“Women’s World: Pakistanis in England”

pt 10 sep 1950Women’s World in The Pakistan Times, Sunday September 10, 1950.

Pakistanis in England by Christabel Taseer

On July last, after receiving the blessings of the Patron of the Pakistan Girl Guides Association, Miss Fatima Jinnah, the Pakistan delegation to the Thirteenth Session of the World Conference of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts at Oxford consisting of Begum Khalid Malik, Begum Taseer, Begum Abul Hassan and Mrs Pastakia, left Karachi by air. With us were our two Pakistani Girl Guides, Samina Anwar Ali and Nuzhat Mueenuddin, who were travelling to Switzerland to take part in a World Guide Camp organised by America. We reached Cairo, where we intended to break our journey for the night. As we passed through the Customs the Egyptian officials looked with great interest at our shalwars and qameezes.
“You are Pakistanis?” they asked.
We nodded.

Why are you going to England?” was the question.

“To take part in a ‘World Conference of Girl Guides at Oxford”, we replied.

Their faces were wreathing in smiles as they sald: “That’s excellent. Go and do your best, so that your country may be proud of you!” This was our first personal experience of the friendly ties which bind Muslims all over the world.

The second came at Lyndhurst in Hampshire, when we delegates from different countries were attending demonstrations of British Guiding, One day, (just after Eid), we were walking across the grass to a Ranger camp, wearing our white and green Guide uniforms, when a young woman dressed English Guide uniform came running quickly towards us.
“Tell me, are you Pakistani Muslims?” she cried,
We answered “yes” and looked at her eager face In surprise.

“I, too, am a Muslim, a Turkish Muslim from Cyprus,” she replied, “and I am here for Guide training. I am so very happy to see you, particularly because you are Muslims like myself. Here I am the only Muslim in the camp. Yesterday was Eid and there was no one with whom to share the happiness of that day.”

We all embraced with enthusiasm and sat down to talk about our respective counties and about Guiding, there. We parted with regret at the end of our stay, but again at Oxford, at the wind-up of our ten days’ Conference, when we had a huge Camp Fire of 10,000 Girl Guides from all over England, there, as all the delegates from the twenty-four countries represented marched slowly across the huge field to their respective places, there in front of everybody, leaning across the ropes, waiting to shake our hands in friendship, was our Turkish friend from Cyprus, Hatlee Tahsin!

From the moment we Pakistani delegates appeared in uniform in English, whether in London of Lyndhurst or Oxford, we attracted attention. People had become used to the dark-blue Guide uniforms of the British, the green of the Americans, the khaki of the Greeks, even to the dark-blue saris of the Indians – but spotless while starched shalwars and qameezes, with folded dark green dupattas and green ties and white shoes, were something quite out of the ordinary. Wherever we went we were surrounded by photographers and Girl Guides, and questioned by people – “How do you keep your uniforms so clean?” “Do you really wear such clothes in your country?” By the time we had been in England for two weeks, wherever we went, whether we were in uniform or wearing silk salwar and qameez or garara, people knew that ours was the dress of Pakistan.

But we found that many people, particularly the Guide delegates from the smaller European countries, still did not know where Pakistan was, and we often had to bring out a map and point out our country to them. We had to answer many questions about our food and general living habits, social customs, education, position of women, the meaning of purdah. People were tremendously interested in us as a country and full of admiration for the progress we had made in the last three years. Many people said that it must be a wonderful experience to be in a new country, where everything has to be built up by one’s own efforts.


The Conference itself which took place in St Hugh’s College, Oxford, was a great experience. Here in the Conference Hall were hung the flags of the twenty-four nations represented at the Conference, whose delegates, of faiths as divergent as Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Parsee, had met because they were united by a common purpose, viz, to work for the girl and women of the world. Think of the magnitude of the of the movement stated in 1910, which is such that a girl from Pakistan or Egypt can stop a girl who is wearing the Guide badge on the street in America or England, shake her by the hand, call her sister, and at once be friends with her. Our two Pakistani Girl Guides, who had never been abroad before, were received in London with affection and friendship, because they were Girl Guides and they were able to travel on to Switzerland with American, English and Australian Guides whom they had never seen before, but with whom they at once felt at ease.


In our Conference Hall, women used to chat in eleven different languages, there were women from seven countries who knew more French than English, we had an American Chairman, an English Vice-Chairman, a Belgian translator, and so on, but we were all one. For ten days at Oxford we sat and discussed subjects as diverse as training programmes, camping, finances, public relations, constitution, future policy, – sometimes in English, sometimes in French,- we were entertained in castles and palaces and country homes, we were received in Buckingham Palace by Her Majesty the Queen, we listened to concerts, saw pageants and displays of dancing, and ended a very full fifteen days’ programmes with the gigantic Camp Fire programme at Oxford, on the 29th July, which was attended by 10,000 Guides from all parts of England and which was presided over by Princess Margaret. The Camp Fire was a stupendous sight. An enormous field filled with a sea of faces, all cheering lustily as the delegates from the twenty-four countries marched slowly across the field. Over 10,000girls and women were singing the songs which are known to the two and a half million Guides all over the world, all friendly and united because they were all Guides who had taken the same promised of service to mankind and who all lived recording to the precepts of the ten Guide laws. There they all were – over 10,000 of them, representing the two and a half million Guides in the jungles of Africa, the mountains of Switzerland, the forest of Canada, the Philippine Islands, the plains of Pakistan – Guides from large towns and tiny villages, of different races and creeds and cultures, all different, but nevertheless all one.

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