In the 1937 Elections, the Muslim League had won only 108 out of 484 Muslim seats. This was a depressing result for a party, which considered itself to be the main representative of the Muslims of India. This setback convinced Mr Jinnah of the need to reorganise the Muslim League so that it could win the next elections. One of the measures that he decided to focus upon involved the creation of a Muslim women’s vote bank. As numerical strength is the backbone of any political movement, he sought to facilitate the mass enrolment of Muslim women into the AIML–recognising this as an untapped force that could prove to be a source of strength for the Muslim League. It would serve the dual purpose of helping to increase the party’s numerical strength at its political rallies, while also swelling the size of its vote bank in the upcoming elections. Consequently, in its Patna session in December 1938, the AIML decided to set up the All India Muslim Women’s Sub-Committee. This, in turn, established Central, Provincial and District Sub-Committees to infuse the political awakening among Muslim women. It is heartening to note that the women, most of whom had hardly ever stepped out of their homes, responded to this call with fervour and enthusiasm. Therefore, by the time the decision was taken to hold a massive jalsa in Lahore in March 1940, Muslim women had acquired a sound understanding of the political issues involved in the demand for a separate homeland as well as their fundamental differences with the Hindus. Punjab Provincial Women’s Sub-Committee held a special meeting to prepare themselves to receive, accommodate and look after a large number of Muslim women, who were expected to come from all parts of the country to attend the forthcoming historic session in March. In addition, prominent women took it upon themselves to visit far-flung areas to mobilise Muslim women in the rural areas. As a result of these measures and similar efforts in other provinces, Lahore Session was characterised by a huge number of Muslim women who came from all over India to attend it. Syed Sharif-ud-din Pirzada reported that on March 22, 1940, its opening day, the “…. special feature of the Session was the appearance of such a large number of Muslim women in a public function of this sort.” This session was truly historic in the sense that here, for the first time, the AIML declared that the achievement of an independent Muslim state was now to be its stated goal. On the issue of women’s participation in this endeavour, Quaid-e-Azam said, “I believe that it is absolutely essential for us to give every opportunity to our women to participate in our struggle of life and death.” The women, most of whom had hardly ever stepped out of their homes, responded to Muslim League’s call with great fervour and enthusiasm. In 1941, Lady Abdul Qadir, Fatima Begum and Miss M Qureshi were instrumental in forming the Muslim Girl Students’ Federation. According to The Indian Annual Register, vol I, 1942, 1000 students were enrolled from Jinnah Islamia College alone over just a few months. This Federation proved very useful in helping to hold political meetings for Muslim women. Further, its members set up primary branches in various girls’ schools and colleges, thereby, creating a general sense of political awareness among Muslim girl students in Lahore. Subsequently, its members also toured the countryside during their summer vacations to convey the AIML’s message to the rural masses. Therefore, in a way, this Federation became a nursery for producing the future crop of Muslim women politicians. On November 21, 1942, Mr Jinnah addressed a large gathering of Muslim women and girl students in Lahore, as a result of which Muslim women’s activities entered a new phase. Henceforth, members of each Provincial Sub-Committee undertook a series of tours to major districts of the Province to set up primary Leagues, and educate local women about the significance of the Pakistan Resolution. Consequently, a massive increase in the enrolment of Muslim women into the AIML was achieved in a very short time and, “eventually the bulk of the women community which had hitherto lived in oblivion was awakened from slumber and lethargy. The message of the Muslim League reached the remotest villages of the Punjab.” (Sarfaraz Hussain Mirza, The Role of Muslim Women in the Pakistan Movement). On August 21, 1945, Viceroy Lord Wavell declared that elections to the Central and Provincial Legislatures would be held in the coming winter. The AIML’s claim of being the sole representative of the Indian Muslims could only be borne out if it achieved outright success in the forthcoming elections. And this success would be dependent on three aspects–massive enrolment of its supporters; a collection of funds; and the putting in place of an organisation that would successfully conduct the fight on the actual polling day. (Sarfaraz Hussain Mirza, The Role of Muslim Women in the Pakistan Movement). Muslim women contributed significantly in all three aspects. Firstly, as the AIML had already consolidated its support among urban Muslim women, it was decided to concentrate more on the enrolment of Muslim women in the rural areas where the large majority of potential voters resided. While the Primary and District Leagues did their duty, women leaders from prominent Muslim families were dispatched to the countryside to motivate the rural women (interview Begum Salma Tasadduque). Secondly, In response to Mr Jinnah’s statement that “elections cannot be fought without money,” Central and Provincial Women’s Sub-Committees began a well-planned fund-raising campaign in their respective cities and towns. As the NWFP was a Muslim-majority province, which was, otherwise, a stronghold of the Congress Party, it merited special attention. As reported in the Inqilab newspaper of November 28, 1945, a delegation of women leaders from Punjab, led by Lady Abdullah Haroon, visited Peshawar, Nowshera and Mardan from October 17 to 19, to motivate the local Muslim women to support the AIML. Its meeting was attended by a large number of Pathan women, who had come from far-flung areas for this purpose. They pledged their allegiance and contributed a hefty sum of Rs 3500 (which was considered to be a substantial amount in those days). Finally, practical measures were put in place to successfully conduct the fight on the actual polling day. As Punjab was the crucial province for the Muslims, the AIML decided to win here at all costs. Although it had a Muslim majority, it was ruled by the Unionist Party with the support of a powerful non-Muslim element. Consequently, the Provincial Women’s Sub-Committee chalked out a detailed plan of action at an extraordinary meeting held at Lahore on January 4, 1946, under the leadership of Begum Bashir Ahmad. Its representatives visited the constituencies of all Muslim candidates while laying greater emphasis on those areas where the actual candidates could not visit for any reason. The Punjab Muslim Girl Students’ Federation and the WNG cooperated with and supported the Primary Leagues in this endeavour, under the leadership of Miss Riffat Bashir, the Chief Salar of the Punjab WNG. During the actual voting phase, Muslim women not only supervised the proceedings at the polling stations but also formed several groups that were specifically tasked to bring voters from their homes to the polling stations and then escort them back to their homes (Sarfaraz Hussain Mirza, The Role of Muslim Women in the Pakistan Movement). As a result, the AIML’s candidates received 98% of the Muslim women’s votes cast in Punjab. Both Begum Salma Tasaddaque and Begum Jahanara Shahnawaz, the two women who had been granted tickets by the Punjab Muslim League Parliamentary Board, won their seats with a thumping majority. Overall, the AIML emerged as the undisputed representative of the Muslims of India, winning all 30 Muslim seats in the Central Legislature and 428 out of the combined total of 492 seats in the Provincial Legislatures. In Punjab itself, the AIML won 79 of the 86 Muslim seats. Thus, Mr Jinnah’s vision of creating a women’s vote bank, and using it to help the AIML to win the next election, was fully validated. And yet, its benefits were not automatically passed on to the AIML. (To Be Continued). The writer is an independent researcher and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.