In this exclusive interview with Horizon magazine, we sit down with Saba Sadiq, a distinguished senior leader of PML-N and a former member of the Punjab Assembly. Saba Sadiq shares her remarkable journey from a dedicated student leader to a seasoned politician, shedding light on her accomplishments, insights, and aspirations for the party and Pakistan’s future.
Horizon: We’re delighted to have you for this interview, despite your busy schedule.
Saba Sadiq: The pleasure is mine. As an avid reader of Horizon, I truly appreciate the dedication of the magazine’s team in effectively conveying the party’s message to the masses. Rana Mashhood’s leadership at the Research and Policy Planning Unit has been instrumental in this effort.
Horizon: Could you provide our readers with an introduction to Saba Sadiq? How would you define yourself?
Saba Sadiq: (With a smile) Saba Sadiq is a proud Pakistani citizen – a law-abiding woman, mother, wife, and a dedicated social worker. I’ve had the honour of serving Punjab as a legislator, appointed by the PML-N leadership across four terms.
Horizon: Where were you born? Could you share a bit about your education and family background?
Saba Sadiq: I was born in Lahore in 1966, where I received my primary education. I pursued my LLB and earned a master’s in political science from Punjab University. My career in law was complemented by active participation in the Lahore High Court Bar Association. My focus was primarily on family issues and constitutional petitions.
Horizon: Your journey into politics is intriguing. How did you enter the realm of politics?
Saba Sadiq: My entry into politics was inspired by my father’s interaction with Mian Nawaz Sharif, both being from the business community. Guided by my father, I became involved with the Muslim Student Federation during college, where leaders like Khawaja Saad Rafique and Mian Shehbaz Sharif mentored me. From the outset, I understood that politics is a means to serve the people.
I fondly recall the era when our political mentor and Chief Minister of Punjab, Ghulam Haider Wyne, would rest on a traditional “baan charpai” at the Muslim League House while actively organising the party. He maintained an open-door policy for all workers, making himself accessible to every single one. I have personally experienced his candid guidance, and despite moments of admonishment, he remained an exceptional mentor, always within the reach of the party members. This period marked a golden era for our party, witnessing a substantial surge in membership. The strength of our primary units at the union council level was remarkable, leading to a time when bureaucrats treated our members with respect and earnestly addressed their concerns. It was during this phase that I assumed the role of a councillor in the Metropolitan Corporation, Lahore (MCL), shortly after graduating from law school. Within this capacity, I served on the education committee, proudly contributing to reform initiatives within MCL schools.
Horizon: Reflecting on your political career, you’ve been a prominent figure in the Punjab Assembly. Could you share your experiences?
Saba Sadiq: My journey as a PML-N representative in the Punjab Assembly commenced in 2002 and continued through subsequent assemblies in 2008, 2013, and 2018. Under the guidance of our party leadership, I’ve played a role in significant initiatives, especially those focused on women legislators. The inception of the Women’s Parliamentary Caucus stands out, with the first meeting hosted at my residence.
Horizon: Women’s representation has been a key aspect. How has the environment for women in the assembly evolved?
Saba Sadiq: In 2002, women’s perspectives faced limited acceptance, but over time, women began asserting their views based on their competence. While societal tolerance for outspoken women remains low, the appointment of Maryam Nawaz as senior vice president and chief organiser has positively influenced the PML-N’s internal environment. Women’s engagement at all levels has improved under her leadership. She is also actively promoting the youth.
Horizon: Transitioning to your role as an MPA, could you elaborate on your contributions?
Saba Sadiq: I played a pivotal role in establishing a women’s caucus within the Punjab Assembly, a forum that advocated for women’s issues and engaged in parliamentary debates. Notable achievements of PML-N during the 2013-2018 tenure include introducing comprehensive gender reforms and passing a landmark anti-violence bill. Additionally, I served on the Public Accounts Committee and advised the chief minister on social welfare matters. My tenure as the chairperson of Punjab’s Child Protection and Welfare Bureau marked a deeply rewarding period of my life.
Horizon: Your tenure at the Child Protection Bureau has been lauded. Could you share your experiences?
Saba Sadiq: My role as chairperson was transformative. Despite initial reservations, I found the work immensely noble. Recently Rizwana’s case has been highlighted, but there are hundreds of such cases all around us, cases of domestic abuse, child labour, and sex trafficking. I led efforts to combat these heinous crimes. Equipping officers with modern tools, collaborating with the Police and Pakistan Railways, and fostering cross-province and cross-border collaborations were some notable achievements. We succeeded in rescuing several victims of domestic abuse, child labour and sex trafficking, and traced families of runaway children. The welfare of children remains an area of immense pride for me.
Horizon: Shifting to the current political landscape, what’s your analysis?
Saba Sadiq: The current challenges trace back to the unjust disqualification of Mian Nawaz Sharif. PML-N leadership was unfairly targeted to obstruct Pakistan’s progress. They were implicated on false charges but Alhamdulillah, not a single penny’s corruption could be proved in courts, reinforcing our leadership’s integrity.
Unfortunately, after PTI assumed charge, Pakistan’s economy started declining and the country was brought to the brink of default. It was PML-N that rescued Pakistan by getting IMF to agree to a stand-by arrangement. PTI’s extreme position and holier-than-thou attitude resulted in the unfortunate incidents of 9 May. These incidents must have pleased Pakistan’s enemies because, until now, no patriotic Pakistani could even think of attacking the Pakistan Army.
Horizon: What’s your vision for PML-N and its emerging leadership? Where should the party focus?
Saba Sadiq: With the emergence of dynamic leaders like Maryam Nawaz and Hamza Shahbaz, PML-N’s future looks promising. Both are dedicated and humble party workers, who reached this position through hard work. People’s trust in our leadership stems from a demonstrated commitment to serving the nation. An area of focus could be enhanced engagement with overseas Pakistanis to elucidate the party’s position.
Horizon: Balancing work and personal life can be challenging. How do you manage?
Saba Sadiq: I believe working women excel at managing households. Despite my demanding schedule, I ensure my home runs smoothly. My husband is flexible and supports me a lot.
Horizon: We’ve heard about your welfare activities. Please tell us something about them.
Saba Sadiq: I financed the construction of a state-of-the-art ICU at Jinnah Hospital in Lahore in 2013 in memory of my late father. I have constructed dispensaries and vocational institutes for women in remote areas.
Horizon: Could you share about your family?
Saba Sadiq: My daughter is an interior designer based in London, actively engaged with PML-N. My husband, Saqib Usman Khan, a chartered accountant, is a staunch PML-N supporter, who stood by me during Begum Kulsoom Nawaz’s campaign.
Horizon: Personal preferences – what’s your favourite cuisine and music?
Saba Sadiq: I cherish home-cooked meals and prioritize dinner at home. I’m fond of Sufi Kalam and romantic music.
Horizon: Thank you once again for your insight.
Saba Sadiq: It’s been a pleasure. Thank you for the opportunity.