Pakistan’s renowned social activist Parveen Rehman who waged a documented war against land-grabbing mafia in the country’s financial capital Karachi, was assassinated by Taliban militants in contract-killing on the instructions of local leaders of Awami National Party (ANP), a suspect who was arrested last month, and reportedly confessed to his involvement, informed the Joint Interrogation Team (JIT).
The law enforcement agencies had arrested Amjad Hussain from Manghopir area on October 24 in connection with the murder of the prominent civic leader and registered a case against him under Anti-Terrorism Act.
The media-shy social worker who devoted her life to the development of the impoverished neighborhoods across the metropolis, was gunned down near her office in Orangi Town in March 2013. She was 56.
Rehman was the director of Orangi Pilot Project, her office was located at Qasba Mor in Sector-5A, Orangi Town. A trove of painfully documented records of illegal land-grabbing from the poor by organized crime syndicate backed by many movers and shakers in the metropolis also went missing, after she was silenced, it has emerged.
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.
Rehman had been receiving death threats for a long time, from the mafia involved in grabbing precious land on the fringes of the megacity.
“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,” Arif Pervez, development professional and a friend of hers told local daily Dawn.
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.
A JIT was constituted following Hussain’s arrest, which recently completed its findings and has submitted a report to the Sindh home department.
According to the report, the accused told the JIT members that he and Raheem Swati — the prime suspect in the case — lived in front of the OPP office.
“Awami National Party (ANP) leaders Ayaz Swati and Raheem Swati had tried to obtain a designated area to construct a Karate center, but despite repeated requests, Rehman refused to provide the land to them inside the OPP compound,” sources quoted the accused as saying before the JIT.
The suspect told the JIT that Rehman termed the local leaders as “ANP’s Qabza Mafia”, which they considered as an “insult” to them and their party.
Hussain said they planned the assassination of Parveen Rehman “out of rage and as an act of revenge.”
They then called a local commander of Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) who agreed to assassinate Rehman for money. TTP was assured payment after completion of the task,” the confessional statement read.
According to reports, the very next day of Rehman’s murder in cold blood, police killed a Taliban operative named Qari Bilal in an encounter and claimed he was the murderer, resulting in a closure of the case.
The Supreme Court of Pakistan in April 2014 ordered authorities to conduct a fresh probe into Rehman’s murder after a judicial inquiry had revealed that police officers had manipulated the investigation.