When we set out at making the first of Profit’s annual list of the most powerful businesswomen in Pakistan, we had assumed that shortlisting the list to a mere 25 would require a very strict criteria. Little did we know then that shortlisting will be the least of our concerns here. Half way through our research -on both the listed and the unlisted sector-, we had realized that coming up with even an initial list of 25 would be an arduous task. In fact in the end we had to lower our yardstick a bit to make a final list of only 18. That ladies and gentlemen, is how bad the situation is when it comes to gender diversity at the top level of our corporate sector. We had to resist the temptation to include multiple names from the development and education sector where many a women are doing a fabulous job. Same goes for the fashion and hair/beauty industry.
Another obvious option was to relax our criteria further and include the many women heading HR and Marketing departments of companies and called them “powerful”. But then that would have been unfair to the word ‘power’. You see power is the ability to shape and change organisations, careers, markets, entire industries, sometimes, the lives of an entire nation. It is the deafening silence that falls upon a meeting when someone with enough of the commodity to spare raises his or her voice to make a point. It is the raw envy an individual’s achievements provoke in people around. It is, in equal parts admiration, respect, influence, and it is more.

Definitions are important, for they delineate who we are and what we do. When we at Profit set out to identify the 25 most powerful women in Pakistani business, we started off by looking for a largely-objective quantifiable methodology that could accomplish the task. Power, unfortunately, confounds most available metrics. So, we decided to do the next best thing: define our universe and the criteria we would use to identify the most powerful women in business.

The universe we decided on was, simply, women in business and policy-making related to business. Entrepreneurs, executives, wives, sisters, mothers, and daughters inducted into the family business, everyone would be considered. That left out only those women who weren’t actively involved in business, but who exerted considerable influence (sometimes more than those in business) simply by being close to those in power. We have reserved another issue for them.

The criteria we used to qualify for the listing was equally straightforward:

She is a woman in business, executive, entrepreneur, or simply someone into the family business.

She has a first, maybe several firsts to her credit.

She has helped change the way her company works.

She has helped create an industry.

She has helped her company explore uncharted waters.

She has changed the way an industry works.

She is the role model for other women in business.

She is in a position to change the lives of countless individuals.

She may satisfy any of these conditions.

She may satisfy all.

Put simply, merely being a senior woman executive wasn’t enough.

Sadly we had to later relax this last one to include two more names to make a total list of 18.

Nonetheless it’s not all doom and gloom for our businesswomen.  As more and more women enter the workforce, in due course we will also see a lot more entering the C-suite. Realistically, men might never become the other sex at the workplace -but right now, it is time to forget everything else and celebrate our Power 18.


Pioneering the business of education

Nasreen Kasuri

Nasreen Mahmud Kasuri

Chairperson, Beaconhouse Group

Wife of former Minister of Foreign Affairs Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri, Nasreen Mahmud Kasuri is probably even more successful than her husband – predominantly known for her own endeavors. Chairperson of Beaconhouse Group, Pakistan’s largest private school network, Kasuri is a well known name in the private education sector of the country – it is safe to say she pioneered the business of education in Pakistan.

It was 1975 when Nasreen Mehmud Kasuri’s sons had to enroll in a school. Looking around in Lahore, the mother – who was herself a graduate of Kinnaird College – found out that there were very limited options for her children’s good schooling.

The mother took up the mission to give quality education to not only her children but also others. She then set up Les Anges Montessori which was in fact the founding stone of Pakistan’s private education sector.

With presence in 21 cities of Pakistan and 9 countries globally Beaconhouse School System (BSS) is spread as far as U.K, Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Bangladesh, the UAE and Oman. The management has adopted various international schools in the country and now runs them under BSS.

Under the administration of Beaconhouse Group, Kasuri set up The Educators in 2002. With a total of 800 branches, the extended chain of schools is a variant for the middle income group in Pakistan. Currently as many as 247,000 students are provided with quality education in the flagship Beachouse School and The Educators combined.

In 2003, Kasuri established Beaconhouse National University in Lahore – the first Liberal Arts University of Pakistan offering undergraduate and graduate programs in various fields Visual Arts, Architecture, Psychology, Journalism and Media Studies to name a few.

Kasuri did her Bachelors in Applied Psychology and History from Kinnaird College, Lahore. She then went to Punjab University to complete her postgraduate in Child Psychology. Later on she did her MBA and received a joint degree from the New York University (USA), London School of Economics (UK) and Hautes Etudes Commerciales: HEC (France).

Currently she serves as the head of BSS where approximately 13,000 staff members – out of which 7,400 are teachers – are affiliated. Being a vocal advocate for women empowerment, Kasuri has ensured female representation in her staff where almost 62 percent of the staff is female with major representation in the upper management.

For her services to the international Pakistani community, Kasuri was awarded with the ‘Woman Power 100 award’ in London (2012). Pakistan Power 100 is an event that recognizes and honors the contributions of influential Pakistanis within the international Pakistani community. She has also been awarded with ‘Sitara e Eisaar’ from the Government of Pakistan in 2006 for her philanthropic work.

From management trainee to leadership of a multinational giant, a journey few complete

shazia syed Chairperson-Unilever 2 (1)

Shazia Syed

Chief Executive Officer, Unilever Pakistan

To quote her bio on the company profile, Shazia Syed is a mother of two and enjoys golf – a sport not many women are fond of.

However Syed, like her interests in sports, has proven time and again that she can defy all gender norms. One such task is heading the Pakistani arm of the world’s largest consumer goods and foods giant Unilever. Syed is the Chief Executive Officer of Unilever Pakistan, which market sources say currently has more than Rs8,500 crore in sales.

In short, there is hardly any household in Pakistan, which doesn’t consume one of the products that come out of their factories, such is the influence of the company she heads in the lives of Pakistanis.

After completing her MBA from Clayton University, U.S, Syed joined Unilever in 1989 as a Management Trainee. In her 26 year tenure at the global FMCG giant, Syed has worked in almost all departments and divisions of the company such as Customer Development and Home & Personal Care to name a few.

Currently serving as the Chairperson and Chief Executive Officer of Unilever, Syed has represented her company in various parts of the world. From working as Business Unit Leader in Vietnam (2000-2003) to working as the Chairperson of Unilever Sri Lanka (2013 till 2016), Syed has worked her way up in the company.

On her return to Pakistan in 2009 Syed was commissioned in the Ice Cream Business for a brief period of one year.  

She joined the Board of Directors of Unilever in April 2014 and later got appointed as CEO Unilever Pakistan in November, 2015. In March 2016, Syed was given additional charge as the CEO of Unilever Pakistan Foods Limited – a listed subsidiary of Unilever Pakistan on Pakistan Stock Exchange.

1,700 branches and counting: the woman behind Pakistan’s largest banking network

Sima Kamil, head of retail and consumer banking at Habib Bank Limited, posses for photograph in Karachi, Pakistan on Wednesday 03 August, 2011. Photographer: Asim Hafeez/Bloomberg News


Sima Kamil

Head, Branch Banking, Habib Bank Limited

Heading important departments, such as corporate finance, investment banking and branch banking and that, too, of Habib Bank Limited, Pakistan’s largest bank is no small feat – HBL has Rs2.4 trillion worth of assets on its balance sheet at the end of 2016, the year in which it booked Rs32 billion in profit. It becomes even more significant when the person who has this privilege is a woman.

Meet Sima Kamil, a highly respected female banker who is the head of HBL’s Branch Banking since 2011. Kamil is overseeing the 1,700-strong branch network of HBL, dealing in Retail, Consumer, SME, Rural Banking and Wealth Management. One can hardly find any women holding top positions in large financial firms and we would not be surprised if Kamil becomes the first female to head a large bank.  

Supervising the largest bank branch network in the country alone makes her one of our top picks for the most powerful women in business. Under Kamil’s tenure, HBL’s branch network soared to 1,677 at the end of 2016, up by more than 14% compared to 1,464 of 2011, the year she joined.

Kamil also leads the development and launch of HBL’s Women’s Market Program, which aims to make HBL the leading bank for women in Pakistan. She is also a keen participant in the education sector of the country, currently serving as Chair of the Board of Governors of Karachi Grammar School and Board Member of the Notre Dame Institute of Education.    

Kamil, who holds an MBA from City University, London, is one of the most experienced bankers in Pakistan with 25 years of experience, a clear indication that she ventured into banking and finance at a time when the country’s financial services sector was a male dominated profession. She was previously associated with American Express Bank and Standard Chartered Bank. Her past assignments also include HBL’s overseas segments. Currently, Kamil also serves as Director of HBL Asset Management Company Limited.

The Empress of the entertainment industry


Sultana Siddiqui

President, Hum Network Limited

Sultana Siddiqui has not had the easiest run in life. From getting married right after University to the end of her marriage. But she learned from her experiences and years after the end of her marriage she went on to become the first woman in Asia to own a television network, which earned Rs 400 crore in annual revenues and booked Rs 5.37 crore in net profit for the current year.

Famously known has ‘Sultana Apa’ among her industry fellows, Siddiqui was born to the Qazi family of Hyderabad, the same city which is the hometown of her brother, business tycoon Jahangir Siddiqui.

Seventh among her 10 siblings, Siddiqui attended government schools of Hyderabad. After finishing her matriculate, she went to study Comparative Religion and attained an Honor’s degree.

After her marriage ended she returned to her parent’s home seven years later with her three sons Shunaid, Junaid and Duraid. This was the time Sultana Siddiqui headed out to make a career of her own and thus began the journey of one of the most successful business women in Pakistan.

Currently serving as a member of Board of Directors and President of Hum Network Limited – which has generated over Rs1,600 crore in the last five years – Siddiqui began her career as a television producer for Pakistan Television Network (PTV) some four decades ago.

She was introduced to television industry by her university senior Abdul Karim Baloch who – knowing her capabilities – offered her a hosting gig of a Sindhi show he was producing. Although Siddiqui did hosting and acting in a few programs she did not feel it was her true calling.

Later in 1974, Baloch encouraged Siddiqui to apply for the vacant position of producer in PTV. She got selected by the state-owned television and her behind the scene career as a producer and director began.

It is pertinent to mention here that Siddiqui was the producer to discover famous artists Sakina Sammoo, Mahnoor Baloch and brought Abida Parveen to our television screens for the first time.

After working for various projects in other production houses, Siddiqui found her own production house in 1996 by the name of Moomal Productions. In January 2005, Siddiqui launched her television network under the name of Eye Television Network. The same was renamed as Hum Network Limited in 2011.

As of today, under the Hum umbrella, three channels are operating: Hum TV (entertainment), Masala TV (food channel) and Hum Sitarey (entertainment and lifestyle). Hum TV soap operas enjoy the highest TV ratings for primetime hours, according to rating providers. The company also owns three magazine publications by the name of Newsline, Glam Magazine and Masala Food Magazine.

For her services to the media industry, Siddiqui was awarded with the Pride of Pakistan award in 2008 by the Government of Pakistan. Her television network, on the other hand was ranked among the top 25 companies of Pakistan Stock Exchange in 2010.



Naz Mansha

Owner Nishat Linen

Sana Safina

Sana Hashwani & Safinaz Muneer

Owners Sana Safinaz

Pakistan’s fashion and apparel industry knows far too many women who have made it big in the industry. However, there a few that have helped the industry grow. A case in point is Naz Mansha, CEO Nishat Linen and the famous duo of Sana Hashwani and Safinaz Muneer, better known for their brand Sana Safinaz. These female entrepreneurs – belonging to affluent families – started out in the fashion industry at the same time in 1989.

Naz Mansha – wife of business magnate Mian Mansha – began her startup named Nishat Linen (NL) which provided beddings and housewares on a small scale. On the other hand, Hashwani and Muneer, then newly-married sisters-in-law, began their journey with bridal and formal wears.

This was the time when Pakistan’s fashion industry was almost non-existent and these women intending to pursue their passions were changing the course of the fashion industry. In a matter of years both Sana Safinaz and Nishat Linen had transformed into big brands while the industry was trying to keep up.

In 1994, Naz Mansha included lawn in her company’s offering; this was the same time when the first NL store opened up. Today with as many as 70 stores nationwide and presence in U.A.E, U.S.A, Canada and Saudi Arabia, NL is ranked amongst the top apparel brands of the country. Naz Mansha – now a grandmother – also launched Inglot and Swarovski cosmetics in Pakistan. Her flagship, Nishat Linen now proudly deals in bedding, lawn, pret and formal wears under her leadership.

Hashwani and Muneer, on the other hand have spread their brand’s wings quite drastically. After venturing out with bridal wear, the duo started to design lawn prints for big textile companies to be sold by their retail arms.

However, in 2010, Sana Safinaz own lawn collection was launched which further diversified into pret wear in 2012. As of today, the designers cum CEOs have added interior designing to their portfolio.

Today, when the fashion apparel industry is one of the largest in the country, these women are able to strive against the growing competition on the basis of their 25 years experience and particularly innovation – the very basis of their ventures.

Bloomberg’s ‘Most Amazing Money Manager’

Maheen Rahman, chief executive officer of Alfalah GHP Investment Management Ltd., poses for a portrait at her office in Karachi, Pakistan, on Friday, Dec. 05, 2014. ***Second Sentence Here*** Photographer: Asim Hafeez/Bloomberg *** Local Caption *** Maheen Rahman *** PLEASE HOLD FOR STORY BY NAWEEN MANGI ***

Maheen Rahman

Chief Executive, Alfalah GHP Investment Management’ Chief Executive

According to research by Profit – details published in another article – not many women in Pakistan dare to choose otherwise male-dominated professions, such as banking and finance, and even fewer make it to the top. It is for this reason that no list of such women can be complete without mentioning Alfalah GHP Investment Management’ Chief Executive Maheen Rahman that Bloomberg recognizes as ‘Pakistan’s Most Amazing Money Manager’.

Yes, you read that right: ruling out chief executives – all of them men – from 21 asset management companies, Bloomberg gave this honorary title to Rahman, making her a natural pick for Profit’s first-ever list of the country’s most powerful women in business.

The 40-year-old and mother of three holds the distinction of being the youngest and only female CEO of an asset management company in Pakistan for 2015, according to Bloomberg – she was overseeing $180 million worth of assets in stocks and bonds that year.

Rahman’s career spans over seventeen years in investment banking, research and asset management. Her initial attachments include Merrill Lynch, ABN Amro Bank and BMA Capital Management. What brought her name to limelight was her performance as money manager of IGI Funds, which she joined in 2009 as its Chief Executive.

Rahman was able to double the assets in her first year as the head of the firm, turning the loss-making entity back to profits and sequentially leading it to a 15% return on equity. Total assets under management (AUM) grew by more than 200% over the course of her tenure.

In 2013, Alfalah Investments acquired IGI Funds, selecting Rahman as Chief Executive of the combined entity. In the three years since the acquisition, Alfalah Investments has grown at a 45% Compound Annual Growth Rate in terms of AUM, seen three management quality rating upgrades and consistently placed top in fund performance – earning notable coverage from local and international media including Bloomberg, Fortune and the BBC.

“Investors who bet on Rahman have been rewarded with a 443% return from her IGI Stock Fund since its inception seven years ago, 117 percentage points more than the benchmark index and the biggest gain among 34 peers tracked by Bloomberg,” Naween Mangi wrote in an article published on March 20, 2015.

An Economics major from Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), Rahman – who did her M.Sc. Finance and Economics from Warwick Business School, UK – was featured on Fortune’s 40 Under 40 Top Ten Women to Watch for 2015.

Besides being Vice Chairman and Director of the Mutual Funds Association of Pakistan, the trade body that represents all asset managers, distributors and mutual funds in Pakistan, Rahman is a member of the Federal Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s Executive Committee.

“My biggest challenge has been building a reputation and trust in a market that values grey hair and being male,” Rahman said an interview with Bloomberg. “After all these years, I still routinely get asked why I don’t just design clothes.”

Entrepreneur or philanthropist? an inspiration for all women


Seema Aziz

Seema Aziz

Managing Director, Sefam Private Limited

It was 1985 when Seema Aziz, then 34, ventured out to start a business despite being married and ‘settled’ as a housewife. Today her startup which she started with her brother, her father’s two Swiss manufactured embroidery machines and no formal training is known as Bareeze – a high-end fashion retail brand.

A graduate of Punjab University in Sciences and an LLB, Aziz was married off to a chemical engineer. It was in 1985 when she saw the demand for high-end clothing among the masses and popularity of western clothing on the basis of its quality. Aziz and her brother ventured out to produce imported quality garments in the local market and Bareeze was launched.

A few years down the line Aziz had made a market for her apparel brand. At the time, customers regarded Bareeze as an ‘imported brand sold with a local tag’.

It was then in 1988 when Aziz’s philanthropic journey began. Having a factory of Bareeze in a nearby village of Lahore, Aziz visited the place immediately after the flood crisis. It was upon reaching there she conceived the ultimate goal of her life – to educate the underprivileged of the society.

Aziz concentrated her efforts towards the newly found mission and in January 1991, CARE (Cooperation for Advancement, Rehabilitation and Education) Foundation’s first school opened in Sheikhupura with a total of 250 children from underprivileged background.

As of today CARE Foundation operates as many as 256 schools – many in rural areas – and over 160,000 students are enrolled in what makes up the world’s second largest school system.

On the other hand, Aziz’s brand Bareeze has now expanded into four major retail brands namely Chinyere, Kayseria, Leisure Club and Minnie Minors for children. With as many as 190 retail outlets worldwide (including U.A.E, India, U.K and Malaysia) and over 5,000 employees, Bareeze is contributing its 1.3 percent sales proceeds to CARE Foundation’s endeavors.

On the personal front, Aziz currently serves on the boards of Pakistan Fashion Design Council and the Punjab Education Foundation. In addition to her law degree Seema also attended OPM (Owner/President Management) program from Harvard Business School. In 2016, Aziz was awarded with Barclays UK’s Women of The Year Award.

Taming the big boys

vadiyya Khalil CCP 2

Vadiyya Khalil

Chairperson, Competition Commission of Pakistan

When using the word ‘powerful women’ in the context of business, there are very few names that justify it and Vadiyya Khalil, Chairperson of Competition Commission of Pakistan, is one such name.

A Management Sciences degree holder from University of Kent, U.K, Khalil was appointed as the Chairperson of CCP in December 2014. Under her tenure, Global Competition Review revised CCP’s rating to 3 in 2016, an upgrade from 2.5  — GCR is a leading competition law and policy journal and news service for 10,000 competition professionals worldwide.

However, that upgrade didn’t come without some solid performance by CCP.

Khalil has been able to tame business giants, the likes of state-owned petroleum giant PSO, the real estate giant Bahria Town, and multinationals like Reckitt Benckiser Pakistan, and Nestle Pakistan, to name a few that were either warned or fined for violating the Commission’s rules.

Six months into her tenure, Khalil issued a show cause notice to Nestle Pakistan for increasing the prices of its products Lactogen and Cerelac without any business justification. Two months later, on August 12, 2015, the CCP under Khalil’s command, imposed a fine of Rs1.25 Million on Reckitt Benckiser Pakistan Limited for running a deceptive television commercial for its household cleaning product, ‘Dettol Surface Cleaner‘. Another Rs100 million and Rs150 million fine was imposed on Pakistan Poultry Association and Pakistan State Oil respectively by the CCP during last year for malpractice.

CCP also issued a notice to the real estate giant Bahria Town for abusing its position to favor PTCL and not allowing Nayatel to provide CIT services (internet and cable) in Bahria Town, Rawalpindi.

Making it to the chairmanship of the apex consumer watchdog for anti-competitive practices is no small feat, but holding powerful positions is not something new to Khalil. In her over 20 year career, Khalil has held many important positions in various financial and corporate sectors’ institutions. From working in international banks such as Credit Agricole, ANZ and Grindlays to serving local banks such as National Bank of Pakistan, Muslim Commercial Bank Limited and Askari Commercial Bank, Khalil has been affiliated with top organizations in the sector.

Before her appointment as the Chairperson of CCP, Khalil served as the Commission’s Member for Mergers and Acquisitions and Advocacy from 2010-2013.

Apart from her professional experience and educational background, Khalil has also attained a Diploma in French from Alliance Françoise and studied Italian Language and Literature at University of Perugia, Italy. Her ongoing professional education is mainly focused on Leadership, Mergers and Acquisitions, and Corporate Financial Statements.

After successful completion of their roadshows on Competition Law — 40 seminars in 22 cities during 2015 — for the business community, she is now taking her awareness campaign a step further: CCP will now be holding academic road shows in 35 universities across Pakistan.

It’s Chairperson, not Chairman


Musharaf Hai

Managing Director, L’Oreal

Musharaf Hai is famously known as the first ever woman and second Pakistani to be appointed as Chairperson of Unilever Pakistan in 2001. Back then most Pakistanis were not acquainted with the term Chairperson and had a difficult time correcting themselves when formally addressing Ms.Hai.

Graduate of London School of Economics and Boston University, Hai joined Unilever Pakistan in 1983 in the company’s marketing department. Climbing up the corporate ladder with her hard work, Hai was then moved to Unilever Headquarters in London where she worked from 1993-1996.

After coming back to Pakistan she was appointed as head of Unilever’s ice-cream division from where she further got promoted to the position of Sales Director. It was then in 2001, Hai was given the charge as CEO and Chairperson of the international FMCG giant’s Pakistani subsidiary. After serving at CitiBank for 10 months, Hai decided to switch back to her consumer goods domain.

She then worked towards launching L’Oreal — world’s largest cosmetic company  — in Pakistan. In 2011 she launched L’Oreal Pakistan and currently serves as the Managing Director of the cosmetic company which holds 10 percent share of the local cosmetic market.

The social entrepreneur

Roshaneh Zafar - Photo Courtesy Marie-De-Decker

Roshaneh Zafar

Managing Director, Kashf Foundation

With Bachelors of Science from the Wharton Business School and a Master’s degree in Development Economics from Yale University, USA, Roshaneh Zafar is famously known as the Founder and Managing Director of Kashf Foundation – the first specialized microfinance organization of Pakistan.

The youngest among her four siblings, she is the daughter of Senator S.M. Zafar – Pakistan’s renowned human rights activist and constitutional lawyer. Her maternal grandmother was the famous singer Malika Pukhraj.

After completing her education, Zafar started working for the World Bank as a ‘Women-in-development associate’ in the water and sanitation sectors. It was in the early 90s when Zafar – then working for the World Bank – attended a conference and met Grameen Bank’s founder Dr. Muhammad Yunus who won a Nobel Peace Prize for his work at the microfinance company in Bangladesh.

This was where Zafar got inspiration and a $10,000 loan from Dr. Yunus to set up Kashf Foundation in Pakistan. In 1996, Zafar laid the foundation for what became Pakistan’s first specialized microfinance organization with her team of five, all of them women.

After enabling multiple women entrepreneurs in Pakistani society, Zafar went on to establish Kashf Microfinance Bank in 2008 – becoming the first ever female CEO to receive a banking license. She later sold the bank to FINCA International for Rs 82 crores.

As of today, Kashf Foundation supports over 500,000 women and their families in Pakistan. It  recently launched a vocational training program for the three main trades that low income women are mostly involved in i.e. tailoring, embellishment and beauty salons.

Today, Kashf Foundation is the third-largest microfinance organization in Pakistan with $22 million worth of loans granted.

Alongside her role as the Managing Director of Kashf Foundation, Zafar also serves on the Board of Engro Foods, the local foods giant, which she joined in 2012. Additionally, she is also a member of boards of nonprofit organizations Women’s World Bank, Sahil and Karvaan Krafts.

Zafar has been given numerous awards for her services in development sector including Tamgha-e-Imtiaz, one of Pakistan’s highest civilian awards. She was also awarded the Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship in 2007.

The ‘Big Bird’ of Pakistan’s IT sector


Jehan Ara

President, [email protected]

When one mentions [email protected], the Pakistan Software Houses Association, the name Jehan Ara is the first to come to the mind. Jehan Ara is President of [email protected] – an IT and software houses association – and The Nest i/o, a technology incubator.

Though Pakistan’s IT sector — about $2-3 billion in size — is still very small and the country has yet to produce a billion-dollar startup, the influence and efforts of this lady are no secret to those associated with the IT industry.

Born in Karachi and raised in Hong Kong – where her banker father was posted – Jehan Ara has covered many milestones; the biggest being the development of an ecosystem for budding entrepreneurs under the umbrella of [email protected] and The Nest i/o.

She is an inspiration that regardless of being a woman you can reach your goals and fulfill your dreams through hard work. Her same hard work and dedication has helped many local entrepreneurs in achieving their goals and introducing themselves at global platforms.

Albeit being known as a tech expert in the IT sector of Pakistan, Jehan Ara does not recognize herself as a ‘techie’, instead she goes by the name of a writer which she always wanted to be and has been alongside her additional roles over the years.

After completing her graduation, Jehan Ara started her career as a journalist in a Hong Kong newspaper – where she had moved as a child.  She worked in the newspaper for about a year and then moved into advertising. From there she worked in a series of different publications.

She worked in Hong Kong and UAE for various magazines and journals and after moving back to Pakistan when her father retired she stepped into IT sector ‘somehow’ she says.

Jehan Ara started Enabling Technologies (a multimedia company) with her friend. It was the early 90s and the amalgamation of multimedia, internet and communication led her into the IT sector of Pakistan – a male dominated arena.

She continued to venture out with one project or the other and joined [email protected] in the meantime, this was when her true calling came and her goal became to help grow the IT sector of the country.

Jehan Ara is a strong advocate of Cyber-Security, Privacy and Data Protection legislation in Pakistan. Among her many initiatives, she is presently working on an initiative called ‘Take Back the Tech’, meant to create awareness on the use of cutting edge technology and how it can play a vital role in ending violence against women.

She is also a renowned speaker in the IT and entrepreneurial structure. She represented Pakistan at Global Entrepreneurship Summit last year in the U.S.

Creating the event management industry


Frieha Altaf

                             Director, Catwalk Event Management & Productions Pvt. Ltd

A Magna Cum Laude – an academic level of distinction – of Hobart and William Smith Colleges in the U.S, Frieha Altaf is known as an event manager, a choreographer, a PR specialist and a writer.

With the dream of becoming a professor of art, getting home in the afternoons to paint with her children and leading a happy married life, Altaf finished college. She then wanted to go for Masters but lack of funds held her back – something a person as persistent as Altaf had to bow down to.

She then joined the modeling industry – after being discovered at one of her art exhibitions – and worked with an advertising agency for almost three years. This was where Altaf’s connection to her future career path was established.

She founded Catwalk in 1989  – a fashion management company – and organized her first event with the help of friends who were themselves were amateurs in the industry. Soon after however she moved abroad and lived in Canada and USA for many years, got married twice both of which ended in divorce.

Years passed  and Frieha moved back to Pakistan for good in 2000 and decided to pick up where she left off.

The lady choreographer worked on an idea and proposed it to Unilever which in return gave her the go-ahead. Altaf then proudly introduced the ‘Red Carpet’ culture in Pakistan and organized the first LUX Style Awards in 2002.

As of today, her company ‘Catwalk Productions’ which has transformed into 360 degree event management company, caters to clients such as Unilever, Sana Safinaz, Coca-Cola, DHL, Bank Alfalah, Engro Foods and Samsung to name a few. Under the event management umbrella, Catwalk has organized over as 2,350 events and hosted as many as 15 million attendees.

The company also operates in the domain of Public Relations, Model Management, Wedding Planning and Fasos Style School (a training platform for aspiring models).

Although Altaf is not a college professor and is a single mother; she surely shares a special bond with her children Parishey and Turhan. Balancing her professional and family life has been difficult, as press quotes her, but she loves the motherhood role she fulfills along with many others.

The economic manager

Dr ayesha Ghaus pasha

Aisha Ghaus Pasha

Finance minister, Punjab

The federal finance minister is the most important executive after the prime minister, for he is the economic manager of the country, but managing the economy of Pakistan’s largest province (based on population) is no small affair either nor is the person holding this position: meet Dr Aisha Ghaus Pasha, Finance Minister of Punjab.

Wife of Dr Hafiz Ahmed Pasha, she was born on March 3, 1962 in Lahore. She obtained the degrees of BA (Hons), M.A (Economics) and Masters of Applied Science in Economics from University of Karachi, Karachi. She did her Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Leeds, UK in 1991.

Pasha is an economist and academic who has served as Professor, Managing  Director, Consultant, Chairperson, Technical Advisor and Senior Fellow in various National and Provincial organizations. She is also associated with a number of Government Departments as Technical Expert. She has been the Head of two important think tanks in Pakistan including Social Policy and Development Centre Karachi, and the Institute of Public Policy, BNU Lahore.

She has been a Member, Board of Directors in Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund. She served as a consultant in various international and bilateral organizations like United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. She has published over 75 books, reports/articles in national and international journals. She was elected as Member, Provincial Assembly of the Punjab in general elections 2013 against one of the seats reserved for women and is functioning as Minister for Finance. Her husband, a former Federal Minister, is also a distinguished economist of Pakistan.

The Stateswoman

Anusha rehman

Anusha Rahman

Minister of State, Information Technology and Telecommunication

Anusha Rahman, Minister of State for Information Technology and Telecommunication is a well-known name in the country: after all, a single decision by her can affect as many as 137 million cellular subscribers in the country.

In fact, the IT and Telecom ministry is the umbrella body for Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, the apex regulator of telecom sector, one of the highest tax-paying sectors which reported Rs 45, 600 crore in annual revenues last year.

Born on June 1, 1968, Rahman belongs to a non-political family of Lahore. In early 90s after finishing her education she joined her uncle’s law firm which was affiliated with PML-N. From there, Rahman’s political affiliation with the current ruling party began and she joined the party along with her legal practice.

She frequently made headlines as Minister for IT and Telecom over the past few years. Since she took charge of this important ministry, Pakistan adopted 3G and 4G mobile technology, drafted the Telecom Policy, passed a cybercrime law and lifted the three-year long ban from video-sharing website Youtube — each of these developments had a great influence across the length and breadth of the country.

A law graduate from University College London, U.K – specializing in Law and Economics of regulated industries, networks and markets – Rahman is an active politician since 2006. Previously, she was affiliated with Telenor Pakistan, a multinational mobile telecommunication operator in the capacity of Corporate Legal Counsel. Rahman’s legal practice has remained in the domain of constitutional, corporate and telecommunication law.

For her contribution in empowering women through technology, Rahman was awarded ‘‘GEM-TECH Global Achievers 2015’ from UN. Additionally, she also received the “Government Leadership Award” on behalf of Pakistani government in March, 2017.

Managing the family silver

Zeelaf Munir

Zeelaf Munir

Managing Director, English Biscuit Manufacturers

A psychiatrist by academic qualification, Dr. Zeelaf Munir is the current Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of English Biscuit Manufacturers – Pakistan’s largest biscuit manufacturing company.

After completing her M.B.B.S from Dow Medical University, Karachi, Munir –daughter of Khawar Masood Butt (Chairman EBM) – moved to the U.S in 1994 where she specialized in psychiatry from the Washington University School of Medicine.

While staying and working in the U.S, Munir attained a Master’s Degree majoring in Health Finance & Management from Johns Hopkins University and also attended various management courses at Harvard Business School.

In 2010, upon Munir’s return from the U.S, she was appointed as Chairperson Executive Management Board in her family business EBM and then in 2015 she was given the charge as CEO and Managing Director of the company, which earned north of Rs3,200 crore in sales in the current year as per market estimates. Since her joining, EBM has launched various new products, including traditional recipes like Nan Khatai.

With over 20 years of experience Munir has expertise in clinical practice, management and entrepreneurship. The CEO is also a notable speaker in various Pakistan-American conferences.

The rarity


Sadia Khan

Board member, Engro Fertilizers Limited and Pakistan Cables 

CEO, Selar Enterprises

Being the chief executive of one of the subsidiaries of Pakistan’s largest private sector conglomerate, Engro Corp., is quite an achievement, but there are those who evaluate the performance of this executive every year to ensure he keeps running the business efficiently — the latter is referred to as Board of Directors to whom the CEO reports to.

Given that women in Pakistan represent only about 5% of all members on the board of KSE-100 companies, it takes someone special and powerful to be among those.

Meet Sadia Khan, an INSEAD graduate and the only female Director of Engro Fertilizers Limited, a subsidiary of Engro Corp as well as Pakistan Cabled Limited. It’s not an everyday occurrence in our country that a woman sustains an exceptionally good career. Khan for one stands among those few women who do have a successful career with numerous other laurels on her sleeves.

Having done her Masters in Economics from Yale University in the U.S, and an Undergraduate degree in Economics from Cambridge University in U.K, Khan started her career in New York with Lehman Brothers. She then worked with Asian Development Bank in Philippines and served as Executive Director of non-banking Finance Companies at the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) from 2000 to 2003.

She climbed another step on her success ladder in 2003 when she was designated as the Head of Strategic Management at the State Bank of Pakistan for a two year period. In 2011, Khan launched her own company Selar Enterprises Private Limited – a logistics company – where she serves as CEO. Moreover, Khan is also Group Executive Director in her family-owned business Delta Shipping Private Limited.

She has been awarded the prestigious, “Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Mérite” (Knight of the National Order of Merit) award by the French government in 2014 for her contributions in building the Pakistan-France relations. She has also been serving as the Honorary Consul General of Finland in Karachi since 2012.

Rising through the banks


Tahira Raza

President, First Women Bank Limited

An MBA (Banking and Finance) graduate of Institute of Business Administration (IBA) Karachi and DAIBP from the Institute of Bankers in Pakistan, Tahira Raza is the CEO and President of First Women Bank Limited — the only woman in Pakistan heading a bank.

After completing her studies, Raza started her banking career in 1975 with Muslim Commercial Bank. Later on in 1989, she ventured out with First Women Bank Limited (FWBL) and became one of the founding executives.

Raza, an experienced and distinct banker, then joined National Bank of Pakistan in 2003 as Chief Risk Officer in the Risk Management Division. It was in 2012, Raza’s persistence and hard work paid off and she became the first female to be appointed as a Senior Executive Vice President of NBP.

Later on in April 2014, Raza was appointed as the President of FWBL where she is currently serving. Alongside she serves as a Non-Executive Director of Pak Elektron Limited (PEL) since October, 2011.

Raza has also presented numerous papers on Credit, Risk Management and Banking & Finance at national and international conferences and seminars.

The Accountant

Moneeza usman butt kpmg2

Moneeza Usman Butt:

Partner, Audit and Assurance, KPMG

Meet Moneeza Usman Butt, the first woman partner at KPMG – one of the big four audit and advisory chartered accountant firms of Pakistan.

Being a Chartered Accountant by profession, Butt is a Fellow Member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Pakistan (ICAP). She has spent over 20 years of her career with KPMG Pakistan in the Audit department and is the first woman to make it to the top position in the firm.

She regularly writes for The Pakistan Accountant, a magazine published by ICAP as well as Clarity, the firm’s in-house magazine. She has participated as a speaker in seminars of ICAP & other institutions.

She was nominated as ‘Woman of Inspiration 2016’ by Ladies Fund – an organization aiming to promote female entrepreneurship in Pakistan. She is also a member of the Chartered Accountants Women Forum of ICAP.




  1. A very inspirational article, congratulations to all these women. I know Sadia Khan personally through her leadership at INSEAD. She is truly amazing and an exemplar for all women.

  2. I’m really very proud to learn having such skilled and beautiful women driving our country’s economy….LOVE ALL AND HATS OFF . . . . . !!
    Javed Vohra.

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