Perveen Rahman, director of the Orangi Pilot Project Research and Training Institute (OPP-RTI), was shot dead in Karachi, Pakistan, on Wednesday 13 March 2013. The internationally acclaimed and widely replicated project that she led, succeeded in bringing low-cost sanitation to Karachi’s Orangi squatter community of 1 million people.
Ms Rahman’s associates believe her death was linked to her work on exposing Karachi’s land grabbing and water mafia. The police suspect Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militants of being behind the killing. The Express Tribune reports that Ms Rahman had also worked in a Taliban-controlled area in Karachi.
A professional architect and alumnus of the Institute of Housing Studies in Rotterdam, she was recruited by Akhter Hameed Khan to become Joint Director of the Orangi Pilot Project in 1983, where she managed the housing and sanitation programmes.
After the OPP was split in four organisations, in 1988, Ms Rahman became director of OPP-RTI. She tells about her work in a 2009 video interview. In 1989, she founded the NGO Urban Resource Centre in Karachi.
Anwer Rashid, co-director of the OPP-RTI, told Dawn newspaper:
She was a courageous and brave lady. She was a true pupil of Akhtar Hameed Khan who worked in an environment where most people will avoid to work.
Noman Ahmed of NED University, where Ms Rehman taught, said:
She involved communities in development work and her cautious endeavour was to empower people and lessen their sense of deprivation. Her motto was way forward. She saw it as a defeat to terrorists by not changing her routine to help people.
Mr. Oliver Jones, from the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC), who had worked together with Ms. Rahman during his time with WaterAid, remembers her as “an inspirational but humble woman who was dedicated to improving the lives of the poorest people within Pakistan”. Mr. Ashoke Chatterjee adds that her profound conviction was that “Governments don’t solve problems. People do.’”
Pakistani officials and civil society groups publicly condemned the murder as “senseless and barbaric”. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said her assassination “was a cruel blow to the country’s civil society and a great loss to the nation”. Former cricket star and Pakistani politician Imran Khan described the murder as a “great loss for his country”.
WSSCC’s National Coordinator in Pakistan Ms. Tanya Khan said “Pakistan and South Asia have lost a true champion on sanitation, hygiene and human rights”.
Ms. Rahman, who was 56, is survived by her mother, two brothers and a sister.
Related website: Orangi Pilot Project Research and Training Institute (OPP-RTI)
Source: Alexandra Raphel, Global Post, 15 Mar 2013 ; Zia Ur Rehman, Central Asia Online 15 Mar 2013 ; Dawn, 14 Mar 2013 ; PRI’s The World, 14 Mar 2013 ; BBC, 14 Mar 2013 ; Zara Zulfiqar, Area 14/8, com, 15 Mar 2013 ; Qurratulain Zaman, Global Voices, 16 Mar 2013 ; Kamal Siddiq, Express Tribune, 17 Mar 2013 ; WSSCC, 15 Mar 2013 ; Wikipedia – Perween Rahman