Farrukh Sultana was born 11 years before the partition in a small town near Delhi, called Rohtak, India. In 1947, her family decided to migrate to Lahore, and despite the tension in the air, they made sure to absorb everything that Delhi had to offer before moving away for good; they visited the Taj Mahal, Qutub Minar, Red Fort, Connaught Place etc. On the 7th of August 1947, the Ikram family boarded a train from Delhi to Lahore, which is said to be one of the last trains to reach safely.
The family had property in Lahore, and therefore settled in quickly. Farrukh Nisar-ul-Haque’s father worked for the prison department and was transferred from one city to another every few years. While living in Gujarat, the family witnessed many atrocities. One incident that left a grave impact on a young Farrukh was a truck from Indian occupied Kashmir, packed with decapitated women’s breasts and mocked as “Kashmir’s apples.” Such trucks were sent to Gujarat every other day, and this was only part of the cruelty that was being observed on all ends during days of the partition.
Education was always given immense importance in the family, and during her father’s posting in Baluchistan, which lacks infrastructure and schools even to this day, a tutor was hired and brought along to ensure the continuation of the children’s education. After matriculation, Farrukh Nisar-ul-Haque enrolled at the Home Economics College in Lahore, which was known as Lady Shahabuddin College back then, due to an avid interest in sewing, cooking, and arts. She then proceeded to Kinnaird College for Women for her BA in English, Urdu and Philosophy.
Soon after her BA, she got married to Sheikh Nisar ul Haque and moved to Wah Cantt, where she began to teach at the Wah Public School for a salary of Rs. 120 per month. After moving back to Lahore, she continued teaching: first at the Toddler’s academy and then the prestigious Aitchision College.
Their family wasn’t politically inclined but they were engaged in the welfare and prosperity of the society. In 1884, her grandfather co-founded “Anjuman Himayat Islam” which was an organization designed to elevate and educate the Muslim youth in the Indian subcontinent, following Sir Syed Ahmad Khan’s two-nation theory, which contributed to not only the educational elevation, but also the political and social elevation of the demoralized Muslim youth in the subcontinent.
Seeing the poor condition of migrants and children after partition, Begum Masuda started a pro-bono, free of cost school for little children in her own home. She bought slates, books, stationery and even school shoes for the underprivileged children. The children were given milk and vitamins to ensure health and fitness. Being a visionary and empathetic woman, she saw those children as the future of Pakistan, and couldn’t bear the thought of an unprogressive and dark future for the country so many had fought so valiantly for. Within a small time, 350 children had enrolled at the school, and despite her best efforts she felt that she couldn’t provide a system as good as she had imagined due to lack of resources and increasing numbers.
As a member of APWA , and one of the pioneers of APWA industrial homes, her involvement with the organization and contributions are endless. Begum Aminuddin, the wife of then Governer Aminuddin, on a visit to APWA suggested they open a school. Upon hearing this she sent her student to APWA to create the first ever school. The children were then walked from the house to the APWA building, which was right next door.
At APWA, the classes expanded, and more qualified teachers were hired. Sometime later, due to her husband’s transfer, her mother had to move to Peshawar, and therefore, called in her sister to take over the school. Gul Bashir was a highly motivated and dedicated woman, who had done her master’s degree at the Government College for Boys. For the next several years, she took the bus from McLeod Road to APWA Jail Road, and selflessly dedicated her life to the school and students. On seeing her dedication, Begum Fida Hassan, who was the chairman of APWA at the time, provided her with a sanctioned car for daily commute.
By that time, the school had expanded to 10 classes, and on seeing colleges like Kinnaird College and Lahore College with high merit lists, Gul Bashir pitched in the idea for a college, which was approved and APWA Government College was built. After Bhutto nationalized all schools and colleges including APWA College, a lot of teachers and staff members were demotivated and demoralized. This led to the creation of a second college, which is now known as the APWA Youth College and is owned solely by the APWA foundation.
Seeing her family’s involvement in APWA, and being inspired by the contributions they made and the gratification they received in return, Farrukh Nisar-ul-Haque also one day decided to join APWA. She went to APWA one winter morning, and asked for something to do. The next day, the APWA career hostel was handed over to her, which she managed and handled responsibly for the next ten years. However, she could not experience the gratification of helping those in greater need, and felt restricted by her position. She honestly relayed her concerns to the chairman. Being familiar with her nature, strength and determination, the chairman handed over a new project to Farrukh Nisar-ul-Haque, which required population control centers to be opened all over Punjab.
This was not an easy task. She had to visit remote rural areas, and identify those that both needed population control centers and had enough infrastructure to support the centers. There was also a lot of resistance on the basis of religion, due to lack of literacy and awareness, and the centers had to be marketed as health centers for women. All in all, it was difficult to start up a center and relay awareness to women in rural areas, who were unwilling to accept the concept of birth control to begin with. However, Farrukh Nisar-ul-Haque has been able to open up 16 different centers all over Punjab, and is till date looking over the centers to ensure quality and efficiency.
Being a woman of diverse interests and skillsets, and the motivation and eagerness to learn something new everyday, Farrukh Nisar-ul-Haque also attended a filmmaking course organized by APWA Lyalpur and got trained in writing, production, acting, casting, directing etc. Earlier on a trip to Italy in 1967, she came across a hand toy-making machine and had bought it. She learnt how to use it and started to make toys, that were then sold at APWA handicraft shops and Melas organized by the foundation. The toys were even sold at Tarbela Commissary during Christmas time. They were sold out in minutes owing to the precision, neatness and time that Farrukh Nisar-ul-Haque single handedly put into crafting them.
Women like her, with strong enthusiasm, commitment and passion are the backbone of APWA, and have dedicated their lives to enable APWA to fulfill its mission to elevate the women of Pakistan, in all ways. Her internal drive and vision for APWA have proved to be an invaluable asset for the organization that has benefited in more ways than one.