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.