KARACHI: “Parween was able to evolve into the person that we all know because she had some inbuilt qualities, one of which was feeling people’s pain,” said architect, town planner and researcher Arif Hasan at a reference and tribute for Parween Rehman organised by the Women Action Forum at the Arts Council here on Thursday.
“She was in the habit of saying three words ‘Samjho, seekho aur seekhao’ [understand, learn and teach].
She was killed at a time when her thinking was being consolidated.
Had she only lived another 10 years, she wouldn’t have been a name any less than Dr Akhtar Hameed Khan,” he said, sadly while throwing some light on Ms Parween’s evolution.
“I taught her in Dawood College and remember her as a student who used to argue a lot. She was critical about everything, she wouldn’t accept anything readily and she stated her point of view bravely. Earlier, she used to do it very strongly but later she learned the art of diplomacy,” he said.
“Vanished from my life for a while after graduating, I met her again when she wanted to meet Dr Khan. I had sent over other students to him earlier as well and they had all run off. I thought she would do the same but I was wrong. The first job given to her was surveying Orangi and doing research that became the base of Orangi Pilot Programme’s sanitation and housing programme,” he added.
“She had this great quality of being able to mix with all kinds of people. Once while passing by a dirty pond, Doctor Sahab [Dr Khan] commented to her that she was like a lily in that water. She had the power to transform the ugliness into beauty,” he shared.
“Management, she learned on the job. Following the thinking and principles of Dr Khan, she made sure their accounts remained transparent. When being offered big money for a consultancy, she refused to accept it. And then when I signed to accept it, she only took what we needed for the project while the remaining amount was used on improving office equipment,” he said.
“Her becoming a teacher was the third part of her evolution. That was when she passed on her own thinking to her students,” he said.
Former adviser to the chief minister Kaisar Bengali said that Ms Perween possessed a good heart and a good mind that she applied for the good of people.
Tasneem Siddiqui, the founder of Khuda ki Basti, said that she would never accept big grants and dole.
Later during a panel discussion with her colleagues and students Sadia Fazli, Rabia and Mir Raza, it was mentioned that she didn’t like using the word ‘poor’ and preferred ‘low-income groups’ instead.
She didn’t want sympathy for the low-income groups, she wanted them to be appreciated for the work they did to help themselves.
Her student, Mir Raza, said her killers hurt her students the most, because her way of thinking, which was changing the way young people think, had been stopped abruptly.
Another panel comprising OPP partners Shamsuddin, Riaz Siraj, Sharifa Rafiq, Naheed Abro and Humaira discussed her inspiring personality.
I.A. Rehman, head of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, shared the three images of Ms Perween that stuck with him.
“She ran OPP for 13 years after Dr Khan’s death in 1999. She did a lot in her short life. Continuing her work will keep her alive,” he said.
Interim minister for Human Rights and Women Development Anis Haroon read out a multi-voice message from several WAF members and Ms Perween’s friends.
“Her death fell on us like lightening and all the hard work we were doing for the good of people came to a halt as we were stopped in our tracks. But only for a while as we will gather our sorrow and channel our emotions to get back to work again,” she read out.
Between the speeches, there were several video clips of Ms Perween speaking about her work, her childhood and of her at home with her mother.
Poets Areesha Khwaja and Mohammad Najib-ul-Akhtar and young classical dancer Suhaee Abro also paid tribute to Ms Perween through their poetry and dance performance.