WAF activist, artist Lala Rukh passes away


Lala Rukh, a founding member of the Women’s Action Forum (WAF), passed away at the age of 69 here in Lahore on Friday.

Born on June 29, the campaigner was diagnosed with cancer last month and passed away at her home in Lahore where she lived with her sister. Lala Rukh remained the head of the art and history departments at the National College of Arts (NCA).

A voice for minorities and women, Lala Rukh was an artist who highlighted the social and human right issues through her paintings, particularly the problems faced by the women in this part of the world. She got fame in the 1980s when she stood for the rights during General Ziaul Haq’s martial law.

She was the key activist against the implementation of the Hudood Ordinance penal code implemented by General Zia considering it as discriminatory against the women. For starting the movement against the ordinance, she was among the founding members of the WAF which formed in 1981 to engage women to safeguard legal position.

Messages of condolence poured in following the news of her death. On a social media post, WAF founding member Nighat Saeed Khan wrote that Lala Rukh was one of the most resolute members of and was intrinsic to WAF Lahore. “Lala Rukh remained committed for the rights of women and if today’s women are enjoying their rights is just because of her efforts,” she said while talking to Pakistan Today.

She expressed her deep sorrow over the death of Lala Rukh, saying her loss is irreparable and she will be remain in hearts. She reminded that this was very rare for women to come on roads to put lives on risk during the military regime but women activist on voice of Lala Rukh put all the fears behind and joined the protest.

“My dearest friend and a lifelong crusader for justice, equality, women’s rights and minority rights from a feminist perspective, as well as a renowned artist died peacefully after a month long struggle with cancer,” Rubina Saigol, author and researcher, wrote on a Facebook post. “Rest in peace dear Lala – we will miss you so much in WAF, in our lives and you will forever remain alive in our hearts. We love you Lala,” she wrote.

“As a young feminist, I always look up to our seniors at the Women Action Forum who started women’s movement in Pakistan. Lala’s death is a huge loss for feminists who are learning their way through feminism in Pakistan,” said Nighat Dad, director of the Digital Rights Foundation. Rights activist Zaman Khan said that this was a great loss for the movement, as Lala Rukh was an inspiration who enlightened the women with their rights.

In a press statement, Aurat Foundation spokesperson Abid Ali also condoled the demise of Lala Rukh, saying the political efforts of the late campaigner would be remembered always. “Lala Rukh was voice of every women and minority in Pakistan,” he said.

In a Facebook post, India’s feminist Kamla Bhasin also paid a rich tribute to the late Lala Rukh for her services to humanity. “Deeply sad to hear about the untimely death of Lala Rukh, an amazing artist, a compassionate friend, a true South Asian,” she wrote. “I salute you Lala and you will be missed and remembered in South Asian feminist circles,” she wrote.