LAHORE: Fatima Sughra, remembered as the young girl who had hoisted up the Pakistani flag for the very first time, passed away on Monday after an illness. She was 84.
Sughra’s role in 1947 is remembered even now. She struggled for the Independence of Pakistan at a very young age, and made her name. But the flag hoisting is what she will always symbolise for people. Born in 1932, Sughra was only 14-year-old when she became one of the youngest members of the Pakistan Movement that anyone had seen.When the Pakistan Movement was at its peak, Sughra was studying in class 10.
“She used to take part in a lot of women’s processions at that time, and the Government centre was the Civil Secretariat at the time too,” said Shahid Rasheed, trustee of the Pakistan Movement Workers’ Trust. The Trust honours workers from the Pakistan Movement with gold medals.
“In 1946, for the first time, she took down the British Union Jack from the Civil Secretariat Lahore and pulled up an ad hoc Muslim League flag made out from a dupatta. For this the Government of Pakistan gave her a Lifetime Achievement Award and a Pride of Performance Award,” he said.
In an interview with The Guardian in 2007, Fatima Sughra describes herself a ‘rebellious’.
“When I took down the British flag and replaced it with our Muslim League one, I don’t think I really knew what I was doing. It wasn’t planned. I was rebellious at that age, 14, and it seemed like a good idea. I was not prepared for it to become such a big symbol of independence. They even gave me a Gold Medal for Services to Pakistan. I was the first ever to receive one.”
“When the immigrants or ‘mohajirs’ came, even then she played a big role,” said Shahid.
Justice Nasira Javed Iqbal clearly remembers that scene and the verve of Fatima Sughra. She says her mother’s house was right next to the Secretariat and that was where most of the Muslim League women’s meetings were held. In one such meeting, she handed Sughra the flag and as soon as the gates were opened the huge group of women ran out. “In a very short time, the lithe young girls Fatima and Zareena had climbed over the wall and rushed towards the flag, Zareena had pushed her upwards and Fatima had taken off the Union Jack and replaced it with the League flag.She says she still remembers how loudly they all chanted slogans of Pakistan Zindabad after that, even though she was only a little girl.
“In those days the women were so full of passion, it is really no match for the women of today,” she said. “In those days even the men supported the women. Now I don’t know if that is even possible.”
Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif expressed his heartfelt condolences with the family of Fatima Sughra and said her legacy would never be forgotten.
Her funeral prayers were held after Zuhr prayers and she was laid to rest at Miani Sahib Graveyard.
Published in Dawn, September 26th, 2017