In 2004, Aarifa Karim Randhawa was the youngest ever Microsoft certified professional in the world. Born in 1995, she received the prestigious title at the age of nine.
On December 22, Aarifa was admitted to Lahore’s CMH hospital after suffering cardiac arrest. On Thursday, doctors said there is no hope for her survival, and that her life support could be switched off ‘at any time’.
Aarifa’s father, Lt Col (Retd) Amjad Karim Randhawa told The Express Tribune that she had suffered an epileptic attack, which caused severe brain and heart damage. Randhawa said “only a miracle will allow my brilliant, genius daughter to live now”.
After the news of Aarifa’s condition emerged, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif took notice and offered economic support to the family, but they have refused to take the money.
When Aarifa, now 16, was given the title of a Microsoft professional as a young child, she visited the company’s headquarters in the US. When she met Bill Gates himself, she had two questions: Why weren’t children allowed to work for Microsoft, and why such few women worked for the organisation.
Her love for technology, however, started long before she was recognised internationally. After discovering computers for the first time at the age of five, she pestered her father for a personal computer, and after that there was no looking back.
Aarifa’s father recalled the year in which his daughter passed the test which enabled her to be declared the youngest professional certified by Microsoft in the world. “When she passed the test at age nine, everyone thought the result was wrong,” he reminisced. She wanted to make software just like Bill Gates, he added. She would say that she wanted to work for children and poor people.
Proudly, he said she came from a ‘low-profile’ family, but she would always say she wanted to study all over the world and then come back to help the people in her village. Her dreams were never for herself alone.
Aarifa’s achievements go far beyond recognition from Microsoft alone. The 16-year-old, a student of Lahore Grammar School’s Paragon campus, has represented Pakistan in various international forums. In 2005, the child prodigy received the Fatimah Jinnah Gold Medal from the government as well as the Salaam Pakistan Youth Award. In addition, she has received the president’s award for Pride of Performance, medals from IT professionals around the world, and also became a brand ambassador for PTCL in 2010.
Her talents however, are versatile. Besides excelling in the field of science and technology, Aarifa also flew a plane at the age of 10.
Aarifa’s life hangs in the balance, and while most have given up hope, her father says: “I am praying and I want everyone to pray for her”. (WITH ADDITIONAL INPUT FROM THE NEWS DESK)
Published in The Express Tribune, December 30th, 2011.