Community mobilisers pay tribute to social scientist Akhtar Hameed

LAHORE : Community mobilisers, educationists and social workers came together for 46th community development network (CDN) meeting in Khuda ki Basti at Kala Shah Kaku here on Saturday.

All of them had worked with late Dr Akhtar Hameed Khan (AKH), a social scientist and reformer, who worked on the principle of self-help and remained an inspiration to many people who were fortunate to know him.

Arif Hasan, architect, planner, social researcher who was a close associate of Akhter Hameed Khan, the person behind Orangi Pilot Project, Karachi, talking about his practices, said there was very little difference between salaries at the top and those of the workers. The idea was to work on things people identified as problems. AHK met a large number of people, would listen to them and explain to them. He considered it important to have a relationship with the policymakers. He held weekly meetings in which all the workers would come. An open meeting meant that everybody could give their input.

The people who put their heart and soul into the Orangi Pilot Project are no more. AHK died 22 years back, Parveen Rehman was killed, and Anwar Rashid fell ill. Late Tasneem Siddiqui, who gave the people Khuda ki Basti, was quite disappointed with the state of affairs at the OPP, Arif recalled.

Arif Hassan too resigned from the OPP after 30 years. Those in charge of OPP at present are going against the philosophy of Dr Akhtar Hameed Khan, he said.

Arif pioneered the sanitation project at OPP and made sanitation policy.

“I didn’t have a degree in sanitation. We had made rule of thumb.” Talking about Parveen Rehman, a student of architecture, he said she came to OPP in 1983 as an intern. In 3-4 years, she was able to contribute to the programme. Academicians started research on this project. OPP attracted much attention of media. In the 90s Parveen made a team of young people and did mapping of 500 katchi abadis. She was killed on March 13, 2013, nine years back. Social organisers are very important people, Hasan said.

Parveen Rehman and Arif Hasan taught in university, now no one at the OPP does.

Akhtar Hameed Khan’s daughter Dr Ayesha Khan also spoke at the meeting. She said her father lived a simple life, washed his clothes himself and would never let his driver carry his brief case. He would always carry his bag himself. “We lived in a flat and took care of the household chores ourselves,” she said and appealed “OPP belongs to the people, don’t exclude them from it”.

The meeting was hosted by the Punjab Urban Resource Centre. Those who spoke in the first session of the conference were Shoaib Sultan Khan, Reza Ali, Atif Hassan and Lala Aurangzeb.

The speakers in the second session were community development activists such as Shamsuddin and Javaid Baig. Hameedullah is making compost from garbage and talked about it. Haq Nawaz Waheed runs a school in Attock where he teaches Afghan girls for free because otherwise, they wouldn’t have sent the girls to school. Activists came from all over the country.

There will be a fair today (Sunday) at Khuda ki Basti that is now full of decent housing for the poor. The CDN meeting brought together activists and educationists who are making a difference in people’s lives.

Published in The International News By  Saadia Salahuddin 13 March 2022

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