The Rebel Optimist: Urban Development and Human Rights in Pakistan. Film + Debate

19.30, Thursday 28 Feb, sal TRE

Free entry

Film + debate


The Rebel Optimist

2016 / Pakistan / Dir: Mahera Omar / 66 min / Prod: Aquila Ismail, Mahera Omar / Urdu

An architect and urban planner, whose pioneering work led her on a collision course with mafias and the local government in Karachi.

Perween Rahman dedicated her life for the poor of Pakistan, and ultimately sacrificed her life or her work: She was shot dead by armed assailants on her way home in March 2013.

Perween surveyed the water supply, mapped and documented Karachi's informal settlements to provide the poor security against land grabbers, and had an alternate vision for the development of Karachi, tirelessly fighting for human development for the poor, and this gripping documentary tells her story.

Panel Debate

Perween Rahman is the Pakistani architect and social activist who dedicated her life to the struggle for human rights and basic services among inhabitants in squatter areas of Orangi Town, Karachi. Through the Orangi Pilot Project (OPP) Rahman successfully facilitated self-organized, participatory and micro-financed slum-upgrading.

Rahman was assassinated in 2013. After a short investigation the police closed the case the day after. In 2019 Pakistan’s High Court will decide whether to reopen the case based on new evidence pointing towards land-investors and politicians in Karachi as the real perpetrators.

How can the Norwegian government, civil society, media, as well as the Pakistani diaspora influence the human rights conditions and strengthen the voices of inhabitants in informal areas like Orangi and other rapidly growing settlements globally?


Anwar Rashid, Co-director of Oranji Pilot Project (OPP), 

Sahar Ismail, Director of the Research and Training Institute OPP and Perween Rahman’s niece, 

Tina Shagufta Kornmo, Norwegian doctor, social commentator and politician (V) born in Lahore. 

Moderator: Kristian Berg Harpviken – Norwegian sociologist and researcher, competence on Afghanistan, Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO).   

In cooperation with Habitat Norway