LAHORE - Begum Kalsoom Nawaz is fighting her maiden electoral battle on the National Assembly seat that fell vacant following the disqualification of her husband, ex-prime minister Nawaz Sharif. This is not the first incident of one entering politics are assuming the driving seat after one’s spouse’s leaving the political scene for one reason or the other.

Begum Ra’ana Liaqat Ali Khan was the first such incident in the history of Pakistan. She was a prominent activist of Pakistan Movement but she started her career as a stateswoman – spawning more than two decades – only after the assassination of her husband, late prime minister Liaqat Ali Khan.

She served as economic adviser to Jinnah’s Pakistan Movement Committee and later became first lady when Liaqat Ali assumed office of prime minister.

As first lady, Ra’ana founded Pakistan Women National Guards (PWNG) and helped establish Pakistan Woman Naval Reserves, and was appointed as the Chief Controller. For her immense services to the military as a civilian, the Pakistan Army appointed her first woman Brigadier-General, and an honorary uniform was issued to her.

She arranged a conference of over 100 active women from all over Pakistan. The conference announced the formation of a voluntary and non-political organisation for the social, educational and cultural uplift of the women, named All Pakistan Women’s Association (Apwa). She was nominated its first president and unlike Pakistan Women National Group, Apwa continued to grow as it continuously fought for women’s rights in Pakistan. Apwa College Lahore is part of that struggle.

After assassination of her husband, Ra’ana joined active politics. In 1970s, she joined hands with Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. She was an economic adviser to Bhutto and played a key role in many major decisions of Bhutto regime.

Begum Ra’ana Liaqat Ali Khan was the first woman governor of Sindh as well as first Chancellor of University of Sindh and Karachi. During Ziaul Haq regime, she dedicated her life for the social and economic uplift of women till her death in 1990.

Nusrat Bhutto served as Pakistan’s first lady from 1971 until the 1977 coup, and as a senior member of the federal cabinet between 1988 and 1990.

Nusrat is remembered for her contribution to empowerment of women and as an advocate for democracy in Pakistan, and owing to it she is dubbed as “Madar-e-Jamhooriat” (Mother of Democracy), a title she was honoured with by the parliament following her death.

She became the first lady in 1971 and remained so until her husband’s removal from the Prime Minister House in 1977. She immediately succeeded her husband as the leader of the Pakistan People’s Party, and, while under house arrest, fought an unsuccessful legal battle to prevent Bhutto’s execution.

After Bhutto’s execution, she along with her children went into exile in London, from where in 1981 she co-founded the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy – a nonviolent opposition to Zia’s regime. As party’s central figure, she campaigned for her daughter Benazir’s election to the premiership.

After PPP’s victory in 1988 elections, she joined Benazir’s cabinet as senior federal minister without portfolio. She remained in the cabinet till dismissal of Benazir’s government in 1990.

Nusrat Bhutto favoured her son Murtaza in family feud against Benazir. She stopped talking to the media and refrained from political engagements after the assassination of Murtaza in 1996 in a police encounter, during Benazir’s second government.

Asif Ali Zardari became the first gentleman after his wife Benazir Bhutto assumed office as first female prime minister in 1988.

When President Ghulam Ishaq Khan dismissed Benazir government in 1990, Zardari was accused of massive corruption.

During second tenure of Benazir, he served as federal minister for investment and chairperson of Pakistan Environmental Protection Council.

He was arrested and indicted for Murtaza’s murder as well as corruption charges after President Farooq Leghari sent Benazir regime packing.

Zardari was elected senator in 1997. He was released from jail in 2004 and went into self-exile to Dubai. He returned home after assassination of Benazir Bhutto on December 27, 2007. As the new Co-Chairman of the PPP, he led his party to victory in the 2008 general elections. He spearheaded a coalition that forced Pervaiz Musharraf to resign. He was elected President of Pakistan on September 6, 2008. He was acquitted of various criminal charges the same year.

Kalsoom Nawaz Sharif, the latest addition to the elite club, is a granddaughter of famous wrestler Gama Pehelwan. She remained first lady for three non-consecutive terms – from 1990 to 1993, 1997 to 1999 and June 2013 to July 2017. As first lady and even when her husband led the opposition against the then arch-rival Benazir Bhutto, Kalsoom avoided getting involved in politics herself.

She gained prominence after ouster of her husband Mian Nawaz Sharif by Gen Pervaiz Musharraf on October 12, 1999. She was put under house arrest - unlike her husband who was taken to Adiala Jail. Kalsoom dauntlessly challenged the usurper when a lot of men backed out.

Sharif named Kalsoom as the president of Pakistan Muslim League in 1999, and she remained on that post till 2002. For months before the exile of Nawaz Sharif to Saudi Arabia, Kalsoom built a momentum, leading rallies against the military rule. It paid off in the form of putting to an end the agony of her husband behind the bars and moving of the family to Saudi Arabia.

Now the disqualification of Nawaz Sharif has forced a reluctant Kalsoon to enter political arena and contest elections for the first time in her life from NA-120 in Lahore.