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Tahira Mazhar Ali (née Hayat) (5 January 1924, in Lahore, British India[1] – 23 March 2015, in Lahore, Pakistan[1]) was a Pakistani women's rights campaigner and a political activist, and mentor to Benazir Bhutto. Her children include British Pakistani political activist Tariq Ali, Tauseef Hyat, and Australian journalist Mahir Ali.[1][2][3]

Early life and careerEdit

Ali finished her basic education at Queen Mary School in Lahore. She married at the age of 17. Her husband, Mazhar Ali Khan (1917–1993) was a journalist and editor of the Pakistan Times newspaper who had socialist leanings.[3]

Ali was the daughter of the Punjabi politician and former chief minister of the British Punjab Sikandar Hayat Khan (1892–1942) and a younger sister of Sardar Shaukat Hayat Khan (1915–1998) and Begum Mahmooda Salim Khan (1913–2007).[4]

Ali was jailed for vigorously opposing General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq's dictatorship. She was the first person in Pakistan to pair the fight for workers' rights with the fight for women's rights, resisting Zia's assault on the rights of women.[5] Although she was born in an affluent family, she remained an activist for labour and women's rights for over 60 years. Ali formed the Democratic Women's Association (DWA) in 1950 in Pakistan. For the first time in Pakistan, International Women's Day was observed under her leadership where it was openly demanded that women be given equal status and rights.[1]

In her later years, before she suffered a series of debilitating strokes that left her partially paralysed, she served as a mentor to many prominent Pakistani women.[5]

Death and legacyEdit

Ali died on 23 March 2015 in Lahore. Human rights activist I. A. Rehman paid tribute to her in the Dawn newspaper, saying that she was "a true activist" and mentioning her work for women's rights and peace-making efforts between India and Pakistan.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e Xari Jalil (2015-03-24). "Tahira Mazhar Ali's death a profound loss to many". Dawn (newspaper). Retrieved 26 July 2017.
  2. ^ Omar Waraich (2015-03-29). "Tahira Mazhar Ali: Women's rights campaigner who was the mother of Tariq Ali and acted as mentor to Benazir Bhutto - People - News". Independent (UK newspaper). Retrieved 26 July 2017.
  3. ^ a b "Tahira Mazhar Ali Khan, 1925-2015 ‹ The Friday Times". The Friday Times (newspaper). 27 March 2015. Retrieved 26 July 2017.
  4. ^ Shaukat Hayat Khan 'The Nation that Lost its Soul: Memoirs', Lahore, 1993
  5. ^ a b "Tahira Mazhar Ali: Women's rights campaigner who was the mother of". The Independent. 2015-03-29. Retrieved 2017-09-04.