Islamabad: It hasn't been a smooth drive
for Pakistan's first woman cabbie but Zahida Kazmi is happy to
have made a dent in a male-dominated profession.
Kazmi took up taxi driving following her husband's
death in 1992, when she had to take on the responsibility of
single-handedly raising six children.
Kazmi, who was then 33 years old, persevered despite
many problems and has since made her mark on the butter-smooth
roads of the federal capital and in the hilly terrains of
northern Pakistan in two decades of driving her cab.
Her decision to start driving a cab did not go down
well with her conservative and patriarchal family.
She took advantage of a government scheme under which
anybody could buy a brand new taxi in affordable installments.
She bought herself a yellow cab and drove to Islamabad airport
every morning to pick up passengers.
Kazmi has come a long way since.
She has traded her 'hijab' for a 'chador' and does not
carry a gun for protection anymore. "I realised that I would
scare passengers away. So then I only wore a hijab (head
covering). Eventually I stopped covering my head because I got
older and was well established by then," Kazmi told BBC.
Passengers feel secure with her in the driver's seat.
"I saw her and the first thought that came to my mind
was that she's of my mother's age. I liked her driving and in
these days where one feels insecure in Pakistan, I felt very
relaxed," said Adnan Waseem, a passenger who always books
Kazmi for his long journeys.
Kazmi never seems to stop surprising police at
Though she has been feted for being Pakistan's first
female taxi driver, she still has many bitter memories of her
struggles as a single mother working hard on the road. She is
estranged from her children now.
"I am old now and I get tired. It's hard for me to
drive all the time but what can I do? My sons don't help," she
Kazmi also became chairperson of Pakistan's yellow cab
association and offered to teach young women to drive taxis
but there was little interest. Even her daughters did not
"They don't need to make a living. They are all
married," she said.
First Published: Saturday, March 12, 2011, 15:14