Perween Rahman, a dear friend, colleague and valued mentor remembered

She was instrumental in creating platform for communities and professionals to come together to work for change.

March 20, 2013

Parween Rahman was an inspiration. Mentor and teacher to many, she represented a critical consciousness amid a general environment of compromise and mediocrity. It was that critical consciousness and her revolutionary fervour that inspired those who recognise what is at stake in the current social and political environment, and threatened those who saw their power and corruption scrutinised and challenged.

Her death is a heart-rending loss and a damning indictment of both those who snuffed out the light of her life as well as those who have sworn to protect our lives and rights as citizens but have failed to do so consistently.

Taking forward Dr Akhter Hameed Khan’s vision for the Orangi Pilot Project (OPP), Perween successfully did this and much more by putting her own stamp on the organisation’s culture and objectives. Under her leadership, the OPP Research and Training Institute, the charitable trust, and the health and social development programmes flourished.

Even more, the OPP-RTI’s extensive mapping of Karachi’s new phase of urbanisation, its land transformations, and sanitation systems have become an invaluable tool for the poor to make claims on land, to assert their rights as citizens, and literally to be seen by the state.

Perhaps it is the very potent nature of these maps that has destabilised the power of those who thrive on ‘land grabs’ for speculative purposes, and in these efforts are backed by the state and political parties in nefarious land deals. The OPP-RTI’s maps embody the situated struggles that are remaking contemporary Karachi. These maps are the ground zero of state-society contests, of subaltern resistance in a tense new phase of an ethnicised and spatialised urban politics. Perween understood unequivocally the high stakes involved in this process, and never compromised even for an instant.

As an urbanist and grassroots activist working among and with marginalised communities, Perween was instrumental in creating a space where communities and professionals could come together to work for social change. Her legacy is huge - a roadmap and a beacon for those who believed in her. It is to be hoped that that legacy will not be lost and will instead create a momentum for the deep-rooted change that we need in order create justice and equity in our society.

Written by Nausheen H. Anwar from the Asia Research Institute, National University Singapore, Singapore, and Sarwat Viqar  from the School of Community and Public Affairs, Concordia University, Montreal, Canada

Published in The Express Tribune, March 21st, 2013.


Falcon | 8 years ago | Reply

Like Hakeem Muhammad Saeed, she will continue to live amongst us by inspiring us. I certainly wish I had met her when she was alive. All I can say is that if I ever have a daughter, I would like her to grow up to be like Parveen Rehman!

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