FAISALABAD: Arfa Karim, the world’s youngest Microsoft Certified Professional, was laid to rest in her ancestral village Ramdewali, near Faisalabad, amid tears from family, friends and strangers.
Even the heavens opened, as a light drizzle fell during the funeral procession.
The flag-draped coffin had been taken to Faisalabad from Lahore, where, despite the cold, a large number of people from all walks of life gathered to mourn. The turnout was reflective of how Arfa’s story has brought the nation together in grief for her death and admiration for her brilliance, as it included IT students, public representatives, social and religious activists, NGO workers, military officers and government officials.
Hundreds of female students also thronged the funeral on the arrival of the dead body.
Qari Ashraf, who led the funeral prayer, said that “Arfa was not only extraordinarily brilliant in Information Technology but was also very fond of Hamd, Naat and Allama Iqbal’s poetry.”
Arfa’s father, Colonel (Retd) Amjad Karim Randhawa, told the media his daughter “was a gift of God to me and now He has taken it back.”
“I am proud of being the only person in the world whose daughter was recognised as the youngest Microsoft professional certificate holder at the age of just nine years,” he said. “We provided every possible opportunity and encouragement to develop her abilities.”
Describing his daughter as wise beyond her years, Randhawa lamented that “we could not see her genius flourish.”
Recalling Arfa’s meeting with Bill Gates, Randhawa said that the Microsoft founder was stunned to see Arfa promptly answering all his technical questions. Gates acknowledged Arfa’s qualities and his company contacted her family when she was admitted to the Combined Military Hospital (CMH) in Lahore for treatment.
“Microsoft’s doctors were in touch with the CMH doctors and provided assistance in diagnosis, prescriptions and treatment for Arfa,” Randhawa said.
Randhawa fondly highlighted his daughter’s qualities, saying that she always had positive approach towards everything. “She had a creative mind and always wanted to do something extraordinary far beyond her age,” he said. “Arfa always surprised her teachers and class fellows with her intelligence and thought-provoking questions.”
A local resident of the village, Noor Din, said that although Arfa had not spent much time in the area, she lived as if she had been here for a very long time. “My daughter had always desired and insisted upon meeting Arfa, but sadly I failed to do so and now I can never do it,” he said.
Another villager, Ghulam Qadir, admitted that he had never seen such a huge funeral procession.
Muhammad Akram, a close relative, said that Arfa always wanted the area’s IT lab to be upgraded so it could provide better educational facilities to local youngsters, especially girls.
Asking the government to honour the IT genius’ wishes, Akram said that Arfa believed that other girls in her village should be given educational opportunities – as they had so much talent.
Arfa went into a coma on December 22 after suffering an epileptic attack. She was undergoing medical treatment in Combined Military Hospital. Karim, who was on life support at the Intensive Care Unit at the CMH suffered a complication on Saturday evening whereby she was shifted to surgery in emergency.
Meanwhile, at least one permanent monument to Arfa will stand.
Sindh Information Technology Minister Raza Haroon has announced that the IT Media City in Karachi will be renamed after Arfa. The project will now be known as Arfa Karim IT Media City, Karachi.
(With additional reporting from Rana Yasif in Lahore)
Published in The Express Tribune, January 16th, 2012.