First Pakistani Women Paratroopers Make History

First women paratroopers (
First women paratroopers

ISLAMABAD, July 15: Pakistan’s first group of female paratroopers completed their training on Sunday, the military announced, hailing it as a “landmark achievement” for the country.

Captain Kiran Ashraf was declared the best paratrooper of the batch of 24, the military said in a statement, while Captain Sadia, referred to by one name, became the first woman officer to jump from a MI-17 helicopter.

Women have limited opportunities in Pakistan’s highly traditional, patriarchal society. The United Nations says only 40 per cent of adult women are literate, and they are frequently the victims of violence and abuse.

But in 2006 seven women broke into one of Pakistan’s most exclusive male clubs to graduate as fighter pilots — perhaps the most prestigious job in the powerful military and for six decades closed to the fairer sex.

After three weeks’ basic airborne training, which included exit, flight and landing techniques, the new paratroopers completed their first jump on Sunday and were given their “wings” by the commander of Special Services Group, Major General Abid Rafique, the military said.

The Malala Backlash

Malala Yusufzai (
Malala Yusufzai

WHY has Malala Yousufzai’s speech at the UN on July 12, her 16th birthday, created such admiration all over the world, only to be met with a nasty backlash against the young education activist in Pakistan?

Perhaps the negative reaction of many Pakistanis to the young girl is the carping of jealous nobodies, but it bears examining because it says something profound about Pakistan.

The reaction to Malala’s words was swift in Pakistan; barely hours after she made her inspirational speech, people began complaining about its contents, the fact that the UN had dedicated an entire day to her, and the adulation she was receiving from world leaders by her side. Ignoring the text of her speech, which spoke out for the rights of girls and women and implored world leaders to choose peace instead of war, the naysayers tore down the young woman, her father, and Western nations for supporting her in her quest for education.

The insults flowed freely: Malala Dramazai was a popular epithet that popped up on Facebook pages and Twitter. The whole shooting was staged by “the West” and America, who control the Taliban. She was being used to make Pakistan feel guilty for actions that were the fault of the Western powers in the first place. Posters were circulated that showed Mukhtaran Mai and Malala with Xs through their faces, and berated the two women for speaking out about their experiences in order to receive money, popularity and asylum abroad.

Another popular refrain was “drone attacks”. Why had Malala not spoken out about drones at the UN? Why did everyone care so much about Malala and not the other girls murdered by drones? Why did America kill innocent children with drones and then lionise the young Malala to make themselves feel good that they actually cared about the children of Pakistan and Afghanistan?

It was a shameful display of how Pakistanis have a tendency to turn on the very people they should be proud of. Prof Abdus Salam fell victim to this peculiar Pakistani phenomenon, as well as the murdered child labour activist Iqbal Masih, Rimsha Masih, who recently received asylum for the threats to her life after the blasphemy case, and Kainat Soomro, the brave child who had been gang-raped and actually dared to take on her attackers. Pakistanis have very deliberately abandoned these brave champions of justice, and each time one more joins their ranks, the accusations of fame mongering, Western agendas, and money ring out louder and louder.

The insults to Malala had a decidedly sexist tone, the comparison to Mukhtaran Mai — another Pakistani hero — making it obvious that rather than embracing female survivors of hideous, politically motivated violence, Pakistanis prefer them to shut up and go away, not to use their ordeals as a platform to campaign for justice.

What does this say about Pakistani mentality? Firstly, it illustrates the fact that most Pakistanis are very confused. As British journalist Alex Hamilton said, “Those who stand for nothing fall for anything”. Because we don’t know what to stand for, we fall victim to conspiracy theories, wild imaginings, and muddled thinking about what is so clearly right and wrong.

Secondly, people who deflect from Malala’s speech to the issue of drone attacks may believe they care about drone victims, but it is hard to find what if anything they have actually done for those drone victims besides register their displeasure on social media. Instead, it is a way of deflecting the guilt they feel about their own impotence, their own inability to make any substantial change or impact in this country.

In psychology this is called displacement: these people who feel anger and frustration about themselves channel it into feeling angry about drone victims, or angry against Malala Yousafzai, or anyone who challenges their firmly held belief that this world is controlled by forces greater than themselves. They dislike the challenge to the justification for their own inertia and inactivity, and so they strike out.

Critics are ignoring how Malala pointed out that terrorists are misusing Islam for their own selfish ends: power and control. She rightly stated that Pakhtun culture is not synonymous with Talibanism; a popular narrative used to justify the marginalisation of tribal peoples (and the use of drones and human rights excesses by the military in carrying out operations in the tribal areas of Pakistan).

These statements contradict the political arguments offered by Pakistan’s incompetent leadership in lieu of real solutions to the militancy, and the justification for acts of aggression perpetrated by Western and Nato forces on the Pakhtuns of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

A note of warning: Malala and her cause must not be hijacked by opportunists, money-makers, politicians, or those who wish to use this pure young woman for their own selfish ends. In celebrating Malala, the world should not forget about the thousands of girls who are still in danger from extremist violence in Pakistan. Nor should she be taken up as a cause célèbre by celebrities and other do-gooders to feel smug satisfaction that they are helping her cause by posing for a photograph or attending a dinner with her (Personally, I feel that a young girl who can survive being shot in the head by the Taliban is strong enough to withstand being exploited by anyone).

Malala’s beautiful words must be a source of inspiration for solid action on the ground in the areas most affected by the conflicts she describes. Whether you support her or not, nobody can deny the urgent need to bring education and peace to Pakistan. Don’t ignore this message, even if you feel like shooting the messenger all over again.

Pakistan’s first war-ready female fighter pilot wins battle of sexes

Ayesha Farooq (
Ayesha Farooq

MUSHAF AIR BASE, Pakistan: With an olive green head scarf poking out from her helmet, Ayesha Farooq flashes a cheeky grin when asked if it is lonely being the only war-ready female fighter pilot in the Islamic republic of Pakistan.

Farooq, from Punjab province’s historic city of Bahawalpur, is one of 19 women who have become pilots in the Pakistan Air Force over the last decade — there are five other female fighter pilots, but they have yet to take the final tests to qualify for combat.

“I don’t feel any different. We do the same activities, the same precision bombing,” the soft-spoken 26-year-old said of her male colleagues at Mushaf base in north Pakistan, where neatly piled warheads sit in sweltering 50 degree Celsius heat (122 F).

A growing number of women have joined Pakistan’s defence forces in recent years as attitudes towards women change.

“Because of terrorism and our geographical location it’s very important that we stay on our toes,” said Farooq, referring to Taliban militancy and a sharp rise in sectarian violence.

Deteriorating security in neighbouring Afghanistan, where US-led troops are preparing to leave by the end of next year, and an uneasy relationship with arch rival India to the east add to the mix.

Farooq, whose slim frame offers a study in contrast with her burly male colleagues, was at loggerheads with her widowed and uneducated mother seven years ago when she said she wanted to join the air force.

“In our society most girls don’t even think about doing such things as flying an aircraft,” she said.

Family pressure against the traditionally male domain of the armed forces dissuaded other women from taking the next step to become combat ready, air force officials said. They fly slower aircraft instead, ferrying troops and equipment around the nuclear-armed country of 180 million.

Less of a Taboo
Centuries-old rule in the tribal belt area along the border with Afghanistan, where rape, mutilation and the killing of women are ordered to mete out justice, underlines conservative Pakistan’s failures in protecting women’s rights.

But women are becoming more aware of those rights and signing up with the air force is about as empowering as it gets.

“More and more ladies are joining now,” said Nasim Abbas, Wing Commander of Squadron 20, made up of 25 pilots, including Farooq, who fly Chinese-made F-7PG fighter jets.

“It’s seen as less of a taboo. There’s been a shift in the nation’s, the society’s, way of thinking,” Abbas told Reuters on the base in Punjab’s Sargodha district, about 280 km (175 miles) east of the capital Islamabad, home base to many jets in the 1965 and 1971 wars with India.

There are now about 4,000 women in Pakistan’s armed forces, largely confined to desk jobs and medical work.

But over the last decade, women have became sky marshals, defending Pakistan’s commercial liners against insurgent attacks, and a select few are serving in the elite anti-terrorist force. Like most female soldiers in the world, Pakistani women are still banned from ground combat.

Pakistan now has 316 women in the air force compared to around 100 five years ago, Abbas said.

“In Pakistan, it’s very important to defend our front lines because of terrorism and it’s very important for everyone to be part of it,” said avionics engineer Anam Hassan, 24, as she set out for work on an F-16 fighter aircraft, her thick black hair tucked under a baseball cap.

“It just took a while for the air force to accept this.”

Samina Baig becomes first Pakistani woman to climb Mt Everest

Samina Baig (Credit:
Samina Baig

ISLAMABAD, May 19: The news about the first Pakistani woman summiting Mount Everest on Sunday morning spread like a wildfire.

Text messages congratulating every Pakistani started doing the rounds only half an hour after Samina Baig reached the top of the highest peak in the world at around 7:30am.

And by the afternoon, almost everyone was updating their status on the social media and pasting links to images of the 21-year-old mountaineer from the Shimshal valley of Hunza.

On Saturday night, Samina Baig sent her brother a message how she had reached Base Camp IV at the height of 7,900 metres on the South Col between Mt Everest and Lhoste, the fourth highest mountain in the world, after eight hours of hard climbing.

“Samina, Tashi and Nugshi feeling great… The weather is windy and cloudy… Worried about weather… If all goes well will leave for summit tonight… Appeal from the nation to pray for us,” Samina Baig said in her last text before her push for the summit.

To the surprise of many in the mountaineering community, Samina Baig summated Mount Everest with twin sisters from India – Tashi and Nugshi Malik – also 21 years old.

Although messages had been circulating that Samina Baig and her 29-year-old brother Mirza Ali had summated Mount Everest together, the Alpine Club of Pakistan (ACP) was still to issue an official statement about it.

“We have confirmed that Samina Baig made history by becoming the first Pakistani woman to summit the world’s highest peak at 8,848 metres high. We are still trying to confirm if her brother has also made it to the top,” said Karrar Haidri, the executive member of the ACP. Once the news is confirmed, Mirza Ali could be the youngest Pakistani to summit Mount Everest.

Both Mirza Ali and Samina Baig took everyone by surprise when they held a press conference in Islamabad a day before leaving for Nepal on March 31.

The two were joining a gathering of climbers at the Mount Everest to celebrate 60 years since it was first summated in 1953. Samina Beg said she was about to become the first Pakistani woman to be part of it.

While the climbers from around the world were celebrating the 60 years, the 21-year-old climber was accompanying her brother with another mission.

“Together we are promoting gender equality,” said Samina Baig then. Although the brother and sister had not attempted any of the five 8,000 metres plus peaks in Pakistan, the climbing community was in doubt of the pair’s success rate.

Samina Baig and her brother had been climbing for the last three years together.

In 2010, she became the first to ascend the virgin peak Chashkin Sar (above 6,000 meters) now called the ‘Samina Peak’. She conquered another virgin peak in 2011 that was named ‘Koh-i-Brobar’ or the ‘Mount Equality’ in 2011. Samina Baig and her brother were not so lucky on the 7,027 metres high Spantik Peak when bad weather forced them to abandon their summit attempts.

‘Actions not Words are Needed to Enable Women to Progress’

Tahira Abdullah (Credit:
What are the basic reasons for persistent poverty of Pakistani women?

Several factors contribute to exacerbate the feminisation of poverty in Pakistan. These include the increasing overall national poverty rates, of both women and men; rising inflation, food insecurity and unemployment. A female/male poverty ratio of 3:1, as acknowledged by successive military dictatorships and civilian elected governments over the past decade and a half, is shameful and totally unacceptable for a developing country like Pakistan.

Home-based, low-income, urban women workers suffer huge exploitation from middlemen, contractors and employers; but for rural agricultural women (the vast majority of women workers in Pakistan), the situation is even worse, as they do not get paid wages at all, due to being termed as ‘family helpers’ and thus sink lower into chronic poverty.

Men working in agriculture (known as mazaaras and haarees) are also exploited by the rich feudal landowners, by being either unpaid serfs/peasants/bonded labour through generations, or by being paid inadequately in kind, a fractional portion of the harvested food crop, but women peasants are not paid at all, and have no control over or access to their spouses’ wages.

Conversely, it is the women who are responsible for the food security of their immediate and extended family (husband, children, in-laws), as well as for the triple burden of work: (i) domestic household chores, (ii) economically productive agriculture, livestock, fisheries and forestry activities, (iii) reproductive functions of child-bearing and rearing. Women also suffer greater ill-health, anaemia, mal/under-nutrition, and reproductive health (RH) complications, without access to free public sector or affordable private sector RH services.

This not only increases the burden of poverty for women, but it also decreases women’s productive capacity, as well as increasing their poverty of opportunity (including lack of education, information, mobility, socio-cultural restrictive norms and other constraints). This concept was introduced by the eminent Pakistani economist Dr Mahbub ul Haq, who coined the terms Poverty of Opportunity Index (POPI), Human Development Index (HDI), Gender Development Index (GDI) and Gender Empowerment Measure (GEM). Pakistan, regrettably, still does not fare well on any of these indices.

What practical measures do you suggest to eradicate the high incidence of poverty in women in the local context?

The lesson to be learnt from the failure of the mala fide, badly conceptualised and highly politicised Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) is that monthly charitable handouts do nothing to alleviate poverty — it was simply a meagre social protection measure to ensure votes in the next elections, and fostered dependency and beggary.

Long-term poverty eradication measures first require transfer of land to women for building women’s assets ownership in their own name, in order to increase women’s credit-worthiness and provide collateral for loans for women’s entrepreneurship.

The incoming governments (both federal and provincial) need to increase and encourage the private sector to also increase their investments in rural development, agriculture and agro-based industries, especially food crops (vs cash crops such as cotton).

Women’s and girls’ education and vocational skills training, in both rural and urban areas, needs huge investments, in order to increase women’s registration and eligibility for formal sector employment, trade union membership and labour benefits, particularly health, children’s education and social security.

It is most important that the government recognise the huge contribution women are making to the GDP, albeit invisible, unacknowledged and uncounted in national statistics, due to outmoded and unjust definitions of “labour force”, which exclude the entire agriculture sector and home-based workers from the formal, organised sector labour force.

Pakistan is a signatory to the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and is also a State Party to various UN Conventions, including several at the International Labour Organisation (ILO), and, inter alia, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), and thus must adhere to its binding international commitments, as well as to the fundamental rights enshrined in the 1973 Constitution of Pakistan.

It is vitally important that Pakistan ratify the ILO Convention 177 and R-198 to grant recognition and formal labour status to the millions of home-based workers (as distinct from domestic staff) in Pakistan.

It is also vitally important for the federal and provincial governments to recognise the huge numbers of de facto women-headed households, to register them and to grant them formal status, resulting in their eligibility for social security, membership of the Employees’ Old Age Benefits Institution, health insurance and other benefits available to working men registered as household heads.

Tahira Abdullah is a development worker, and peace and human rights activist

Pakistani girl defied Taliban to play squash – as a boy

Maria Toorpakai with parents (Credit:

Maria Toorpakai received death threats from the Taliban for playing sports, which it considers un-Islamic. Now she is determined to return to Pakistan and change their minds.

Maria Toorpakai was born in what is called “the most dangerous place on earth” — Waziristan, Pakistan

Long a stronghold for militant groups and warlords, including the Taliban, this remote tribal region is also one of the most conservative and uneducated parts of Pakistan.

But Toorpakai’s courage and determination to fight for social change in Waziristan has helped her to overcome numerous challenges and become something no woman there would ever be allowed to become — a squash champion.

Growing up in Waziristan, she had to pretend to be a boy to play the sport she loved, receiving death threats from the Taliban when her secret was exposed.


“Girls don’t have any rights. They cannot go out from their house, they cannot do what they want to do, they cannot play sports. They have to stay covered up, or they will be killed,” Toorpakai, now 22, recalled during an interview with MSN News from Toronto, where she moved two years ago to train under Canadian squash champion Jonathan Powers. “But I want to go back one day and change that.”

Even though she is more than 6,000 miles away from home, Toorpakai still talks about how she wants to go back to Waziristan one day and help girls who have no access to education and are often forced to join militant groups or engage in criminal activity.

Her introduction to squash, which would ultimately help her to get out of Waziristan, came through her father, Shamsul Qayyum Wazir, an outspoken advocate of women’s rights in the Pashtuni community, a stance which landed him in prison.

Wazir had always believed his daughter was different.

“I was 4 when I realized that I didn’t want to sit at home and play with dolls,” Toorpakai said. “I wanted to go out and play sports. One day when my parents were away, I burned all my frocks, shaved my head and wore my brother’s clothes. I became a boy.”

This little act of rebellion led to Toorpakai’s father naming her Genghis Khan.

When she was 12, Toorpakai’s family moved from one city to another to escape the Taliban, finally settling in Peshawar, Pakistan, where her father enrolled her in weightlifting.

She went on to rank second in weightlifting in Pakistan in the junior division.

Soon after that, Toorpakai discovered squash.


Within three years, Toorpakai went on to become Pakistan’s national champion and was ranked No. 3 in the world in the juniors division.

But she continued to live in fear of the Taliban.

Whenever she traveled for tournaments locally, she carried a gun and a cyanide pill in case she was kidnapped.

“People saw me on TV wearing shorts, playing sports and didn’t like it,” Toorpakai said. “They told me, ‘You are causing us dishonor.'”

“Think about what the Taliban did to Malala Yousafzai, and she just wanted to go to school, and she was in a veil … and I’m wearing shorts,” Toorpakai said.

Related: Pakistani girl shot by the Taliban returns to school

One day, her father received a note from the Taliban that said if his daughter continued to play squash, his family would be killed.

“I stopped playing in tournaments and appearing on TV,” Toorpakai said.


Toorpakai’s plight was discussed in the Pakistani parliament. The government placed security checkpoints around her house and even provided snipers to protect her in the squash courts.

“I realized that it’s not possible being a girl and playing sports,” she said. “I was afraid that I would be kidnapped or killed. Every day, army officers and ministers are killed, and who am I? I would be easily killed.”

Toorpakai was also worried about the safety of the other children who played in the squash courts.

“I decided to play in my room. I didn’t want to be the reason behind someone’s death,” she said. “I believed in my squash. I kept hitting and hitting while everyone slept at night, until my hands were swollen.”

But the confinements of a small room became too much to bear, and Toorpakai started looking for a way out.

She sent hundreds of emails to universities and squash clubs explaining how it was becoming increasingly difficult for her to train in Pakistan.

“I offered my services as a part-time squash coach, but I had one condition — I wanted time for myself to train,” she said.

She didn’t hear back anything for three years, but then received an email from Powers.


“I couldn’t believe Jonathan Powers wanted me to train with him,” said Toorpakai, whose first squash racket had come inscribed with Powers’ signature.

“To me, it wasn’t that complicated,” Powers said. “I had grown up training with a famous Pakistani squash player’s family and knew how difficult life there could be. In Maria’s email, I saw a girl who wanted to follow her dreams.”

It took Powers eight months and a lot of convincing to get Toorpakai to move to Toronto.

When she finally arrived March 22, 2011, she was 20.

“She came here with a one-way ticket, 200 bucks in her pocket and a promise from me to train and become a world champion,” Powers said. “When I asked her if she was willing to remain in Canada until she became world champion, she replied, ‘Inshallah,’ meaning ‘God willing.'”

Powers said he opened the Power Squash Academy in Toronto to help inner-city kids who would never otherwise have access to squash.

“Squash in North America is a private club sport, and the doors are closed,” he said. “I wanted to integrate young people who didn’t have the means with top junior players from around the city. Kids can meet the best players in the world here. You can come here and play just for fun or if you want to train all day and become the best in the world, you can do so. It’s like a field of dreams.”

Powers said Toorpakai’s confidence has improved tremendously since she came to Canada.

“She’s doing great,” he said. “We play daily, and she’s absolutely phenomenal on the court — her raw ability to hit the ball was incredible, and I’ve been constantly working with her to improve it.”

Toorpakai is part of the high performance group in Powers’ academy that includes players from around  the world. She is getting ready to head back to Pakistan for the Asian squash championships in May.

Once that is over, Toorpakai will be setting her sights on the world championship.


“There’s always a security concern, but the Pakistani Air Force will be bringing her back there, and they will have players from all over the world, so I’m hoping it will be safe,” Powers said.

“I am not frightened anymore,” Toorpakai said. “Maybe God chose me to bring change to my community. Once I am world champion, I want to go back and help the men, women and children who are living like refugees in their own country.”



My Last Meeting with Slain Parveen Rehman

Tribute to Parveen (Credit:

“Did you find that religious extremism has grown in Pakistan on this trip?” asked Sheema Kirmani, sitting cross-legged in the front of the crowd, after I had finished presenting my book at a session of the Karachi Literary Festival.

“Oh yes,” I responded. “But its not just religious, but also ethnic extremism that’s taken hold of Karachi. I think that the more violence permeates society, it causes individuals to fall back on the groups that give them a sense of identity.”

Sitting in the audience was Parveen Rehman. She had promised to attend after I went to her sister, Aquila Ismail’s presentation of her book “Martyrs and Marigolds,” a couple of hours before my launch.

During Aquila’s presentation, the moderator mentioned her family was also present in the audience, I  turned to meet Parveen’s glance. She waved back to me enthusiastically, with that warm smile that I knew from back in the 80s, when I visited the Orangi Pilot Project to report for Dawn.

After her sister’s presentation, we went outside, where Parveen hugged me and we exchanged notes. “I thought you resembled Aquila,” I had said, as we parted… not knowing it was for the last time.

Barely a month later, March 13, Parveen was murdered at a roundabout in Orangi Town, Karachi. The administration has since claimed to have arrested her killer – a Tehrik-i-Taliban commander – whose party affiliates have ensconced themselves in this outskirt of Karachi, where Parveen worked for 25 years.

Unlike Malala – who rose to world fame – had the bullets missed Parveen, she might have become known to the world for her pioneering work for the voiceless poor.

There was no shortage of death threats for Parveen, who grew to become director of the OPP — begun by  late Dr Akhter Hameed Khan. Amongst her pioneering work was to take a stand against land grabbing mafias – patronized by city officials.

Under Parveen, OPP compiled a report on 1500 Sindhi villages where the inhabitants were forcibly evicted by the land mafia – – and their land divided into plots for commercial usage. Although she shunned the limelight, Parveen took a clear stand against forced eviction of indigenous Sindhi and Baloch from their native villages and worked to enable them to acquire tenant rights.

The land grabber mafia even had an eye on the prized land on which OPP was built. Only a year ago armed gun men had burst into its building with the aim of occupying it.

Parveen told an interviewer that in order to save the building they engaged a “thug,” who scared off the occupants by threatening retaliatory fire.

Despite death threats, Parveen characteristically dismissed them, saying, “At the most what will they do. Kill me?”

And kill her they did.

In losing Parveen, the world has lost a courageous woman who fought for justice under the most difficult circumstances. The next government needs to pause and reflect on the tentacles being wrapped by land grabbing mafias on prized land in urban settings — where they will not stop even if it means killing an innocent woman like Parveen.


Parveen Rahman – Pakistan Loses a Courageous Woman Working for Upliftment of the Poor

Sketch of Parveen (Credit:

KARACHI, March 15: A media-shy social worker who devoted her life to the development of the impoverished neighbourhoods across the country, was gunned down near her office in Orangi Town on Wednesday. She was 56.

Parveen Rehman was born in Dhaka in 1957. She did part of her schooling in the former East Pakistan and migrated to Karachi after the fall of Dhaka.

She received a bachelor’s of engineering in architecture from Karachi’s Dawood College of Engineering and Technology in 1981 and joined a private architect’s firm.

A few months later, she left the job and joined the Orangi Pilot Project initiated by Akhtar Hameed Khan to bring healthy changes to the lives of impoverished residents of Orangi.

“The late Akhtar persuaded her to join the OPP. We both joined the OPP in 1982 and since then we worked in close association,” said Anwer Rashid, co-director of the OPP-RTI (Orangi Pilot Project-Research and Training Institute).

Mr Rashid choked on words as he described his working relationship with Ms Rehman.

Noted town planner Arif Hasan, who is member of the OPP’s board, briefly visited Ms Rehman’s home and left early as he was deeply distressed like dozens of her friends and colleagues who had gathered at her house in Safari Boulevard in Gulistan-i-Jauhar.

“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,” said Mr Rashid.

Soon after the private TV networks flashed news of her death, a large number of people flocked to the Abbasi Shaheed Hospital, where her body had been shifted.

Eyewitnesses said those who gathered in the hospital and outside her home, where she was living alone with her octogenarian mother, included dozens of residents of Orangi who were mourning her death.

“She was a great help for us. She was just like an elder sister to whom we would go whenever a problem struck us,” said a middle-aged man who identified himself as Azmat Ali.

Arif Pervez, development professional and a friend of hers, said Ms Rehman had been receiving death threats for a long time, apparently from the mafia involved in grabbing precious land on the fringes of the city.

“She had been receiving threats on her life for a long time. We had discussed this several times but every time I advised her to take care of herself, she smiled, waved her hand and said what will they do, I have to work a lot and that too in the middle of the people,” Mr Pervez said.

Ms Rehman was an ardent compiler of the record of precious lands, which were on the fringes of the city in shape of villages but were speedily vanishing into its vastness because of ever-increasing demand by thousands of families who were shifting to Karachi every year from across the country.

She said on record that around 1,500 goths (villages) had been merged into the city since 15 years. Land-grabbers subdivided them into plots and earned billions by their sale.

“She documented everything about the lands that have been grabbed. Another sin of her was to help those whose lands had been grabbed. Yet, she never hesitated to go to the area where her life was constantly under threat,” Mr Pervez said.

“Many people certainly have lost their elder sister,” he said.

Noman Ahmed of NED University said Ms Rehman’s great achievement was to get involved and empower communities in development work.

“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 Ahmed said.

Besides her mother, Ms Rehman is survived by her two brothers and a sister, living abroad.


Five College Women’s Studies Research Center

FCWRSC in Western Mass. (Credit:
FCWRSC in Western Mass. (Credit:
FCWRSC in Western Mass. (Credit:

The Five College Women’s Studies Research Center has received two grants through the Five College Digital Humanities Project supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The grants will enable our Research Associates participating in our 2012-2013 theme of “New Media in Feminist Scholarship, Teaching, and Activism” to work closely with Five College faculty, staff and students to develop gender studies courses incorporating digital technologies and new media. With the support of the grants, five learning communities composed of Research Associates, Five College faculty members, students, and IT technicians will draw on digital technologies to promote student learning and research in the humanities.

Laura Lovett (FCWSRC Director, 2009-2011), joined by co-editor Lori
Rotskoff, will read from their new title When We Were Free to Be:
Looking Back at a Children’s Classic and the Difference It Made at the
92Y Tribeca Mainstage in Manhattan on Wednesday, November 14, 2012 at 7

Former vice president and general counsel of the Feminist Majority
Foundation, and president of the National Organization for Women
(NOW), Kim Gandy, will be the Five College Social Justice
Practitioner-in-Residence from October 21 through November 3, 2012.
She will offer a series of public events within the Five College area.
An advance-registration workshop for faculty, “From the Tower to the
Trenches: Faculty Development Workshop on Strategies for Public
Engagement” will take place at the FCWSRC on October 25

Former Research Associate Sarah S. Kilbourne‘s new title American
Phoenix: The Remarkable Story of William Skinner was released by Simon
& Schuster on October 16, 2012. For more information check out a video about Kilbourne’s book here. Kilbourne was in the Five College area
for a talk and book-signing October 15 at the Wistariahurst Museum in
Holyoke and on October 17 at the Odyssey Bookshop in South Hadley.

A new title by former FCWSRC Ford Associate Nafisa Hoodbhoy, Aboard
the Democracy Train: A Journey Through Pakistan’s Last Decade of
Democracy was released in April 2011 by Anthem Politics and
International Relations. Currently a journalist working in the United
States, from 1984-2000 Hoodbhoy was staff reporter for the English
daily Dawn newspaper in Karachi.

Spring 2012 Highlights

On Saturday, March 31 at 7:00pm in Chapin Auditorium of Mary Woolley Hall on the Mount Holyoke College campus in South Hadley, the FCWSRC was pleased to present “An Evening with Rachel Maddow” where she read from her new book, Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power. Co-sponsored by the Odyssey Bookshop and the Mount Holyoke College Department of Gender Studies. Click on the photo below to watch Maddow’s talk.

Featured: Project Eugénie, Spring 2012

Mount Holyoke College students perform excerpts from the Unruly Passions of Eugénie R. by Carole DeSanti on April 5, 2012 at the FCWSRC. DeSanti, a former FCWSRC Research Associate and VP and Editor at Large with the Penguin Group, read from her book that evening to a standing-room only audience at the Odyssey Bookshop in South Hadley. Her reading was followed by a celebration and performance at the FCWSRC.

Other News

09/13/2011 Karen Remmler on 9/11/11 Anniversary

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UK Campaigners call for Nobel Prize for Malala Yousufzai

London demonstration for Malala (Credit:
London demonstration for Malala (Credit:
London demonstration for Malala (Credit:

LONDON, Nov 8: Tens of thousands of Britons called on the government on Friday to nominate Malala Yousufzai, a Pakistani girl shot in the head by the Taliban for advocating girls’ education, for the Nobel Peace Prize.

The 15-year-old is receiving specialist treatment in the English city of Birmingham after gunmen shot her on Oct 9 for standing up against the Taliban and openly advocating education for women.

The attack has drawn widespread international condemnation and Yousufzai has become a powerful symbol of resistance to the Taliban’s attempts to suppress women’s rights.

On Friday, a campaign led by a Pakistani-British woman urged Prime Minister David Cameron and other senior government officials to nominate Yousufzai for the Nobel Peace Prize.

“Malala doesn’t just represent one young woman, she speaks out for all those who are denied an education purely on the basis of their gender,” campaign leader Shahida Choudhary said in a statement issued by global petition platform

More than 30,000 people have signed the petition in Britain as part of a global push by women’s rights advocates to nominate her for the prize. Similar campaigns have sprung up in Canada, France and Spain.

Under the Nobel Committee’s rules, only prominent figures such as members of national assemblies and governments are able to make nominations.

Yousufzai was unconscious and fighting for her life when she was flown to Britain a month ago but the hospital in Birmingham where she is being treated says she is recovering well.

On Friday it released photographs of Yousufzai reading a book and clutching a white teddy bear, dark bruises covering her eyelids.

She appeared serious and focused on her reading, her hair covered with a bright pink-and-white scarf.

Her father and other family members have flown to Birmingham, which has a large Pakistani diaspora, to oversee her recovery. On Oct. 26 her father said his daughter would “rise again” to pursue her dreams after hospital treatment.

Her shooting was the culmination of years of campaigning that had pitted the young girl against one of Pakistan’s most ruthless Taliban commanders, Maulana Fazlullah.

Fazlullah and his men have taken over Yusufzai’s native Swat Valley and have blown up girls’ schools and publicly executed those they deem immoral. An army offensive in Swat has however forced many Taliban fighters to flee.

The call to nominate the girl comes on the eve of this Saturday’s “Global Day of Action” for Yousufzai, marking one month since her shooting.

In October, the Nobel Peace Prize went to the European Union for promoting peace and democracy.