A Portrait of The Founder

Lady Viqarunnissa Noon.

Lady Viqarunnissa Noon.

The founder of TheViqarunnisa Noon and Firoz Khan Noon Educational Foundation was Lady Viqarunnisa Noon, widow of the former Prime Minister of Pakistan, Malik Sir Firoz Khan Noon.

 

Lady ‘Vicky’ Noon, as she was known to her friends, was born in July 1920, in Austria. She was brought up and educated in England, and considered herself a young ‘English woman’. While in London, she got to know Firoz Khan Noon, then High Commissioner for the Government of India, who was from a distinguished Punjabi landowning family. After five years in London, he was recalled to India in 1941 to become a member of Viceroy Archibald Wavell’s Council. Towards the end of the war, he also served as a member of Churchill’s Commonwealth War Cabinet.

 

Vicky followed him to India, becoming his second wife at a marriage in Bombay in 1945. By then Firoz had been appointed Knight Commander of the Order of India, and of the State of India, so Vicky became Lady Noon – two years before the creation of Pakistan. A beautiful and effervescent young woman, she acted as a charming hostess and ardent political supporter of her husband.

 

In 1945 Noon resigned his post in Delhi to fight elections for the Muslim League against the sitting Unionist Government in the Punjab, landing in jail on one occasion. Lady Noon participated in demonstrations, leading to her detention. At the time of partition in 1947, Lady Noon was staying on family property in East Punjab. The house was burned down, and she had to take refuge with the local Hindu ruler of Mandi State (the family of V. P. Singh, the future Indian Prime Minister) before being repatriated to join her husband across the border in Pakistan.

 

Malik Sir Firoz Khan Noon

Former Prime Minister of Pakistan, Malik Sir Firoz Khan Noon

After a period in Opposition in Pakistan politics, Noon was appointed the first Pakistani Governor of East Pakistan in 1950. During this time his wife started her extensive social work, including founding the Viqarunnisa Girls School in Dacca, which still prospers in what is now Bangladesh. She was one of the founding members of the All Pakistan Women’s Association (APWA). She accompanied her husband when he was appointed variously Chief Minister of the Punjab in 1953, Foreign Minister of Pakistan in 1956, and finally Prime Minister in 1957. His time in office did not last long, since President Iskander Mirza declared martial law in October 1958, and abrogated the Constitution and took power himself – shortly before losing it to General Ayub Khan. Firoz Khan passed away in 1970.

 

The emblem of Viqarunnisa Girls School, DaccaIn the following years, Vicky Noon became deeply involved with the Pakistan Red Crescent, serving as an active and effective chair for many years (1953 to 1972). Lady Noon also founded and was chair of the governing body of the Viqarunnissa Girls Secondary Institute in Rawalpindi, and was President of the Social Welfare Council of West Pakistan. For her service she was awarded Pakistan’s highest civilian award, the Nishan-e-Imtiaz, in 1959.

 

Lady Noon always kept up a whirl of contacts with a great variety of friends, including many prominent people in Pakistan, India and Britain. She was interested in music and poetry, and developed into a considerable artist, producing strong oil and gouache landscapes, which she occasionally exhibited (see pages 2 & 3). In 1978, President Zia-ul-Haq asked her to head the Pakistan Tourist Development Corporation, and her tenure until 1987 is still remembered as a time of major achievement, improving facilities and raising the profile of Pakistan’s tourist potential. From 1987 to 1989, she served as Pakistani Ambassador to Portugal. In final retirement her generosity and warm hospitality were bywords in Islamabad, and her dinner parties were always lively. She was adept at bringing together interesting people from different backgrounds.

 

Begum Viqarunnissa Noon (Nishan e Imtiaz) as Minister of Tourism, meeting Yasser Arafat, founder of Fatah & Palestinian Liberation Movement

She continued her charitable work until late in life. Having inherited some money in England from her step-sister and brother-in-law, who had died childless and were her only relations, she created a foundation so that all the money, with considerably more funds added later in her will, went towards helping the most able Pakistani students to study at what she considered the great universities of Oxford and Cambridge. The awards were for those who would not otherwise have been able to afford it – ‘so long as they intended to return and contribute to life in Pakistan’. The success of this Noon Scholars scheme gave her great pleasure.

 

Vicky Noon had no children of her own, but enjoyed warm relations with her Noon stepsons and their families in Pakistan. After recurring bouts of illness, Lady Noon died on 16th January, 2000. She had become a Muslim when she married Sir Firoz. She had performed Umra and left instructions to be buried as a Muslim. Her funeral in Pakistan was attended by many people from all walks of life. The Trustees aim to continue her life work through the Vicky Noon Educational Foundation.

 

The Noon Educational Foundation would like to hear from anyone who wishes to share their memories of the organization’s founders. These will be edited as appropriate and included on this website. Email us at info@noon-foundation.org.