KARACHI: Iqra, a 19-year-old girl, was left to fend for herself on the streets when her family refused to support her after forcing her to give a false statement against her husband, who was sentenced to jail. Had it not been for Panah Shelter Home, which gave her the much-needed support, her misery would have remained unabated.
Iqra’s story is not an anomaly – there are innumerable Pakistani girls who are left without support or shelter because of legal problems. The Panah Shelter Home, which was established in 2001, has been continuously supporting these women. A small ceremony was organised on Saturday at the shelter to celebrate the fact that its residents had completed a short cosmetology course. The women were given certificates and the efforts of donors were also appreciated. The Chief Justice of High Court, Justice Musheer Alam, Rotarians, students, philanthropists and lawyers attended the event.
Justice (retd) Majida Razvi, the chairperson of the trust, shared its history with the audience. The trust was registered in 2001 and with the help of Amnesty International, it started its activities on the premises of Ida Rieu Complex. In 2005, when the trust was asked to move out, a frantic search ensued to find a new location. After almost three years of struggle, former Karachi Nazim Mustafa Kamal finally offered them the Darul Aman in FB Area. “This place was gloomy and had the scary semblance of a jail. It took us almost a year and generous donations worth around Rs10 million to bring it to its present condition,” she said.
The spotless Panah premises can accommodate about 45 women and 20 children at a time. The trust not only provides free boarding, but the warmth of a home, healthy nourishment, legal aid, compassion and motivational as well as vocational support, said Nadira Panjwani, a trustee.
“We often had to deploy strict security in and around the premises because of high-profile cases such as Rinkle Kumrai. Despite this, we have managed to run the home smoothly,” she said. The residents, who looked refreshed, nourished and disciplined, are kept engaged in productive activities such as arts and crafts, sewing and cooking. Though most of the women stay at the shelter for about three to four months, others may reside there for as long as a year-and-a-half. Most of the women are referred to the shelter by judges or the police and move out once their legal issues are solved.
Justice Razvi said that though it takes up to Rs500,000 per month to run the shelter, support has poured in from all sectors of society. For instance, CCPO Karachi has deputed police guards for the protection of the residents and both Edhi trust and Rotary club have each donated one van to the shelter. DG RT Iqbal Qureshi donated Rs300,000 from his personal account and Zainab Panjwani Hospital provides free medical facilities.
“It is extremely satisfying to see such a place for the women in the city,” said Justice Musheer Alam.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 16th, 2012.