Short film on Perween Rahman’s life screened at Institute of Business Administration – Pakistan

A still from Into Dust.—White Star

KARACHI: The Rasheed Razvi Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights (RCCHR) and the Orangi Pilot Project (OPP) held a screening of a short film, Into Dust, on the life and works of the late social worker Perween Rahman at the Institute of Business Administration (IBA) on Monday evening.

Directed by Orlando van Einsiedel, the movie begins with Perween (played by Indu Sharma) working in the Orangi Town area as head of the project. Not too long into the story, while she is in the back seat of her car, she is shot by a gunman riding a motorcycle. Then the film goes back five years to narrate how the social worker along with her colleague Anwar (Danish Husain) got to know about the water mafia that operates in Karachi, stealing 41 per cent of the city’s water.

Subsequently, her elder sister, Aquila (Sudha Bhuchar), gets involved in the project after making an effort to find out who were the people behind her murder.

Taking part in a panel discussion about the film, former Karachi administrator Fahim Zaman said he had known OPP founder Akhtar Hameed Khan and Perween Rahman for a very long time. When her murder took place in 2013, he [Zaman] tried to look into the reasons for the killing. Whenever he met those whose duty was to investigate the murder, and when he would ask them who the people were behind the killing, they would give a simple answer, “That’s not my brief, my job.”

‘No one could give a straight answer as to what’s the motive behind her killing’

IBA’s Executive Director Akbar Zaidi said he found it very strange that the man at whose place he met Perween on a number of occasions, architect Arif Hasan, had no mention in the film.

“I find this very, very strange … I can’t accept a film on Perween Rahman that doesn’t feature Arif Hasan in it. My association with OPP was through Hasan and Akhtar Hameed Khan. In 1983 in Karachi I used to work with Hasan and consider him my guru. I’ve learned a lot from him. Arif Hasan used to say that ‘Perween is the most talented student’. Hasan and Perween often argued about things, but then she would return to him and say ‘guru, what to do now’. She had a relationship with him till she breathed her last.”

DIG Omer Shahid Hamid said he never met Perween Rahman, but has met her ghost. In 2018, five years after her murder, he as a police officer became the third or fourth person who was handed the investigation [of the case]. The crux was that no one could give a straight answer as to what’s the motive behind the killing. “When I got this, it was like a cold case. I got all of my firsthand knowledge through the writings of Perween Rahman. That was where my eyes opened and different aspects of the investigation clarified. That’s why I say I never met her but I have met and conversed with her ghost through her writings.”

Touching upon the issues of water and land in bigger cities such as Karachi and Rio de Janeiro, he said there are shrinking municipal resources. The conflicts caused by that have political parties and mafias getting involved in them.

‘She was always smiling’

Advocate Faisal Siddiqi said, “I really got to know her when she called me for a lecture in Dec 2012 on the Baldia factory fire. I was very pessimistic and despondent at the time, but that is where I really discovered her. My initial impression of her was that she’s just crazy. Since then, whenever I saw her, she was always smiling. I’ve never seen a person smile as much as Perween Rahman. What a person who’s able to smile in a city like Karachi! She would say to me about the Baldia case, tum to jeeto gey (you will win). She was an eternal optimist. That’s the first reason we decided to take up her case.”

Published in Dawn, August 31st, 2021