Google Doodle has celebrated the 65th birthday of Pakistani social activist, architect, and urban planner Perween Rahman, who devoted her life to uplifting marginalised communities.
Perween Rahman was born on this day in 1957 in Dhaka (now Bangladesh). Following the separation of East Pakistan in 1971, she relocated with her family to Karachi. Rahman studied architecture and went on to earn her master’s in housing, building, and urban planning from the Institute of Housing Studies in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.
Rahman’s personal experiences of displacement inspired her to pursue a career advocating for housing security, and in 1982, she began working as an unpaid intern for the Orangi Pilot Project (OPP).
This organization focused on sanitation, housing, and healthcare in Orangi Town on the outskirts of Karachi, one of the world’s largest informal settlements. Here, many residents could not rely on legal protection to maintain rights to their homes and were frequently evicted for construction projects.
From meticulously documenting property boundaries and ownership information to spearheading education and community engagement initiatives, Rahman’s work soon became integral in protecting the region’s precarious community.
Rahman’s dedication to helping Orangi Town’s 1.5 million residents protect their land rights led to her appointment as head of the OPP’s housing and sanitation programs. With Rahman at the helm, the OPP partnered with the government to set up 650 private schools, 700 medical clinics, and 40,000 small businesses.
She has been given numerous accolades for her achievements, notably the Sitara-e-Shujaaand her efforts have played an instrumental role in defining how Pakistani settlements are developed today.
On March 13, 2013, Perween Rahman was killed when four gunmen opened fire on her vehicle near Pirabad Police Station, ending her 28-year-long career for land and basic services rights. Rahman had been an outspoken critic of the land mafias in Karachi and their political patrons. She had complained of receiving death threats in the past.
The prime suspect in the murder was arrested during a joint operation conducted in Mansehra. The suspect Ahmed Khan alias Pappu Kashmiri was arrested in Mansehra. The next day, police killed a Taliban operative named Qari Bilal in an encounter and claimed he was the murderer, resulting in a closure of the case.
On April 15, 2014, the Supreme Court of Pakistan had ordered authorities to conduct a fresh probe into Rahman’s murder after a judicial inquiry had revealed that police officers had manipulated the investigation.
After a hiatus of almost eight years, an anti-terrorism court in Karachi in December 2021 finally sentenced four men to life in the murder case. The accused including Raheem Swati, Ahmed Khan alias Pappu Kashmiri, Amjad Hussain, and Ayaz Swati were handed down double life terms.