Fatima Jinnah continues to be held in high esteem to this day, even 43 years after her death. For one thing, Miss Jinnah is among the galaxy that adorns our national history and the Hall of Fame. Indeed, she is the foremost female member of that galaxy. Her services were so singular and her contribution so significant that they do credit to any nation worth the name, and in any age. What, then, is Fatima Jinnahs claim to our admiration and reverence? In a word, she stood for democratic norms and principles. She had strived all through the 1950s and the 1960s to get the people their inalienable democratic rights. She stood for justiceable fundamental rights, for a free press, and for the rule of law. But, then, what equipped her for that historic role? Her apprenticeship under the Quaid-i-Azam whose sister and life-long companion she was. That, moreover, equipped her to become the foremost symbol and advocate of the cherished principles for which the Quaid had stood and struggled for, and by which she herself had, in turn, stood with unremitting courage and unflinching determination till her rather tragic end, whatever the circumstances, whatever the disabilities, whatever the consequences. And what were the qualities that enabled her to play out that historic role so superbly? Her steadfast adherence to principles, her courage of conviction, her strength of character and her incredible powers of endurance. These qualities, however, came to public notice only after the Quaids death, when she assumed, albeit through sheer force of circumstances, a more active public role in the countrys affairs. Even after the Quaids death, she confined herself to the role of a mere warner and a guide, pointing out fearlessly the lapses of the rulers and beckoning the nation back to the Quaids cherished principles. And her messages on the two Eids, Pakistan Day and Independence Day, and the Quaids birth and death anniversaries represented significant events in the national calendar. And the nation looked forward to these messages, mind to her guidelines. Of course, Miss Jinnah did come to the public platform in a dramatic way - but only at the fag end of her life, and even then, only, at the imminent and desperate call of the nation. This she did to head the democratic movement against the entrenched authoritarian Ayub regime in September 1964. And when she took to the public platform she did it indefatigably and courageously, whatever the odds, whatever the costs and consequences. And despite being a septuagenarian, she dutifully went through the marathon and strenuous campaign for three long months and that all the way - though it meant great discomfort to her personally, wrecking her physically, and putting her to all sorts of mean attacks by her nervous opponents. Indeed, the unrelenting stamina and the unflagging enthusiasm she displayed surprised almost everyone. All this could have been, and was, made possible if only because of her strength of character and conviction, and her tenacity of purpose. What a sudden and sweeping change the political landscape of Pakistan underwent during the next three months. Anti-Ayub sentiment, thus far silent out of either fear or sheer expediency, became vocal and strident almost overnight. Her candidature gave nerve and verve to the democratic forces in the county. In perspective, that was the greatest role that Miss Jinnah had donned in all her life. Even otherwise, it was only her candidature that gave meaning and significance to the democratic experiment in Pakistan. But for it, the elections would have been reduced to a mere formality, a mere ritual - to legitimise Ayub Khans semi-authoritarian constitution and rule. That she lost the election does not in anyway detract from the significance of her candidature. In the peculiar circumstances, she was bound to lose. But what was important was that her candidature initiated a political dialogue in place of the extremely suffocating authoritarian monologue of the previous six years. Only those of us who have lived through that gruelling period, not as courtiers or veranda-boys of the Ayub regime but in opposition to it, could alone say what a refreshing breeze the sheer fact of her very candidature had meant. In the historical perspective, then, the presidential elections represented the middle-point in Ayubs much-trumpeted development decade; the beginning of the end. For the first time and on a national plane, the elections exposed mercilessly the absurdity of the premises of the system, and its shortcomings, as well as the tall claims of its author. Once this occurred, Ayub, despite his electoral victory, could not legitimise his constitution, nor his regime. The regimes legitimacy having been irretrievably eroded and the nations conscience aroused to the hilt, it was only a matter of time before the regime and its high-priest were swept aside. And this occurred on March 24, 1969, as a direct consequence of the snowballing winter (1968-69) revolt, sparked by the thoughtless, flamboyant celebration of Ayubs development decade in October 1968. Thus, Miss Jinnahs greatest contribution lay in crystallising the countrys democratic temper and traditions, in initiating critical debate and discussion in place of docile conformism, in rekindling and refurbishing the enfeebled and dying flame of democracy in the land, and in setting the nation anew towards a democratic destiny. A subsidiary, but equally important contribution on longitudinal basis, was her critical role in womens empowerment. It is not usually realised that Miss Jinnahs political role during the 1950s and the 1960s had helped a good deal in making womens role in public life both respectable and credible. It facilitated other women in later years to take to public roles without let or hindrance, and without raising an eyebrow. Indeed, her candidature in the 1965 presidential election settled, once and for all, the knotty question whether a woman could be the head of a Muslim state. In perspective, this represents a singular contribution towards womens empowerment and women participation in public life in Pakistan. And her role at this juncture was, if at all, a mere translation in political action of her life-long conviction that women are the custodians of a sacred trust - the best in the cultural and spiritual heritage of a nation. And all through her life she had called on women to equip themselves as best as they possibly could, and play out their due role in the onward march of the nation. In all this, Fatima Jinnah served as a role model, especially for the Pakistani women. And if the womenfolk only took out a leaf from the Mohtarmas book, the nation could well be assured of a bright and glorious future.