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KARACHI: Atia Zafar, a housewife who became a medical practitioner in the face of overwhelming odds, died on Wednesday of sudden respiratory failure at her home. She was 88.

She is survived by her three sons and six daughters — all medical professionals.Born in Desna, a remote village in the Indian state of Bihar, in 1926, Ms Zafar lost her parents when she was barely eight and began to look after her four younger siblings.

She could not go to school as was married to Abu Zafar Azad, a schoolteacher, when she was 13. She had two sons when the family migrated to Karachi after partition.

After she gave birth to her third son and a daughter, she started her education from scratch on the insistence of her husband who was running a school in Lyari’s Atmaram Preetamdas Road area.

Interestingly, when she made it to the final year of her MBBS in the Dow Medical College in 1962 her eldest son, now a prominent doctor, Dr Tipu Sultan, also got admission there.

She ran a clinic in Lyari and then worked in Karachi’s outskirts as an employee of the defunct Karachi District Council. “Throughout her life till she took her last breath she worked for the marginalised people,” said her son, Dr Shershah Syed.

She was buried in Koohi Goth near a charity hospital for fistula patients.