Thursday June 20, 2024

‘The Rebel Optimist’ pays homage to life and work of Perween Rahman

By Ebad Ahmed
April 20, 2016


“With the Orangi Pilot Project (OPP) virtually shut down and a number of murder attempts on people affiliated with Perween Rahman, the first two years after her death for us were mainly about keeping the case and ourselves alive,” said advocate Faisal Siddiqi, while speaking at the screening of documentary ‘Perween Rahman: The Rebel Optimist’, at T2f on Tuesday.

The counsel for Perween’s murder, Siddiqi said owing to security risk, the case was directly taken to the Supreme Court and not a sessions or a high court.

Commending the court`s engrossment of the case, he stated that it was precisely because of it that the case had managed to move forward, while the people associated with it were alive and not dead.

“We suspect that her murder was had a lot of bigwigs involved in it including high-ranking police officers as well as some bureaucrats,” Siddiqi claimed. “Although two of the killers had so far been identified and arrested, the third – Rahim Swati - purported to be the key suspect, was absconding.”

Siddiqi said he was sure of her murder not being triggered by a minor issue, as he stated that there definitely were vested interests behind her murder.

“The reason why I am optimistic that the main killers would soon be caught is because the intelligence agencies were not involved in it,” he stated, adding, that it was the greed of the police officers, a handful of bureaucrats and the provincial government that claimed Parween’s life.

“Those who killed her did not know how powerful she was. She will chase them to the doors of hell!” Siddqi stated while speaking of her defiance and courage.

Sharing an anecdote, a close associate and colleague of Parween’s, Anwer Rashid said that it was in a seminar held in Bangkok that Parween had spoken of being killed one day with surety. “I know I will be killed. But I would happily get killed,” Rashid quoted his friend. Despite having known that she would be killed she worked with unparalleled determination, he said.

“It was the land mafia that was irked by her work since 2006.”

Perween’s sister, author Aquila Ismail, while recalling her reaction to the news of her murder said, “I did not want to see the city again, for it was the city she worked for that got her killed. But then it was this very city that mourned for her.”

“Our lives stopped on March 13, the day she was murdered, it would only go on when justice is served,” Aquila said.

Perween's legacy was her unflinching ‘bias’ for the poor, Aquila said, adding, “I won’t say that she was some Mother Teresa, but she indeed was one who took pleasure in helping people.”

“She was not giving charity to people, but hope, through her work!” 

Director of the documentary, Mahera Omer while sharing the hard work put into making the documentary said she the team had to take a number of protective measures.

“We were strictly instructed to not visit places on a regular basis, change cars and routes regularly.” “We even had people hold us hostage on gunpoint,” Mahera said.

The OPP, is one of Pakistan’s most successful non-profit organisations, which has the credit of having turned Asia’s largest slum, Orangi Town, into an urban settlement. It has been working on projects as diverse as sanitation, health, and mirco-finance credit, mainly in Orangi Town.

Among its major projects was the documenting of the area’s land, which many believe led to Parween’s murder.