Message of hope?

 

By Zubeida Mustafa

IN these times of despair, even the dead can give us hope and inspiration. That is the powerful message that emerged from the Orangi Pilot Project-Research and Training Institute’s forum on Jan 22. It was organised to commemorate the birthday of Perween Rahman who was shot fatally in March 2013.

Why was Perween killed? It might sound bizarre but the fact is that there are vested interests in our society who feel threatened by people who work for the poor. That was confirmed by SP Akhtar Farooqi who said on the occasion that the murder was not motivated by personal enmity but by economic factors. Continue reading “Message of hope?”

Why we failed

 

imagesBy Zubeida Mustafa

QANDEEL Baloch’s horrific murder in the name of ‘honour’ is testimony to the failure of the women’s movement to overturn patriarchy in Pakistan. Against the backdrop of the spate of anti-women violence, comes a report by Dr Rubina Saigol written for the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, a German foundation. Titled Feminism and the Women’s Movement in Pakistan: Actors, Debates and Strategies, this excellent document should provide much food for thought.

The author, an eminent sociologist, touches the heart of the issue — especially in cases like Qandeel’s — when she points out that there are “silences” (neglected subjects) that surround questions of family and sexuality, the mainstay of patriarchy and women’s subjugation. These have generally not been addressed by the women’s movement and she recommends that they should be. Continue reading “Why we failed”

Unsilenced voice

By Zubeida Mustafa

JAN 22 was Perween Rahman’s birthday. Had she escaped the assassin’s cruel bullets she would have turned 59. But that was not to be and this devoted social worker, a friend of the poor, was snatched away from us three years ago on March 13, 2013.

Not that she has receded into oblivion. The poor are not ungrateful. Nor have those who feared her mended their ways. OPP-RTI, the organisation she headed, wanted to observe Perween’s birthday and celebrate her life and achievements. Such events help imprint on the public memory the work of selfless and lovable personalities who have made an impact on the lives of those they worked for. Thus alone will many Perweens be born. This is absolutely necessary if this society is to be saved from the avarice of the selfish. Continue reading “Unsilenced voice”

Justice in Pakistan: Unmasking Perween Rahman’s Killers

by Zubeida Mustafa
-Pakistan-

The “weakness of women”, widely believed to be a natural phenomenon, is actually a myth. Women are resilient and there are many cases where “woman power” won the day because women fighting for a cause refused to back off.

The valiant social activist Perween Rahman was gunned down two years ago in Pakistan’s port city of Karachi. Perween was the director of the Orangi Pilot Project-Research and Training Institute, in which capacity she was working to improve the life of the poor. An architect by training, she shunned thirty years ago the opportunity to make a successful corporate career. After joining an architectural firm, soon after her graduation, she said to herself,” I do not want to spend my life building palaces for the rich. I’d rather build homes for the poor.” And that is what brought her to the OPP, at the time the recent creation of its founder Dr Akhter Hameed Khan. And she did exactly what she wanted to do, help the poor build shelters for themselves at affordable prices. She went on to do much more – show the poor how they could live with dignity and self esteem. In the process, Perween instilled confidence in the people she worked for – both men and women – and empowered them. Such was her charisma and the magic of her personal humanism. Continue reading “Justice in Pakistan: Unmasking Perween Rahman’s Killers”

Insecure rights

By Zubeida Mustafa

A WEEK before Sabeen Mahmud, the ever-smiling ‘active’ human rights activist was gunned down in Karachi, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan launched its annual State of Human Rights report for 2014.

It is widely believed that Sabeen’s decision to host a seminar on Balochistan invited a terrible retribution from the powers-that-be. It is indeed saddening that this staunch defender of all the rights covered by the HRCP report is no more amongst us to act as society’s conscience to remind us that each of us becomes an abettor when the state violates any right the citizen is entitled to and we remain silent onlookers. Continue reading “Insecure rights”

Justice for Perween

By Zubeida Mustafa

THE  text message is still saved in my mobile phone. It was sent at 9.30 am on Wednesday March 13, 2013. It was signed “Thanks n Cheers PR”. That was the last time I heard from Perween Rahman, director of the OPP-RTI

For years she had made it a habit when in Karachi to read my column in the morning when it appeared in this paper and would send a comment by sms/email or call me up for a brief chat on her way to work. On that fateful day in 2013, less than 12 hours later, she was dead. The following week I wrote, ‘Rest in peace little sister’.

Continue reading “Justice for Perween”

60% of women still oppressed

As part of Why Are We Still Here?, a series of 12 blogs written by women around the world to mark International Women’s Day, Zubeida Mustafa reflects on the need for two strands of women to unite in Pakistan’s women’s rights movement.

I became a feminist when I was five. My brother who is a year younger than me had snatched my favourite doll. I tried to retrieve it but failed.  The drama ended when the doll lay mauled up as I sobbed uncontrollably at the destruction of my precious possession. When the tears had dried I learned that more than physical strength you need wits and courage to get what you think is yours. Continue reading “60% of women still oppressed”

Worth of a life

By Zubeida Mustafa

HOW much is a human life worth in Pakistan? Not more than peanuts, given the impunity with which people are being killed in this benighted country of ours. The state’s failure — or lack of will — to protect the life of its citizens is at the root of this tragedy.

In this context, I am reminded of two women — one dead, the other on death row. One was a dear friend. The other is a stranger whose community has been my benefactor. I owe my education to Christian missionaries who gave me knowledge and taught me, by example, to respect and be tolerant of all faiths.

Perween Rahman and Asiya Bibi have nothing in common except that they are symbols of our quest for justice and sanctity of life in a society that thrives on hate and violence. Continue reading “Worth of a life”

One year ago…

By Zubeida Mustafa

ON Thursday, March 13, it will be exactly a year to the day when a brutal killer snatched away from us a gentle, soft-spoken soul whose love for humanity was almost legendary.

Perween Rehman has been described as a caring, versatile development worker, a brilliant teacher, an architect who used her professional skills for the poor, an irreplaceable friend and an amazing woman who broke barriers from below. Above all, she was a woman of courage who defied her detractors.

It was after she was no more and the outpouring of grief wouldn’t cease that the world realised what it had lost and how many lives she had touched in the three decades of her professional association with the Orangi Pilot Project. She is still grievously missed. And there has been no closure for us — her family, friends and colleagues. Continue reading “One year ago…”

How Perween Rehman Crossed Over

I was in class when I got the text message: “Perween Rahman shot dead.”

My hands started shaking and I could hear my heart beating. I found a computer, and clicked around so I could scan the online news sites, and see if it was true. “On March 13, 2013, Perween Rahman was shot dead near a Banaras fly-over by armed gunmen as she made her way back home from Orangi.”

News of the dead and the dying hardly shocks the way it used to. But this was different. This was Perween Rehman. Continue reading “How Perween Rehman Crossed Over”