By: Iftikhar Hussain Jazib
The history of women activism in Pakistan and welfare of Persons with disabilities will remain incomplete if the august name of Saima Ammar (late) will not be mentioned. Being a woman and special person, the milestones Saima achieved are enough to raise all praise for her. She really deserves the highest civil award of Pakistan for her services for humanity in general, and for special persons in particular. On women’s day, it would be a good act to pay tribute to a brave woman of that stature.
Saima Ammar (Late) did not even herself lead an exemplary life despite being blind, but she also became the main source of lighting the vigil for the education of thousands of other visually impaired persons. Under her command, Pakistan Foundation Fighting Blindness (PFFB) recorded the text books’ course of all the Education Boards and affiliated universities of the country, in the form of audio cassettes. It is only because of her that these audio cassettes are available to the blind students at very nominal prices. For instance, the BA course of Punjab University, in the form of 200 recorded cassettes, is available to a candidate, on the application of financial assistance, for Rs. 100 only. Till now, around 4500 visually impaired students have got benefited through this programme of PFFB.
Besides her services in formal education for the special persons, Saima Ammar also devoted her time to relish the appetite of visually impaired persons for literature. She got several poetry, novel, fiction, biography and other publications recorded on audio cassettes. These cassettes are further despatched to the thousands of blind persons in the country, by the registered post service, for free.
The visually impaired persons of the country would never forget the services of Saima Ammar. But, unfortunately, no official recognition for her services for the persons with disabilities has been made so far. The government officials’ distribution of medals among the favourites has become a routine feature, and a lot has been said about that. Here, we only request to the government authorities, for conferring Saima Ammar with the award that she deserved in her life time.
Saima did not only highlight the issues and the problems faced by the special persons in the country, but even going one step ahead, she put all her efforts for the solution of these problems. Her father, Brigadier (R) Niaz was a close associate of General (R) Pervez Musharraf. Saima made a positive and healthy use of this relationship, and got succeeded in getting the doors of government jobs open for the persons with disabilities. It is only because of her efforts that, today, the disable aspirants can also appear in the competition exams like CSS, and some of them have even secured the top merit positions in these exams.
With the help of her husband, Ammar Masood, TV anchor, and her father-in-law, famous poet, Anwar Masood, Saima also represented the special persons in media and created awareness regarding their rights in the society.
Saima Ammar, Chief Executive Officer of PFFB lost her eyesight at the age of two-and-a-half. Her optic nerve was totally damaged following a severe attack of typhoid in 1971. Saima’s started her education in Pakistan at the Al-Maktoum Special Education Centre, did her matric from Station School, and graduated from F G College for Women. Her biggest dream was to get a Masters degree in International Relations from Quaid-i-Azam University which she achieved with distinction.
Saima was an inspiration for visually-impaired people across the globe since her education programme will benefit millions of visually-impaired people in years to come. She left a success story for the persons with disabilities to follow in Pakistan.