PESHAWAR: Renowned social worker, environmentalist and expert on Kalash culture, Maureen P Lines aka Bibi Dow passed away in Peshawar on Saturday at the age of 79 and was laid to rest at the city’s Christian graveyard. Lines had been facing health issues for the last few months.
Born in North London in 1937, Lines left her home for Paris when she was just 16-year-old. In 1961 she shifted to the USA, where she worked as a journalist for around 10 years.
She wrote in one of her books that after her rather extended stay in America, she had decided to travel through the Muslim world and visited Istanbul, Damascus, Cairo, Khartoum and Bahrain.
In 1980, Lines arrived in Pakistan and was struck not only by the unique culture of Kalash people but also by the backwardness of their area, particularly in terms of health and hygiene facilities.
The area and its people impressed her so much that she decided to provide healthcare services in the valley and later returned to America to get medical qualifications for this purpose.
In the US, she studied medical emergencies and qualified as an Emergency Medical Technician in 1984. In 1990, she returned to Pakistan and remained in the area as a travelling doctor and aid worker.
Fluent in both the Kalashi and Chitrali languages, Lines was very close to the people of Kalash, who called her ‘Bibi Dow’. Lines was happy with this epithet as she believed the local people could not pronounce her name.
As a social worker, the British woman worked to provide proper hygiene system in the area and helped in building toilets and pipes of fresh water for them. She also helped in setting up stoves in the local residences to help cope with eyes and lung diseases.
She also set up the Kalash Environmental Protection Society in 1993. In 1995, she started up the British charity, the Hindu Kush Conservation Association along with the then British High Commissioner to Pakistan Sir Nicholas Barrington and the World Pheasant Association President Keith Howman.
Line, who was granted the citizenship of Pakistan 2004, was awarded the prestigious Tamgha-e-Imtiaz for her services to the people of Kalash and in 2007.
However, apart from being a social worker, she was also a prolific writer who penned several books on the Kalash culture and Hindu Kush region.
These include Beyond the North-West Frontier: Travels in the Hindu Kush and Karakorams, Journey through Jalalabad, The Kalasha people of North-Western Pakistan and The Last Eden.
Through her articles published in leading English newspapers, she highlighted the issues of people of Kalash, the infringements on the greenery of the province and protection of heritage sites.
“I feel a pang in my heart,” said Adil Zarif, an environment activist who attended her funeral at the Christian graveyard.
“She was a great human being who knew how to fight for the less-privileged people. She gave all her energy and resources to those she cared for. I count her among the heroes of this land,” he said while talking to The Express Tribune.
Zarif said for the last some months, her health conditions were not so good.
“The body was indeed failing but her spirit was as bright as ever. The news of her passing has saddened everyone, who ever meet her or known a little about the efforts she has made for the less privileged people of this country,” he added.