Tell us about your foray into the field of politics. How did it all begin for you? My reason for being in politics is purely spiritual. Deep inspiration and devotion to the teachings of Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai brought me into politics to serve my maroora (people) with a commitment to the soil. It has been a humbling journey that provided me with the opportunity to reach out to maroora and serve them in my best capacity. After graduating from the London School of Economics & Political Science, I joined Citibank. My six years of management exposure at Citibank gave me all the tools to do what I did later in life. I founded Pakistan’s first satellite tracking vehicle and was the youngest female CEO of a multinational at the age of 29. Later, I commenced a media management unit for former president Pervez Musharraf and was his media aide for a short while. In February 2008, I was elected to the National Assembly on a reserve seat and thus began my political journey. In 2011, I resigned as MNA from the parliament and that was the actual beginning of my political life. How encouraging and supportive was your family when you decided this was the profession you wanted to take up? I was born in Karachi in an old Sindhi business family of Thatta. It was a disciplined life with a silver spoon with the best of “Pakistaniyat” and love for soil. My parents’ support and guidance has been vital for all the achievements that I made in my life. Please share with us the time when you joined Benazir Income Support Programme as its chairwoman. What were the strategies and goals you had in mind at the time you started actively running BISP? How successful have you been in achieving your targets you had set for BISP? BISP is the flagship social safety net of the country that is catering to 5.4 million vulnerable women of Pakistan. When I joined BISP, I had just one aim that was to empower the poorest of women, to provide them dignity and add meaning to their lives. Besides increasing the number of beneficiaries to 5.4 million and increasing the stipend to Rs 4,834, I have been particularly interested in poverty graduation of my beneficiaries. I initiated BISP E-Commerce to market the handicrafts made by BISP beneficiaries, so that they may earn decent livelihood by selling their hand made products. Besides providing cash assistance, BISP is also investing in human capital development by enrolling deprived children into schools. BISP has enrolled 1.7 million children into schools and targets to enrol 2 million. BISP survey on which the current NSER is based was done in 2010. To update NSER, BISP has started its new survey in pilot districts. It is technology enabled computer based apolitical survey that is being conducted by our teams that visit door to door to collect data. We have developed automated systems that enable BISP to ensure 100 percent accurate data by identifying and rectifying any error in the collected data during survey on real time basis. The national rollout is scheduled to start in current year. Being a Member of the National Assembly for the past one decade, please share with us some challenges you might have faced being a female politician in a field which is male dominated. How did you overcome those challenges? The biggest challenge has been to perform 100 times more than general seat MNAs so as to legitimise the reserved seat which is not given enough respect. What were some of the ideologies and ethos that made you shift to the Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz from PML-Q? Do you think your current party has successfully fulfilled its vision towards the development of Pakistan? I joined PML-Q when it was in opposition. When it decided to join the same government against which we had protested, I resigned from PML-Q as a matter of principal. It was applauded across the board because it was rare that a parliamentarian would sacrifice her seat on the basis of her party joining the government even in the history of Pakistan. I spent time evaluating which party would suit me. I had three options – to start my own party or join Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf or PML-N. Finally after weighing all my options I chose PML-N, which in those days was in opposition. I am proud that it was for the leadership of PML-N and its struggle that I chose them versus for any power. This point is often ignored and I am called a Lota whereas in fact what I did was honourable. PML-N is definitely fulfilling its vision because if you check our manifesto, we have accomplished a lot of our goals. I am humbled and proud that under the original manifesto we can claim success in all fields – economy, education, fight against extremism and energy amongst many other indicators like poverty alleviation. ‘When PML-Q decided to join the same government against which we had protested, I resigned as a matter of principal. It was applauded across the board because it was rare that a parliamentarian would sacrifice her seat on the basis of her party joining the government even in the history of Pakistan’ What according to you has been your biggest achievement so far? My biggest achievement is the work that I have done for the poorest of women of Pakistan. As chairperson of BISP, I have travelled all across the country, met with women, listened to their problems and tried to address their problems. Secondly I consider Acid Control and Acid Crime Prevention Bill 2010 as one of my biggest achievements. My role has come with global recognition, as I won the inaugural Speaker’s Democracy Award by UK’s House of Commons, clinched a seat on the World Bank’s Gender Advisory Council and was awarded French Order of Merit in Officers Grade. As I believe in empowering societies through awareness, I constituted BISP Women Empowerment Forum that brought together national and international experts on education, health, nutrition, gender violence and work place diversity together to draft guidelines for social mobilisation campaign of BISP. This social mobilisation is mandated to educate and aware BISP beneficiaries on gender rights, health and education. Under this social mobilisation campaign, trainings on nutrition have already started with collaboration of WFP that would be followed by sessions on women rights in Islam. This is a silent women empowerment revolution, which is going to go a long way in creating that difference needed by Pakistan. What motivates you to excel no matter what? Commitment to my “maroora” keeps me going. What has been your most cherished experience throughout your career? My time spent working for the most vulnerable and discriminated segments of Pakistani society, sharing their lives and living their struggle and dreams. They are my customers, my inspiration and my heroes. What is your vision for Pakistan and what does it mean to be Pakistani for you? My vision for Pakistan is fairly simple; to build Pakistan where every individual has the right to progress individually, for his or her community and for their country with a basic level of state services, which are equitably divided across all of Pakistan. My Pakistan is making sure all regions, provinces and territories of Pakistan are equal partners of the federation and that each Pakistani feels as nationalistic about a province they are not born in as they would feel about Pakistan. If we cannot feel nationalistic about our local areas, we cannot build the larger Pakistaniyat – a point missed by many who want nationalism only for the whole not the parts. In short, Pakistaniyat is inter-provincial harmony and love for each part and love for whole. We, at Daily Times, consider you one of our national heroes. Who are some of yours? Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai is my hero. I am his Sourmi. Achievements AT THE HELM OF AFFAIRS The legendary Marvi Memon is not just a politician but also who serves as the chairperson of the Benazir Income Support Programme and is also a member of the National Assembly of Pakistan since 2013 as a member of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz. In April, she was appointed as a member of the Advisory Council on Gender & Development at World Bank. A HIGHLY QUALIFIED POLITICIAN Marvi Memon has studied in Karachi, Kuwait City and Paris. She then enrolled in the London School of Economics & Political Science from where she completed her BSc Honours in International Relations. Previously, she has served as a member of the National Assembly from 2008 to 2012 from Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid. According to the Free & Fair Election Network, she was amongst the parliamentarians in the 13th National Assembly of Pakistan who introduced the third highest number of private members’ bill. AN ILLUSTRIOUS CAREER Marvi has worked at the Pakistan Institute of International Affairs, International Union for Conservation of Nature and the United States Embassy in Islamabad. She has worked as a banker at Citibank where she specialised in marketing and quality management and later with Pakistan Television Corporation, before moving to launch Trakker, one of Pakistan’s largest vehicle tracking service provider which established her as an entrepreneur. Marvi joined the Inter-Services Public Relations and served in its media monitoring and analysis wing. She also worked as advisor to the president of Pakistan on media management and investments. AN AVID WRITER Marvi also has a literary streak to her having worked as an intern at Dawn and Newsline. She is author of the memoir My Parliamentary Diaries, which is an account of her everyday life as a parliamentarian, which she launched in 2012. AN INTERNATIONAL STAR Marvi has received the Speaker’s Democracy Award by the House of Commons of the United Kingdom. In July, she was conferred the French National Order of Merit by the French Ambassador to Pakistan in Islamabad. Published in Daily Times, August 29th 2017.