Beginning with a privileged childhood in an elite family of pre-Partition India, to a troubled youth in Pakistan, this is the inspiring story of Salma Ahmed- a woman who surmounted formidable odds to achieve extraordinary success in business and politics.
In this strikingly honest and candid account, Salma talks of her three marriages- to a naval officer, a scion of a leading feudal family, and a cricketing star, her conflict as a mother as she makes the agonizing decision to give up two of her six children, and her efforts to build a career as a business entrepreneur and political figure in an emerging Pakistan. As she recounts the events of a life filled with dramatic highs and equally fainful lows, she does not spare herself and more than she does other players in her story. This is a book that unabashedly reveals many of the hidden taboos of contemporary Pakistiani society, bringing into question customs that are an integral, if unpleasant, part of sub continental culture.
Salma Ahmed's gripping narration of her political carrer is fast paced and often amusing. The book relates events of the 1985 Assembly which no other author ha yet commented on. Her interaction with the late president Zia-ul-Haq and Prime minister Mohammad Khan Junejo, MQM leader Altaf Hussain, the charismatic Pir Sahib Pagaro and several others, gave her a unique opportunity to witness, first-hand the intrigue, power plays and unfolding drama of Pakistani politics. Her frequent visits to India brought her into contact with Indira Gandhi, her son Rajiv and many other leading figures of the sub-continent.
This is that absorbing tale of a woman who was a pampered child, an unhappy wife a repentant mother-but one who emerged triumphant as a woman of substance, in business and politics.
It didn't occur to me that one day I would write a book. The four-year process started in 1999, after my world came crashing down on me when I lost my eldest daughter, Bina.
To begin with, the attempt at writing was slow and hesitant. It was only when the story started gradually to emerge, that it became clear to me that this was something which needed to be done.
The reader will discover that it required courage to candidly narrate the story of my life. However, having received much unfair and hurtful criticism over many years, I became convinced that to recount my side of the tale was a duty I owed to myself and those whom I love.
To begin with, the attempt at writing was slow and hesitant. It was only when the story stared gradually to emerge, that it became clear to me that this was something which needed to be done.
This book might never have been written had it not been for my daughter Bina- the girl who warned me, 'Mummy, if you don't write about yourself, I shall.' My child didn't live long enough to savour the joy of seeing her wish fulfilled, but this book and the tears that I have shed in writing it, is dedicated to her with all my love.
On 5 February 2005, Hamida Khuhro, a childhood friend and Sindh minister of education, launched Cutting Free in Karachi. There was little premonition that fateful day of the bitter harvest I was to reap soon thereafter.
Barely a month after the launch, a bizarre series of events started to unfold leaving me dumbfounded with shock. All I could do was helplessly watch in silent horror as my world crashed around me. These dreadful events will form part of a sequel to my autobiography, which is now underway. What I can say for the moment is: Muqabilla tau dile natawan ne khub kiya (Mir Taqi Mir).
It is a matter of deep personal satisfaction that my autobiography is to be published in India. Because of the great similarity in the social and cultural milieu of the South Asian sub-continent, there is much in common in the attitudes and behavioral patterns of women of the region. Cutting across boundaries of politics and religion, women of the region stand on a common platform because they share the same aspirations and encounter similar difficulties. It is therefore my hope that this autobiography might provide some guidance to those women who intend to venture into a life of business and politics.
Finally, my greatest reward in writing this book would be if it were to give courage and hope to the countless women of Pakistan who are faced with challenges similar to those I had to encounter. If the story of my life can inspire even one single woman, I would consider my life's work accomplished.
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