Motorcycle gunmen kill slum activist in Karachi

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Gunmen have shot and killed a Pakistani activist who helped bring water and sanitation services to Karachi’s poorest districts.

Perween Rahman, director of the Orangi Pilot Project, was on her way home on Wednesday night when shot and killed by gunmen on a motorcycle, said police.

She was struck four times in the chest and neck and died later on the way to hospital.

Ms Rahman, 54, was an architect who devoted her life to helping the poor. She became an authority on Karachi and the struggles of millions of poor people who try to eke out a ­living in some of the most ­neglected districts .

Friends and colleagues were devastated by her death.

“Anyone trying to understand Karachi would go to her,” said Zora Yusuf, who heads the Pakistan Human Rights Commission. “It is very, very depressing.”

The Orangi Pilot Project operated in the slums that make up a huge part of Karachi. The innovative project, started in the 1980s, helped residents build their own sewer and water ­systems.

The port city is a sprawling metropolis of roughly 18 million people made up of a mish-mash of shantytowns, which lack basic services. Often the people who sell the land to the shanty dwellers, who then erect their own homes, then sell services like water delivery, and residents have no option but to buy them.

“The government itself has failed in these areas,” said Ms Yusuf.

Ms Rahman had not received any specific threats recently, said Abdul Waheed Khan, a senior manager at the OPP. But he said their work often involved challenging various criminal groups – referred to as mafias in Karachi – that control the land or water delivery in poor areas.