Dr. Salma Maqbool

Saleem Karim
May 7, 2014
Fatima Shah
October 14, 2017

Dr. Salma Maqbool

Dr. Salma Maqbool T.I. (LATE)

Former Chairperson Pakistan Foundation Fighting Blindness

Disability – Blindness

Occupation – Medical Practitioner and Voluntary Social Worker

Thomas Jefferson once said that the health of a society is measured not at its zenith, but at its base. No one in the recent history of Pakistan has personified this better than the chairperson and trustee of the Pakistan Foundation Fighting Blindness (PFFB) Dr. Salma Maqbool, who died on January 12 last year after undergoing an open-heart surgery. Dr. Salma not only cured countless people through her medical practice but also devoted most of her life for the well-being of those who are at the fringes of our society. She was particularly a beacon of hope, strength and inspiration to millions of disabled people around the globe.

Those who have had the privilege being associated with Dr. Salma often wonder what her strongest personal trait or her biggest asset was. Was it her loving and caring personality; her brilliance; her sense of humour; her positive approach towards life; or her unparalleled commitment to the betterment disabled persons? As one comes to grips with her loss, it is becoming increasingly evident that is not any one particular quality, but all of the above, that constituted her radiant personality.


  • Member Executive Committee, Rawalpindi Divisional Social Welfare Council
  • Member Rawalpindi District Committee for the Rehabilitation of the Disabled Persons
  • Member, Rawalpindi District Bait-ul-Mal Committee

Dr. Salma was born in 1945. After graduating as a medical doctor in 1974, she was diagnosed as suffering from Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP), a genetically transmitted disease that leads to loss of vision due to death of rod and cone photoreceptors in the retina. By and by, absolute darkness engulfed the life of a woman who, until her very last breath, ably steered the disability movement in Pakistan, and with her unwavering commitment, made the feeble voice of disabled persons heard at all national and international platforms.

Dr. Salma was a rare breed with no complaints or regrets. In February 1978, she got married to Captain (r) Maqbool Ahmed, who was totally blind at that time but later regained functional sight in one eye. Together, they braved the thick and thin of life for 30 years, with their mutual interest in enabling the disabled further cementing this bond.

Each time you are honest and conduct yourself with honesty, a success force will drive you toward greater success. Each time you lie, even with a little white lie, there are strong forces pushing you toward failure..

Dr. Salma believed that with the right training and encouragement, all members of our society, regardless of their gender, social class or disability, can make a positive contribution towards a healthier and prosperous society. The choice of the word Darakhshan (a Persian word for bright and shining) is highly appropriate for the institute. It has been guiding light for those who needed a little support and encouragement to get back on their feet.

Even in the twilight of her professional career, Dr. Salma kept pace with changing needs of persons with disabilities. As chairperson of PFFB, she built a team around her and opened the door of the e-communication gateway for the country’s visually impaired population by launching Pakistan’s first-ever Internet Cafe for the blind in Islamabad on December 25, 2006, just 16 days before her death.

Although Dr. Salma she did not live long enough to cherish the change being brought about by her last project, the internet cafÈ is still functioning and stays open on week days from 1:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. The cafÈ is being used by many visually impaired persons who, after getting training in computer skills, are able to find meaningful employment. In addition to this, the beneficiaries of this programme are also benefiting immensely from counselling services which are helping restore their confidence and build their self-esteem.

To categorize Dr. Salma’s work as charity would be a gross mistake. Ask anyone among the millions of people whose lives she transformed, and they will tell you unanimously that they were nothing more to her than simply her own brothers, sisters and children. She was not driven by a sense of charity, but by a sense of responsibility towards her own family.



  • Fatima Jinnah Gold Medal – 08 March 2006
  • Tamgha-e-Imtiaz (T.I.) – 23 March 2001
  • United Nations Testimonial for Dedicated Services to the UN World Program of Action Concerning Disabled Persons – 1992
  • Disabled People’s International (DPI) Trophy for Dedicated Services to Disabled people in Asia Pacific Region – 1992
  • Excellence Award for Blind Persons, All India Confederation of the Blind (AICB) New Delhi (India) – 2003
  • Human Rights Society of Pakistan – 2003
  • Pakistan Golden Jubilee Commemorative Gold Medal for Social Services as a Member
  • Of the Rawalpindi Divisional Social Welfare Council –1997


  • Chairperson and Trustee – Pakistan Foundation Fighting Blindness (PFFB).
  • Director “Darakhshan” Resource & Training Centre for Disabled Women, the Rehabilitation Project of PFFB.
  • Chief Patron, District Social Welfare Council, Rawalpindi.
  • Member Pakistan Bait-ul-Mal Appraisal Committee, Islamabad
  • Member Advisory Board on Inclusive Education, Ministry of Social Welfare & Special Education
  • Consultant for Media Policy on Disabled Persons, Pakistan Television & Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation.
  • Member, Allama Iqbal Open University Committee on Special Education.
  • Member Board of Special Education, Punjab University.
  • Member, Executive Committee, Rawalpindi Eye Donor Organization (REDO).
  • Member Executive Committee, Association for the Rehabilitation of Drug Addicts (ARADA).
  • Member Executive Committee of the Society for mentally Retarded Children, CHAMBELI.


  • Member Executive Committee, Rawalpindi Divisional Social Welfare Council
  • Member Rawalpindi District Committee for the Rehabilitation of the Disabled Persons
  • Member, Rawalpindi District Bait-ul-Mal Committee


Women’s Development (International / National)


  • Member Advisory Board, Ministry of Women Development, Social Welfare & Special Education March 2000.
  • Participated in the International leadership training Forum for Women with Disabilities, Washington DC as a representative of ILO 15-20 June 1977.
  • Member National Consultative Committee for Women, Govt. of Pakistan.
  • Organized First National Leadership Training Seminar for Blind Women in Pakistan and Mobility Training Workshop under the auspices of Pakistan Association of the Blind, Punjab, with the collaboration of ICEVI and Directorate General of Special Education, Government of Pakistan, (7th– 14th March 1986).
  • Organized Leadership Training Seminar for Disabled Women South Asia under the auspices of DPFP in collaboration with DPI, Government of Pakistan, UNICEF and CIDA (29 November – 3rd December 1987).
  • Media Workshop on Women – Islamabad (26 May 1994).
  • Media Workshop Inner Group Meeting on Fourth United Nation Women World Conference – Islamabad (7 May 1994).
  • First Formal meeting of the National Committee for the 4th UN Women World Conference – Islamabad (27 Apr 1994).
  • National Seminar on Education of Women on Asia Project – Islamabad (7 Apr 1994).
  • National Leadership Training Seminar for Pilipino Blind Women – Manila (13th to 18th Jan 1991) and Cebu (21st – 24th Jan 1991).
  • National Seminar for Main Streaming Policy for Women’s Development –Islamabad (Apr 1990).
  • Leadership Training Seminar for Disabled Women DPI – Seoul (Korea) (1986).
  • Leadership Training Seminar for Blind Women – Latin America Sao Paulo, Brazil (22 Jun – 7 Jul 85).
  • National Conference of All India Confederation of the Blind (AICB) and inaugurated the National Blind Women’s Forum – Madras (May 85).
  • Rehabilitation Course for Blind Women in Badhurleburg (West Germany) – 1983.
  • Leadership Training Seminar for Blind Women in Asia – Malaysia – 1981.
  • Chairperson – Committee on the Status of Blind Women – World Blind Union (WBU) (1984 – 1992).
  • Editor Women’s Section of the International Federation of the Blind Magazine.
  • Editor Women’s Section of The World Blind Union (WBU) Magazine.
  • Editor International News letter for Blind Women – Published with the Collaboration of Swedish International Aid for the Handicapped (SHIA).
  • Regional Councilor for Women, DPI Asia Pacific Region
  • Present Advisory Committee on Asian Blind Women 1981-1984
  • Member National Consultative Committee for Women, Govt. of Pakistan.
  • DPI Women’s representative South Asia
  • Director “Dar-ul-Azm” Resource & Training Centre for Blind Women, Pakistan Association of the Blind (1986-1990)

United Nations Assignments

  • National Delegate on 4th UN Women World Conference – Beijing (CHINA) – 1995
  • Member, Provincial Core Group, Punjab, Beijing Follow Up
  • National Delegate on 4th UN Women World Conference – Beijing Plus Five New York (USA) – 2000
  • Delegate to the World Blind Union (WBU) 4th UN Women World Conference Nairobi, Kenya 15-26 July 1985
  • UN ESCAP Asia Pacific Regional Conference on the Advancement of Women, Jakarta Representative of Disabled People’s International (DPI) Asia Pacific Regional Council Member of Pakistan Delegation (7th –14th June 1994)
  • UN Human Rights Conference, Vienna, Representative of DPI Asia Pacific Regional Council (June 1993).
  • UN ESCAP Meeting to launch the Asia Pacific Decade of Disabled Persons (1993-2002) Representative of DPI Asia Pacific Regional Council, Beijing (China) (1st-5th December 1992)
  • UNICEF / Government of Pakistan Country Programme (1992/1996), Islamabad, Representative of DPI Asia Pacific Regional Council (16 March 1991).
  • UN 45th General Assembly, New York, Member of Pakistan Delegation – Addressed the 3rd Committee on the Implementation of the World Programme of Action for Disabled Persons on 21 Oct 1990.
  • UN Seminar on Disabled Women, Vienna International Centre, Representative of World Blind Union (WBU), Chairperson Committee on the status of Blind Women (20th -24th August 1990) .
  • UN 34th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women – Vienna, Representative of DPI Standing Committee on Women with Disabilities, Addressed the Commission on issues of Women with Disability (February 1990).
  • UN Conference on Human Resources Development for Disabled Persons, Resource Person Tallinn (USSR) 14th – 22nd August 1989
  • UN ESCAP Workshop on Community Based Rehabilitation for Disabled Persons, Consultant Bangkok (Thailand), 26th–30th June 1989
  • UNICEF Workshop on Media and People with Disability – Resource Person Islamabad (February 1998)
  • Participated in UN Special Assembly, Beijing Plus Five, Member Official Delegation New York (June 2000)
  • Participated in International Conference on Women with Disabilities, University of Oldenburg (Germany) October 1999

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