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Campaign seeking justice for slain social workers reaches capital

Campaign seeking justice for slain social workers reaches capital

By: Myra Imran

Islamabad: As the case is accepted by Supreme Court for hearing, the campaign to seek justice for Perween Rehman, social activist brutally murdered in Karachi on March 13, 2013, has reached the capital city where more than 8,000 people have signed the petition demanding investigation of the murder and effective action against the perpetrators.

In addition, the civil society activists are planning peaceful gatherings to highlight the contributions of Perween Rehman, who is remembered as ‘respected teacher, beloved colleague, friend, daughter and sisters’ by friends, colleagues and community people.

On the fateful evening, Perween Rehman was travelling to her home from work when unidentified assailants approached her car on motorbike and opened fire, as a result of which Rehman received bullet injuries in her neck and passed away.

An FIR bearing No. 104/2013 was lodged at Police Station Peerabad on the very same day, nominating two unknown assailants for commission of offences under Sections 302/34 of the Pakistan Penal Code, 1860. Despite passage of more than five months, the police investigation is still pending and no progress has been made in apprehending the perpetrators.

Rehman was the Director of the Orangi Pilot Project and an internationally renowned social worker, who had devoted her life for the development of impoverished neighbourhoods in the city of Karachi. Rehman had worked tirelessly to document land in Orangi Town, in order to protect the low-income settlements where she had been working for nearly thirty years, from the city’s notorious land mafia.

She was receiving death threats from various groups, yet she had remained persistent in her efforts against the growing expansion of land grabbers. She was a symbol of resistance for poor and was the voice of the marginalised community under the threat of eviction.

Supreme Court accepted the petition for hearing on September 20. The petition requests the court to issue appropriate directions for the constitution and appointment of a Commission headed by a senior Judge to investigate the incident of target killing of Parveen Rehman.

The plea before Supreme Court mentions that Parween had extensive knowledge of the activities of the land mafia in Karachi and she had refused to abandon her social work despite continuous threat to her life for many years, as a result of which she had become a symbol of resistance against the growing activities of the land mafia.

“Her murder has contributed to further expansion of the activities of the… land mafia across various slums and goths lying on the fringes of Karachi, including Orangi Town, where impoverished households are facing threats of eviction, and has dealt a severe blow to the humanitarian activities being carried out by social workers in the impoverished neighbourhoods of the largest city of Pakistan,” mentions the petition.

It mentions that under Article 9 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973, the state is responsible for providing protection and safety to the life and liberty of all citizens. “But in the present case the state has not only failed to provide security to the deceased but has also failed to conduct a fair and impartial investigation into the offence, thereby shattering the confidence of citizens, who are facing the onslaught of powerful land mafias, in the writ of the state, and boosting the confidence of criminal elements involved in violation of the Fundamental Rights of citizens enshrined in the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973.”

Taking to ‘The News’, human rights activist, Rehana Hashmi, said that justice delayed is justice denied. “Supreme Court should have taken suo moto notice of Perween’s murder. It was not killing of one person but it was an attack on the leader of human rights defenders. She was the hope of poor and destitute in Pakistan especially for Karachi as she challenged powerful mafia of Karachi by bringing their corruption to limelight.” Rehman’s sister, Aquila Ismail, said that their family has complete faith in courts. “An effective investigation of the case under a high profile judicial commission can be greatly helpful in building up the confidence of the citizens in writ of the state,” she added.

Chief Operating Officer of Aurat Foundation Naeem Mirza demanded a thorough investigation of Rehman’s murder and stressed that those who had deprived the nation of a dedicated friend of the poor and an exemplary citizen of the country must not be allowed to escape punishment.

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