She will be the fourth woman deputy speaker of the Sindh Assembly

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

The provincial assembly’s second woman deputy speaker was Raheela Tiwana, who was a front-line leader of the PPP’s students wing along with Ms Raza. The duo had been picked up by the police’s infamous Crime Investigation Agency (CIA) during Jam Sadiq Ali’s government in December 1990 on charges of illegal arms trafficking and was subjected to severe torture.

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

This is the fourth time running when a woman has been picked for the post since 2002 general elections.

Born in 1971 in impoverished Sujawal district — then part of Thatta district — Ms Leghari has been a PPP activist for more than two decades. At present, she is the general secretary of the district’s women wing of the party. She practices law in Karachi, Thatta and Sujawal.

In a way, as she told Dawn, her family has a link with Sindh Assembly’s first deputy speaker as her grandfather Fazal Mohammad Leghari was a member of the same house as Ms Sipahimalani.

“My grandfather was initially a member of the Bombay Legislative Assembly and then he had been a member of the Sindh Assembly before and after independence,” said Ms Leghari.

She said it was the second time since 2013 that she had been elected on PPP ticket on a seat reserved for women.

Previously, she worked under former chief minister Murad Ali Shah — who has been named again for the top office by PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari — as his special assistant on human rights for 22 months.

“It is a great privilege for me and my family that the party leadership has showed its confidence in me. It is a huge moment of my life,” said Ms Leghari.

She said she was indebted to Mr Bhutto-Zardari, former president Asif Zardari and MPA Faryal Talpur for taking a “merit-based decision” in her favour.

“It is indeed a moment of joy for a person like me [to] be able to preside over a house [in] which so many legends including [my] grandfather had been sitting in the past,” she said.

“We’ll try to keep friendly atmosphere in the house as our government had done in its previous tenures. We’ll try to take the opposition along,” she observed.

Published in Dawn, August 12th, 2018