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November 30, 2017



Edhi, Perween remembered for services to less fortunate

Rich tributes were heaped on Abdul Sattar Edhi, the late social worker who broke all records of service to humanity, and Perween Rahman, the assassinated Orangi Pilot Project (OPP) director who dedicated her life for the less fortunate, during a seminar on Wednesday.

‘Serving Humanity: Remembering Pakistan’s Legends’ was organised at the Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology (Szabist), where speakers highlighted the tremendous services rendered by the two social activists to the less fortunate segment of society.

An ardent helper

Faisal Edhi, son of the late Abdul Sattar Edhi, said women had a vital role in the uplift of society. “We’re extremely thankful to all you Pakistanis for the support you extended to my father. It’s you who get the credit for having had his contribution to society duly recognised.”

He cited the way the common folk had decided to take on the privileged, the elite who had been exploiting the poor and the disempowered. Slating the ways of the rich, he said safety measures in vital undertakings were abandoned just to save money, with the result that the workers had to pay for this stinginess with their life and limb.

“The government just doesn’t care. They work only for the elite. It’s the land, water and Bhatta [extortion] mafias that are running the country.” Citing the Baldia garments factory fire incident, he mentioned the case of Saeeda Khatoon whose son was incinerated in the quite fishy tragedy.

He said that after a great run-around, she was finally given Rs2 million and a house. But, he added, it was through her hectic efforts and running from pillar to post for something that was her right.

On the issue of organ transplants, especially eye transplants, he said that this should be done without the least consideration of cast, colour, belief or ethnicity, adding that in Pakistan there were 2 million people in need of an eye transplant.

Talking about the way his father was initiated into his mammoth social welfare work, he said it was all because of Abdul Sattar Edhi’s mother. He said the mother asked the son how much he spent on the poor from what he earned.

He added that the son replied he retained a pie for himself and the other he gave to the poor, to which the mother replied, “You must give both pies to the poor,” leaving such an indelible imprint on his mind that he became an ardent helper of the poor.

An egalitarian

Social worker Aquila Ismail, Perween Rahman’s sister, narrated how they had to emigrate to Pakistan after the fall of the former East Pakistan and how they saw all the massive tragedy of people being dispossessed and uprooted.

This, she said, really affected her sister. “Perween went back to the basics of life which, in one word, could be described as ‘fairness’, fairness to people, to animals, to ideas, to convictions and to your calling.”

She said that when Perween embarked on the OPP, Orangi was a wasteland, without sewage lines, sanitation or water, a place the displaced persons from East Pakistan had been allowed to occupy, but that was the end of it, and the government was least interested in the poor’s uplift.

Perween, egalitarian as she was, took it upon herself, along with the cooperation of the late OPP founder Dr Akhtar Hameed Khan, to better the people’s lot, and in due time Orangi got all the basics of life, she added.

She said the project was replicated in other low-income localities, such as Landhi, adding that the poor were 60 per cent of Karachi’s population. “Perween’s pro-poor model of development is now being replicated in five South Asian countries.” In the process, she said, Perween antagonised a whole lot of vested interests and mafias whose selfish interests were suffering, and so she had to pay with her life.  

A beacon to follow

Noted journalist Zubeida Mustafa offered golden advice to all the students present: think deeply over all ills facing society. As regards education, she said: “Government schools may not be as good as private ones, but they could still render valuable service in making our children literate.... We must have things which benefit 70 per cent of our population.”

She lauded the services to education by the late Abdul Sattar Edhi and said his work would always be a beacon for the future generations to follow. She cited Edhi as a model for the coming generations of philanthropists. Szabist Social Sciences Dean Dr Riaz Shaikh concluded with a quote of the late Abdul Sattar Edhi’s: “People have become educated, but they still have to become human.”