Perween Rahman was born on January 22, 1957 in Dhaka, then situated in East Pakistan. She moved to Pakistan as a teenager. She obtained a Bachelor of architecture in 1982 at the Dawood College of Engineering and Technology, and a postgraduate diploma in housing, building and urban planning in 1986 from the Institute of Housing Studies in Rotterdam. She worked at a private architecture firm before being recruited by Akhter Hameed Khan to become Joint Director of the Orangi Pilot Project in 1983, where she managed the housing and sanitation programmes.
In 1988, OPP was split in four organisations, and Perween Rahman became director of OPP-RTI (Orangi Pilot Project – Research and Training Institute), managing as well programmes in education, youth training, water supply and secure housing.
In 1989, she founded the NGO Urban Resource Centre in Karachi and was also part of the board of Saiban, another NGO dedicated to low-income housing, and OPP-OCT (Orangi Charitable Trust, the microfinance branch of OPP).She was teaching at the University of Karachi, NED University, Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture and Dawood College of Engineering and Technology.
Parween was murdered by masked men who shot at her car on Banaras Pul in Orangi (near the ANP controlled area). She was on her way home from work in the afternoon. Recently, she had had been documenting land-use around Karachi, and this may have upset the city’s powerful land-grabbing criminals. She was also opposed to the “tanker mafia” who were stealing tube-well/piped water from low-income communities and then selling it back to them in water tankers. Parveen investigated the water shortage in the area and actually discovered that a crucial piece of pipe was missing and had it replaced. Ms Rehman has complained in the past that she has received death threats. At one point some armed men stormed her offices and ordered her staff to leave. The day after Parveen was killed, the OPP decided to open up its office and hundreds of NGO workers from all over Karachi came to Orangi to show their solidarity. “We must continue with her work, we cannot be deterred by her murderers”. And Pakistan’s leading newspaper Tribune commemorate her efforts by these lines.
“Parveen Rehman was Karachi’s mother.”