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Parveen Rehman: a fighter for the poor silenced

Published Mar 14, 2013 03:40am


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Social Worker Parveen Rehman who was gunned down in her office on 13th February, 2013.
Social Worker Parveen Rehman who was gunned down near her office on 13th February, 2013.

KARACHI: A media-shy social worker who devoted her life to the development of the impoverished neighbourhoods across the country, was gunned down near her office in Orangi Town on Wednesday. She was 56.

Parveen Rehman was born in Dhaka in 1957. She did part of her schooling in the former East Pakistan and migrated to Karachi after the fall of Dhaka.

She received a bachelor’s of engineering in architecture from Karachi’s Dawood College of Engineering and Technology in 1981 and joined a private architect’s firm.

A few months later, she left the job and joined the Orangi Pilot Project initiated by Akhtar Hameed Khan to bring healthy changes to the lives of impoverished residents of Orangi.

“The late Akhtar persuaded her to join the OPP. We both joined the OPP in 1982 and since then we worked in close association,” said Anwer Rashid, co-director of the OPP-RTI (Orangi Pilot Project-Research and Training Institute).

Mr Rashid choked on words as he described his working relationship with Ms Rehman.

Noted town planner Arif Hasan, who is member of the OPP’s board, briefly visited Ms Rehman’s home and left early as he was deeply distressed like dozens of her friends and colleagues who had gathered at her house in Safari Boulevard in Gulistan-i-Jauhar.

“She was a courageous and brave lady. She was a true pupil of Akhtar Hameed Khan who worked in an environment where most people will avoid to work,” said Mr Rashid.

Soon after the private TV networks flashed news of her death, a large number of people flocked to the Abbasi Shaheed Hospital, where her body had been shifted.

Eyewitnesses said those who gathered in the hospital and outside her home, where she was living alone with her octogenarian mother, included dozens of residents of Orangi who were mourning her death.

“She was a great help for us. She was just like an elder sister to whom we would go whenever a problem struck us,” said a middle-aged man who identified himself as Azmat Ali.

Arif Pervez, development professional and a friend of hers, said Ms Rehman had been receiving death threats for a long time, apparently from the mafia involved in grabbing precious land on the fringes of the city.

“She had been receiving threats on her life for a long time. We had discussed this several times but every time I advised her to take care of herself, she smiled, waved her hand and said what will they do, I have to work a lot and that too in the middle of the people,” Mr Pervez said.

Ms Rehman was an ardent compiler of the record of precious lands, which were on the fringes of the city in shape of villages but were speedily vanishing into its vastness because of ever-increasing demand by thousands of families who were shifting to Karachi every year from across the country.

She said on record that around 1,500 goths (villages) had been merged into the city since 15 years. Land-grabbers subdivided them into plots and earned billions by their sale.

“She documented everything about the lands that have been grabbed. Another sin of her was to help those whose lands had been grabbed. Yet, she never hesitated to go to the area where her life was constantly under threat,” Mr Pervez said.

“Many people certainly have lost their elder sister,” he said.

Noman Ahmed of NED University said Ms Rehman’s great achievement was to get involved and empower communities in development work.

“She involved communities in development work and her cautious endeavour was to empower people and lessen their sense of deprivation. Her motto was way forward. She saw it as a defeat to terrorists by not changing her routine to help people,” Mr Ahmed said.

Besides her mother, Ms Rehman is survived by her two brothers and a sister, living abroad.


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Comments (64) Closed

Magister Ludi Mar 14, 2013 01:27pm

She was braver than the entire Army, which every few years conquers its own country.

Ashoke Chatterjee Mar 14, 2013 11:48am

The death of Parveen Rehman reminds us of what someone said when Gandhiji was assassinated: "How dangerous it is to be good". Parveen and her colleagues at Orangi have been a beacon to many of us working on issues of water and sanitation and on the rights of the poor and marginalized. How many times have I and others quoted or recalled the work of Parveen and her colleagues in our own efforts to fight ignorance and neglect. For Pakistan, she was a national treasure. For many of us in India and throughout this region, Parveen was no less a treasure, a mentor, an inspiration and a role model difficult indeed to match. She died fighting for justice, and her struggle must now be ours, wherever we are and however huge the odds may be that are stacked up against decency and justice in our lands. Ashoke Chatterjee (Ahmedabad, India)

caz Mar 14, 2013 01:28pm

A noble spirit has been extinguished in a country with no basis to exist and which must be destroyed in the interests ogf the region.

Mustafa Kamal Mar 14, 2013 11:39am
RIP. Shame on us.
Samia Mar 14, 2013 01:20pm

This is extremely sad. The family faced many hardships after the fall of Dhaka and came to Karachi destitue after having lost everything in East Pakistan. She dedicated herself to improving the lives of the poor in the footsteps of the great Dr. Akhtar Hamid Khan. She should be honoured with a Nishan e Haider for her bravery and courage. What a loss for our country!

Guest63 Mar 14, 2013 01:07pm

I guess Iqbal , your prayers has been answered today , The reported News is that " the TTP leader a so called Qari bla bla , who was behind her murder , has been shot dead by the police ! Mokafa Teh Ammal or what they call Balancing of the Books . Those who live by sword , die by sword is to be said , those who kill by Kalahsnakof , are killed by kalashnakof .... Hope this so called self proclaimed Qari , would be soon meeting his Lord and will have to answer some very very tough calls ...............

Irfan Baloch Mar 14, 2013 01:04pm
well said its a universal issue with pakistani media, no follow up at all because there is an endless race to report the next "breaking News"
Karachiate... Mar 14, 2013 03:01am
This is a sad news - I did not know her but what I can gather from the article is that she was a good hearted person who cared while living among the heap of careless. May Allah bless her soul.
Chay Mar 14, 2013 03:16am

She paid the price for moving from Dhaka to Pakistan

Qaiser Bakhtiari Mar 14, 2013 03:59am

It is a sad state when the "mohsineen" of this country are killed in broad day light. Rest in peace brave lady.

Khalid Mar 14, 2013 04:08am

Where is the government? What are LEA doing? It is already too late. If we will not control this fire then one day no body will be spared and it will reach to our homes as well.

Saz Mar 14, 2013 04:24am
I wonder who will be left here after they kill everyone doing anything worthwhile.
Gerry D'Cunha Mar 14, 2013 10:47am

these mind set people want to spread peaceful islam message to the world by killing innocent people. I pity muslims living in the west,who have to face non-muslums on this issue every day 'peaceful religion'

Nasser Ali Khan Mar 14, 2013 10:13am

How come we know about Parveen Rehman and her activities only now that she is dead. One can see how vibrant our Pakistan media is. Dawn is interested in the bad news only. Her murder was appropriate to report, but not her achievements - until after her murder. Most importantly, Pakistanis were not aware of a rare good person in their midst. Shame and curses on Dawn and the Pakistani press.

Kadir Khan Mar 14, 2013 04:31am
R.I.P, She was clearly a victim of target killing by land mafia, a group of loosers who occupies and destroy's peoples home . Ms Parveen a brave, successful & sincere daughter of the city of Karachi fought for the people of Orangi town and helped give them place to live. Another Sou-moto case for CJ !!
maimoona khan Mar 14, 2013 04:38am
salute to her no buddy can replace her and her work such a dedicated woman,but our country didn't want these kind of people to work fo country's welfare
syed Nazim Mar 14, 2013 04:39am
Parveen death is a great loss. It means land mafia is ruling Karachi. Govrnment machinery is silent and conniving with the mafia. Chief Justice Of Sindh High Court is requested to take notice of this crime.
Khan Mar 14, 2013 04:41am

It time Karachi be cleaned from migrant afghan and from Tribal agencies who hav wrecked havoc in Karachi

ND Mar 14, 2013 04:52am
Hats off to you, Ms. Parveen Rehman. Alas, your endeavors towards humanity have not been recognized and acknowledged here. But I am sure, the work and service rendered shall be rewarded in the world you have entered in. May Allah rest your soul in peace (Aamin).
Jawad Mar 14, 2013 05:06am
Extremely distressing news to read! May Allah grants her soul the peace and serenity and brings culprits of this (and other) heinous crimes to justice (Ameeen).
Zak Mar 14, 2013 05:40am
Great lady with blessings from the poor
Abdullah Mar 14, 2013 05:54am
inconsolable loss...again for karachi...first cowasjee and now this murder..
iqbal Mar 14, 2013 07:10am
an unsung hero of Pakistan - i pray to God that her killers be killed in the same fashion .
Hanif Bhaty Mar 14, 2013 07:22am
Raza Mar 14, 2013 07:53am
God Bless her soul. She was a great lady and was an assets for the poor.
Chanakya Mar 14, 2013 08:05am

The most dangerous place on the earth to be a good Muslim:"PAKISTAN".

Shaista Shahid Mar 14, 2013 08:10am
Parveen Rehman .... Another hero gone ,where are we heading ? great loss to the country and people shaista
Jamal Shoro Mar 14, 2013 08:20am
No words.... the lost a great real social worker
Arshad Hussain Mar 14, 2013 08:29am
The sad demise of Parveen Akhtar, A loss that would not be covered over the decade for Orangi Town, Karachi
vjaiswal35 Mar 14, 2013 08:55am
What do I say except that my deep condolences to people who loved her. This is the way all courageious people go down the dust in the Land of Pure. Good bless.
Akbar Mar 14, 2013 09:18am

Shame on us as voters to choose people to elect the Govt. who do not have the will to bring law and order in control and bring peace to the city to Pakistan and are most likely getting their share of land from these soul less creatures in return for their uninterrupted activities. Ms. Parveen...we are proud of you!

Mani Mar 14, 2013 09:40am
I request DAWN officials to please follow the investigation of her murder and keep us updated... the dilemma of our media is that they normally shows the breaking news with no followups. please keep us updated so that we can see the killers are been punished or not. I pray that she rest in peace in heaven.
irfan Mar 14, 2013 09:46am
She had been receiving threats on her life for a long time, So where is the Government and its coalition partner.
virani Mar 14, 2013 09:47am

who will be left to do the true humanitarian work without the interest of his / her own as good people are vanishing from our society to replace corrupt and dishonest people as they are mighty people and work with full force and backed up with 50 protective mobile vans and spending millions of rupees to protect themselves as they have no shortages of funds and resources, may Allah protect us from worst people and keep us safe and gift us good people who serve us better way. ameen

Shahz Mar 14, 2013 10:02am

Indeed it was very sad to hear about her death. It is a shame for the people of Pakistan that one person who had dedicated all her life for the betterment of poor people died like this. My sincere condolence to her family and I pray that her killers never have peace in their lives. Ameen

Qazi Hassan Mar 14, 2013 12:03pm

The funds in Orangi Pilot Project was a chicken that all wolves were salvating on. I remember in the 80's an Afzal Mubeen who first tried to overthrow Dr. Akhter Hameed Khan, and then collaborated with Sipah Sahaba to obtain a fatwa of kufr against him. Even Dr. Akhter's younger brother who was an Emir of Jamat-e-Islami abandoned him as Kafir. Mr. Mubeen confiscated the OPP property and did nothing except been seen driving the confiscated Jeep.

aasdaar Mar 14, 2013 02:27pm
I am not a media person, but I must say how can they follow up on one single case when they have so much to break everyday? Its not an isolated case and murders like this happens 20 times a day in Karachi. Its just that she was a known personality does not in any way put her above a mourning mother who loses her only son. There has to be a complete solution to this or like Liaqat Ali Khan said his last words... "Khuda Pakistan ki hifazat karey"!
Wahaj D Ahmad Mar 14, 2013 03:01pm
Afsos sad afsos. These terrorists are bent upon making a (Khakistan) of our Pakistan. I agree she was one of the most courageous ladies and does deserve Nishan-Haider type of recognition even if she was not Army woman. She needs more cover than was for Malala (not reducing Malal's point).
Zee from USA Mar 14, 2013 03:04pm
Sad that she was gunned down, but don't agree with your crass comment about the military at this stage. The military has been silent for 5 years and what do we have in return? This! We were better off 5 years ago.
saeed Mar 14, 2013 03:14pm
You mean PPP and ANP, right?
AHA Mar 14, 2013 03:55pm
Rest in peace, the brave one.
a Mar 14, 2013 03:59pm
May God accept her in the highest heavens. Ameen
Zee from USA Mar 14, 2013 04:27pm
My feeling of sadness at the great loss, and injustice. My feeling of sadness also that we the people have to take the blame for electing this government that has brought Paksitan to this state. The only way to get out of this is to use the vote next time wisely. If the top 2 parties have been tried no less than 2 times each, 3 in the current one, and each time the result has been exactly the same then why do we keep electing them? Why?
pathanoo Mar 14, 2013 04:56pm
What a great, gentle soul she was - PARVEEEN REHMAN. She is sitting with Allah who is listening to her and praising her. He has set aside a magnificent palace of peace for her in Zannat (Heaven). One more loving heart, a great human and a sane voice snuffed out in a jungle called Pakistan. I wonder where her murderers would end up when their days on earth are up?
observer Mar 14, 2013 05:11pm
May God rest her soul in peacce and the culprits must be hanged in public.
Sanaullah Kakar Mar 14, 2013 05:52pm
Miss Parveen Rehman was one of the best teachers I had. hard working, modest and sincere. RIP Nisar mein teri galyion ke aye watan ke jahan chali hai rasm keh koi na sar utha kay chalay jo koi chahnay wala tawaf ko niklay nazar chura kay chalay, jism-o-jaan bacha kay chalay hai ahl-e-dil kay liye ab yeh nazm-e-bast-o-kushaad ke sang-e-wakhast muqayyad hain aur sag azaad FAIZ
Babar Mar 14, 2013 06:24pm
A little bright light that had been illuminating the darkness that Pakistan has become has been snuffed out. May Allah have pity on that wretched nation.
kulukku baba Mar 14, 2013 06:49pm
That is a fantastic comment on the army!! How true that the army has been conquering our own people but losing with our neightbour 3 out of 3 times!! And to top it, we also kill our women. Shame of a country!!!
Shahzad Mar 14, 2013 08:24pm
If the people of Karachi do not come out and demand justice for her murder then they do not deserve selfless people like her. There are times when GOOD people need to take a stand against evil doers. This is one of those times.
Ali Mar 14, 2013 08:29pm
and what has been achieved when they were or are vocal. Lost the place and the people who gave their lives for independence and she also hailed from the same place.
tipu Mar 14, 2013 09:00pm
It happens only in Pakistan..kill all those who bring peace and glory to us. May this so called nation wake up soon.
Saeed Mar 14, 2013 09:54pm
Where is all the social media , where all the people , Every news paper is silent , because killer name not sound like politician or landlord . Our common people only want to give justice to politician or landlord but not there own kind
Ray Mar 14, 2013 10:07pm
A lot many good people are losing their life due to terrorism and mafia, there is no gender war here.
Jalaluddin S. Hussain Mar 14, 2013 10:41pm
It is true that she was killed with impunity. As a Muslim Canadian-Pakistani I am ashamed. However, I must say that she was working amongst the poor people of Karachi up to now. It is really not the Muslims as such but the criminals of land Mafia who killed her!
Marian Hennings Mar 14, 2013 10:52pm
What a shame. Pakistan needs people like this woman. It is a lesser nation without her.
Chintamani Gokhale Mar 15, 2013 01:31am
Salman Ali Mar 15, 2013 02:40am
These are the real "Shaheeds" of our society. A very sad day for Karachi.
Ravi Mar 15, 2013 05:01am
Eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.
farmerdr Mar 15, 2013 07:04am
Another courageous female who has shown courage in standing up for justice and decency against vicious men with guns. Her life was unfairly snatched, her good work halted, this is a cruel blow to Pakistan, to us, to decency. How long will we keep giving in to murderous criminal gangs? Should we wait till the numbers of decent people dwindle so low that resistance becomes futile?
caz Mar 15, 2013 08:57am
The problem is more fundamental, pakistan has no basis to exist.
farmerdr Mar 15, 2013 09:41am
Because Evil cannot flourish in the presence of good people like Parveen Rehman. She threatened Darkness by her light.
dozain Mar 15, 2013 11:43am
It is very tragic, not we have lost a Good Human being but a great Asset of the Social Sector, So the Karachi
hyderphd74 Mar 16, 2013 02:01am
No possibility!!
hyderphd74 Mar 16, 2013 02:15am
Because we are a nation of fools!!!