Pakistani 100 Women Who Matter (Courtesy Newsweek)

by abubakarumer

Women in Pakistan are almost 50% of the total population. Their potential, talent, diligence and positive contribution towards society can not be underestimated or ignored. They must be appreciated and given right opportunities for the bright future of women specifically and Pakistan in general.

Following is a list of top 100 women who matter alot in Pakistan. Research carried out by Newsweek Pakistan.

Rising Stars

• Maryam Nawaz Sharif
Daughter of former Prime Minister of Pakistan Mian Nawaz Sharif. She’s completing her Ph.D. on post-9/11 radicalization in Pakistan, she’s fluent in four languages (including Arabic), chairs the family’s charity organizations, and devours post-colonial lit from the likes of Achebe and the revolutionary verse of Faiz. Currently working for the rights of women through PML-N platform which is the second largest political party in Pakistan.

Aseefa Bhutto Zardari
The ambassador for polio eradication will lead the PPP one day, not her brother.

Khalida Brohi
The 23-year-old launched Sughar, an NGO striving to end honor killings, child marriages and other medieval customs in her native Balochistan.

Mira Sethi
Assistant books editor at The Wall Street Journal is one of Pakistan’s best new journalists. It runs in the family, she’s the daughter of The Friday Times’ power couple Jugnu Mohsin and Najam Sethi.

Umema Adil, 14
At 11, she became the youngest Microsoft Certified Professional in the world until Arfa Karim.

Most Powerful in Opposition

• Marvi Memon
Social media queen spurned Imran Khan’s advances and joined Nawaz Sharif’s party.

Samia Raheel Qazi
Sensible champion of rights and head of the Jamaat-e-Islami’s women’s wing.

Shireen Mazari
PTI’s foreign policy wonk is a staunch advocate of national honor.

Asiya Nasir
JUIF lawmaker continues crusading for the rights of Pakistan’s minorities.

Anusha Rahman Khan
PMLN lawyer and M.P. helped shape the Punjab Women’s Empowerment Package.


• Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy
Arguably Pakistan’s most celebrated woman after Saving Face, her documentary with Daniel Junge, won Pakistan its first Oscar in February.

Malala Yousafzai
The 14-year-old from Swat has faced threats from the Taliban for demanding education for girls.

Namira Salim
The first Pakistani in space, and the first one to go to both the North Pole and South Pole.

Shahzadi Gulfam
Winner of the U.N.’s 2011 International Female Police Peacekeeper Award, Gulfam has been deployed with the United Nations Mission in Timor-Leste since 2010. She has previously served in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo.

Zehra Ali
Founder of insulation company Ghonsla, the MIT alum also teaches salsa in Lahore.

Comeback Queens

• Atiqa Odho
Raise your glass to her wicked turn in Humsafar.

Nadia Khan
Pakistan’s exuberant morning show queen is back on air after a two-year hiatus.

Aliya Zaidi
Pakistan’s top model from the ’90s is still turning heads.

Sakina Samo
The mainstay of PTV dramas of the ’80s is back. This time she also directs.

Mishi Khan
The once ample beauty is lending a hand to Pakistan’s Sesame Street, Sim Sim Hamara.


Nasreen Kasuri
Started a kindergarten group at her in-laws’ home in the ’70s. Today, her sprawling education empire has an impressive 211,323 full-time students, the Beaconhouse National University, and schools in eight other countries.

Sajida Zulfiqar Khan
Founded Pearl Furniture in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa in 2003 after her husband’s death. Her company now exports to the U.S., Europe, and the Middle East.

Zeenat Saeed Ahmed
Set up Taneez, in 2000, which is now one of Pakistan’s premier makers of home accessories. Ahmed’s thriving business has also helped preserve traditional silverware-making techniques. She has five stores in Pakistan and two in Canada.

Roshaneh Zafar
The granddaughter of singer Malika Pukhraj and daughter of Sen. S. M. Zafar quit Wall Street to start the Kashf Foundation in 1995. Zafar, 42, has been hailed by Forbesand President Obama for her Grameen-inspired microfinance initiatives.

Ambarine Bukharey
She is Pakistan’s first woman gemologist and was the country’s first ambassador to the International Color Gemstone Association. She’s worked with USAID to brand Pakistani gemstones and professionalize the mining industry. Her Menika Mines is currently operating in Skardu.

Social Workers

Mukhtar Mai
A Pakistani icon who turned her personal tragedy—her gang-rape in 2002—into an untiring campaign for justice and education. She has set up the Mukhtar Mai Women’s Organization and schools in her village, Meerwala. Now married and a mother, Mai’s appeal against the release of her alleged rapists remains pending with the Supreme Court.

Nilofer Saeed
Director of The Citizens Foundation, a nongovernmental organization running some 730 purpose-built schools nationwide with an enrollment of 102,000 students.

Masarrat Misbah
Set up the Depilex Smile Again Foundation in 2003 to help female survivors of acid and kerosene attacks in Pakistan. Misbah’s organization supports survivors with reconstructive surgery and vocational training.

Laila Nusrat
Chairperson of the Bali Memorial Trust, a nonprofit she founded in 1998 for the development and welfare of the underprivileged through health, education and microfinance programs.

Sarah Belal
Lawyer and director at the Justice Project Pakistan, an NGO aligned with Reprieve. For the last three years, Belal has been providing legal and humanitarian assistance to Pakistani prisoners on death row. She is also a vocal critic of U.S. drone strikes and the illegal detention of Pakistanis at American facilities in Afghanistan.


Juggan Kazim
Actress and producer who will soon anchor the morning show on News 5.

Aamina Sheikh
Model and actress whose TV drama Mera Saeenairs in April.

Kiran Chaudhry
Lawyer turned singer whose band, Club Caramel, drops its debut album by year’s end.

Meesha Shafi
Singer and model who stars in Mira Nair’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist.

Zoe Viccaji
Karachi-based chanteuse who has two new singles coming out in May.

Media Mavens

Rameeza Nizami
Managing editor and publisher at Nawa-i-Waqt Group.

Rabia Garib
Editor-in-chief of CIO Pakistan.

Munizae Jahangir
Documentary filmmaker and TV journalist.

Samina Khan
Publisher and editor-in-chief of Paper Magazine. Meher Tareen is the quarterly’s executive editor and co-publisher.

Zahraa Assad Saifullah
CEO and publisher of Hello! Pakistan.

Art World Sensations

• Mehreen Rizvi-Khursheed
Heads the Modern and Contemporary South Asian Art department at Bonhams.

Ayesha Jatoi
Artist and founder of Sohbet, a biannual journal of contemporary art and culture.

Seher Shah
Her mix of art and architecture has wowed around the world.

Sadia Shirazi
Architect and curator.

Aisha Khalid
Contemporary miniature painter.

Fabulous Fashionistas

• Sana Hashwani and Safinaz Muneer
For over 20 years, the pair has been setting trends in Pakistan’s fashion world with their signature filigreed works. Their Oscars after-party dress for Obaid-Chinoy was a triumph.

Maliha Ahmed
Creative director of DL1961, a denim company she co-owns with her husband and which stocks in 1,600 stores worldwide.

Faryal Aftab
The flame-haired creative half of Muse, the hip label founded by Princeton graduate and former banker Moeed Yousaf in 2009. Muse shows in Paris later this year.

Feeha Jamshed
The daughter of Teejays founder Tanvir Jamshed has revitalized the fashion house since taking over creative charge.

Living Legends

• Bilquis Edhi
For dedicating their lives to social service, she and her husband, Abdul Sattar Edhi, are revered in Pakistan as saints. The couple operates one of the world’s largest private ambulance services, and their organization has done relief work in places like Haiti, and the U.S.

Nasim Wali Khan
She made history in 1977 by becoming the first woman from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa to get elected to the National Assembly. She was a close confidante of her husband, Abdul Wali Khan, whose Awami National Party is now led by her stepson.

Zeba Ali
The first lady of the silver screen starred in hits like Armaan, Insaan Aur Aadmi, and Mohabbat. She and her late husband, Mohammad Ali, were Lollywood’s original power couple.

Zehra Nigah
The other famous sibling of Anwar Maqsood and Fatima Surraiya Bajia, Nigah carved out space for women in contemporary Urdu poetry.

Farida Khanum
She started at age 15 and eventually became one of Pakistan’s leading ghazal singers. Now 77, Khanum was conferred the Hilal-e-Imtiaz in 2005.

Writers’ Bloc

• Kamila Shamsie
Award-winning author of Kartographyis currently working on her next novel.

Farhat Ishtiaq
The 31-year-old’s novel Humsafarbecame the biggest TV smash in recent years.

Fatima Bhutto
Poet, writer, and activist of unparalleled passion.

Fahmida Riaz
Urdu poet has a book of short stories out this year.

Uzma Aslam Khan
Geometry of God author is on the tenure track at the University of Hawaii.

Bold Voices

• Asma Jahangir
Pakistan’s fearless and most famous human rights advocate is also a sharp critic of the excesses of the judiciary. Last year, she became the first woman to head the Supreme Court Bar Association.

Farahnaz Ispahani
From the Kharotabad killings to the Parachinar massacre, President Zardari’s well-respected spokesperson is one of the clearest and most consistent voices for human rights and justice in the National Assembly.

Amina Janjua
It started with a search for answers. Janjua’s Defense of Human Rights Pakistan is now leading the battle to recover Pakistanis who have vanished without a trace, including her husband, Masood.

Bushra Gohar
The ANP lawmaker goes where men fear to tread. Gohar continues to point out the security establishment’s errors of omission and commission and was the first M.P. to demand ISI chief Pasha’s resignation after Abbottabad.

Marvi Sirmed
When she’s not putting quacks like Zaid Hamid in their place on national TV or being reprimanded in the Senate for being a liberal, the intrepid columnist works with lawmakers as part of the UNDP’s capacity building effort.

Unsung Heroes

• The women of Rescue 1122
The emergency response task force started inducting women a year after its founding in 2004. Rescue 1122 now has a total of 87 full-time female employees, including dispatchers, community safety trainers, and eight EMTs who respond to field emergencies.

Azra Raza
The oncologist and Columbia University professor’s work has been published in The New England Journal of Medicine and Nature. In 2009, Dr. Raza co-wrote Ghalib: Epistemologies of Elegancewith author and Yale professor Sara Suleri-Goodyear.

Nasreen Jalil
The newly-elected senator organized the Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s “Empowered Women, Stronger Pakistan” rally in Karachi on Feb. 19. The BBC called it the largest gathering of women ever organized anywhere in the world.

Bazah Roohi
The 37-year-old founded the American Council of Minority Women in 2007, and the New York State Senate honored her last year for her human rights work. Roohi also runs an accounting firm, Bi Bi Jan, to help Pakistani expats keep their books.

M. H. Sherazee
Born in 1924, Sherazee became president of the Pakistan Society for the Rehabilitation of the Disabled 23 years ago. The Lahore-based nonprofit has treated over 400,000 patients since its founding in 1957 and has its own hospital, school, vocational centers, and microfinance arm. Sherazee has also worked with the All Pakistan Women’s Association and written pamphlets for the Pakistan Girl Guides Association.

Hall of Famers

• Sana Mir
The heart-stopping skipper led the women’s cricket team to last year’s Twenty20 victory and also the 2010 Asian Games win. She’s moved up to No. 14 on the latest Reliance ICC ODI Championship Bowling Rankings.

Palwasha Bashir
The 24-year-old is ranked the No. 1 woman badminton player in Pakistan and took the bronze at the 2010 South Asian Games in Dhaka.

Saba Aziz
In the four years since going pro, Aziz has notched up several wins including last year’s Aisam-ul-Haq Masters Tennis Championship and the 27th Federal Cup National Ranking Tennis Championship.

Kiran Khan
After winning 13 medals at the 28th Pakistan National Games in 2001—when she was 11—Khan has done swimmingly well at the World Islamic Games, the South Asian Games, the Commonwealth Games, and the 2008 Olympics. She also runs swimming camps for children.

Raheela Bano
Pakistan’s top female cyclist went pro at 16, in 2002. She won the silver medal at the 2010 South Asian Games.

Most Powerful in Government

Farzana Raja
The BISP chairperson is on every PPP M.P.’s speed dial.

Faryal Talpur
The president’s sister has been quietly rebuilding the PPP.

Sherry Rehman
Pakistan’s most important and ablest ambassador.

Nargis Sethi
Acting defense secretary is country’s most influential bureaucrat.

Hina Rabbani Khar
Pakistan’s first woman foreign minister knows how to work any room.
Women Who Should Govern

• Maleeha Lodhi
After representing Pakistan in the U.S. and the U.K., Dr. Lodhi returned to her roots in journalism as a special advisor to the Jang Group. Last year, she edited Pakistan: Beyond the Crisis State, a book of essays from top names like Ayesha Jalal.

Nafis Sadik
The former under-secretary-general of the U.N., Dr. Sadik became the first woman to head the United Nations Population Fund, in 1987. She is currently a special advisor to the current secretary-general of the world body.

Shamshad Akhtar
The first woman to head the State Bank of Pakistan, Dr. Akhtar was included in The Wall Street Journal’s list of 10 Women to Watch in Asia, in 2008. Most recently, she was the World Bank’s vice president for the Middle East and North Africa.

Aleema Khan
She works with buyers like Macy’s to promote Pakistani textiles in foreign markets, a cause for which she lobbied the U.S. Congress shortly after 9/11. Khan’s also a part of SAARC’s Sabah initiative and her brother’s Imran Khan Foundation.

Musharaf Hai
From Unilever to Citibank to L’Oreal, Hai means business. One of Pakistan’s sharpest corporate chiefs, Hai founded the Lux Style Awards and is a recipient of the Sitara-e-Imtiaz. The secret of her success? “Trust, truth, teamwork.”

Better Halves

• Naz Mansha
The Midas touch behind Nishat Linen.

Bushra Aitzaz
Advocate of women’s cricket.

Aamna Taseer
Pakistan’s steeliest chief executive.

Tehmina Durrani
The original activist.

Umber Hyatt
Coke Studio producer.

Women We Hate

• Veena Malik, spark
She’s hot and entertaining but certainly no icon of empowerment.

Maya Khan, TV host
We can’t decide which was worse, the incredulous explanation or the original sin.

Waheeda Shah, PPP politician
Her slap was heard around the country.

Seemal Kamran, PML politician
M.P. hit sour note with proposal to ban concerts in the Punjab.

Zainab Bibi, maneater
Made minced meat of her man.

Women We Wish Were in Pakistan

• Nadia Ali
The Libya-born Pakistani-American singer was nominated for a Grammy last year for “Fantasy.”

Jemima Khan
Assange supporter and New Statesmanjournalist is still close to her ex-husband, Imran.

Mishal Husain
The sedate BBC journalist will be co-hosting the media organization’s London Olympics coverage.

Nargis Fakhri
She’s been on America’s Next Top Model and starred in last year’s Bollywood hit Rockstar.

Huma Abedin
Deputy chief of staff to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

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