ISLAMABAD: Four years ago, Zahida Kazmi made the headlines for being Pakistan’s first female taxi driver. She would fearlessly cover long distances behind the wheel, often traversing some of the most hostile places in the northern parts of the country.
Proving to be a reliable driver for commuters within the twin cities and beyond, Zahida created a niche for herself in what has been typically considered a man’s profession. She built a rapport with her clients, many of whom she would pick from the Islamabad airport.
But after surviving a recent brain haemorrhage, she is in the throes of disease and poverty. Her affliction with high blood pressure and diabetes does not allow her to travel the long distances she once did.
Pakistan’s first female taxi driver: Power steering
Zahida does not own the taxi she drove anymore, and even sold a car she later bought to pay for her medical treatment. She cannot afford her own medicines. A local doctor, who offers free healthcare, has warned her of renal failure if she stops taking the prescribed dose of medicines.
“I was a resilient woman, but this disease has gotten the better of me,” Zahida laments, as she narrates her plight to The Express Tribune.
She works tirelessly to support her family and provide them the best she can in her meagre resources. She has worked as a domestic helper, in a cloth factory, and also taught driving to women in Rawalpindi. She has been widowed twice.
Her landlords, who live abroad for most part of the year, do not charge her for rent. However, her monthly income of Rs7,000 can barely cover her household expenses let alone the Rs4,000 school fee of her youngest daughter Zahra, 10. It has been four months since she paid the last time. The school has served her a default notice.
Amid other uncertainties of life and with her health deteriorating, Zahida worries there will be no one to look after her youngest daughter.
Bearing in mind the odds, she has decided to start a pick-and-drop service for schoolchildren. But she first needs to buy a van. She hopes to at least double her current income while working within the proximity of her home.