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She came, she saw, she conquered… their hearts and minds

While Pakistan’s press does not hesitate to criticize the national carrier’s day to day short-comings and losses, PIA’s great humanitarian contribution to the nation is hardly known or touched upon.  In order to personally learn about the softer side of PIA, I approached the Managing Director, Mr. Nadeem Khan Yousufzai’s personal assistant, Mrs. M. Aftab, to introduce me to the various humanitarian organisatios, supported by the national carrier.  

To my pleasant surprise, at the end of January this year, I was invited by PIA’s first lady, Mrs. Zareen Khan Yousufzai to a tour of the 3 institutes, staunchly supported by PIA and run under her dedicated guidance. A small group of visitors, which included Mr. Ishtiaq Baig, Founding President of Make-A-Wish Foundation, along with two children from Make a Wish Foundation, as well as a few dignitaries. were given a tour of The Al Shifa Trust, The PIA Industrial Home and PIA Emergency Response Centre.  


In conversation with Mrs. Zareen Khan Yousufzai:

What motivated you to take on a plethora of charitable responsibilities?

ZKY: “I grew up in a family that traditionally extends a helping hand to the less fortunate. We ensured that our domestic helpers were well taken care of and their daughters were given a good send off at marriage. I had an opportunity to undertake humanitarian projects at a much bigger scale when my husband was serving as the Director of Civil Aviation. The PIA Industrial Home project is my dearest wish come true and I shall always cherish it and help as much as possible.”

How do you raise funding for your various projects?

ZKY: “Thus far, Allah has been kind to us and funds have come in from various sources. Sometimes, there are special incidents that are followed by funding. For example, when I was taking the Make-A-Wish Foundation children for their Lahore trip, Mr. Miguel Santos, the visiting Vice President of Boeing Sales, happened to have observed the group. He gave a generous donation to the children of Al Shifa.

The PIA Industrial Home is self-financing. In effect, we are saving millions of rupees for PIA, so that the airline does not have to place orders from other companies for all on board sewn materials, including uniforms. Of course, the training given to the PIA staff wives and families is in itself an exercise in acquiring earning skills.”

Are the charities under your guidance affiliated to any international charities, such as The Red Cross, Save the Children, etc.?

ZKY: “No, not yet, but I have every intention of doing so. Make-A-Wish is already international, while Al Shifa benefits from Zakat, especially from big businesses, such as The Hub Power Company, Haleeb Food Industries, Jaffer Brothers, Sajid Textile Industries, etc. Yes, for Al Shifa, although we have enough for day to day running, we now need funds for growing the institute and we are seriously thinking of going further afield for fund collection.”

What is your advice to Pakistan’s youth, especially the women?

ZKY: “Come forward and participate whole-heartedly in charitable activities of Pakistan to improve the lot of the less fortunate. I will continue to do my very best, long after my husband retires from PIA. Pakistan is known for its generosity: indeed, the West is learning from us.”


Mrs. Yousufzai is the Chairperson for the Al Shifa Trust since Feb. 2011. She is the Founder and President of PIA’s Industrial Home, since April 2011 and President of Make-A-Wish Foundation; she took the children for a trip to Lahore and more recently to Bombay.

Al Shifa Trust & Centre for Rehabilitation:

Among the various charitable activities supported by PIA, is the Al Shifa Trust & Centre for Rehabilitation, a non-profit NGO.

A pioneer in Pakistan, the trust was established in 1967 for special children, suffering from cerebral palsy, down-syndrome, arthritis, paraplegia and other motor disorders. It is chaired by the Chairman of PIA and the Director General of CAA, as well as supported by other trustees, who are heads of prominent national companies.  Located at Karachi Airport’s Terminal 2., the trust is efficiently run by Mrs. Ghazala Rashid, the President/Administrator.

Showing around the institute premises to the group of visitors, headed by Mrs. Zareen Yousufzai, Mrs. Rashid explains that the core aim of the Institute is to ensure that the special children, suffering due to the lack of facilities and negligence, are brought back to normal living, following special education, treatment and care.

Over 75 children between the ages of 4-12 are enrolled in the Institute, benefiting from physiotherapy, speech therapy, hydrotherapy, conductive education, occupational therapy, special education and most importantly, are in the hands of a very caring staff. “Our strategy is to provide every child with individual treatment by a team of psychologists, paediatricians, physio-therapists, orthopaedic surgeons, designed as per the child’s needs,” explains Mrs. Rashid. She went on to say that free medical care and a regular OPD, door to door transport for on-roll children, as well as special gratis meals, are provided under strict supervision.     

A new Bio-Engineering Workshop with an in house specialist for making artificial limbs and fitting them on disabled children has recently been added to the institute’s various rooms. The children also enjoy extra curricular activities, such as shopping visits, picnics, artwork, drawing, videos and films.

“Integration of children into normal schools is paramount”, points out Mrs. Rashid “Before this, each child is checked by a specialist team of orthopaedic surgeon, physiotherapist and speech therapist, while parent/teacher/doctor meetings are held regularly. “Mrs. Rashid proudly talks about new projects  planned, such as Special Education Class up to level V. Soft Room, Toy and Book Library, Computer Lab., Operation theatre, and much more…….

We can all help to turn these pending worthwhile projects into reality by generously donating to:

The Al Shifa Trust, Current Account No. 470-14,

Habib Bank Ltd.

Airport Branch


Or by contacting

Mrs. Ghazala Rashid, President Administrator

Al Shifa Trust, Mobile: 0300 9204 136 

‘Make a wish’ foundation:

Make-a-Wish Foundation is an international organisation, granting the wishes of terminally sick children in 46 countries of the world. Make-a-Wish Pakistan, is an affiliate member, dedicated to granting the most cherished wishes of Pakistani children, suffering from life threatening illnesses, thus giving them hope, strength and joy. Pakistan International Airline is the official partner of the MAW Foundation

The Pakistani wing’s aim is to ensure that no terminally sick child departs from this world, without one of his/her dear wishes being granted. The Foundation may not be able to prolong the life of these children, but they make every attempt to bring joy in the lives of these children. The children’s wishes are simple: some one wants to be a pilot, some one wants to be a soldier, another wishes to be the Chief Justice, and yet another wants meet Shahid Afridi…..

In January this year, Pakistan International Airlines took up the challenge, when a group of ailing children wishing to meet the Bollywood heto, Salman Khan, were flown down to Mumbai, under the wing of PIA’s first lady, Mrs. Zareen Khan Yousufzai. The meeting was arranged by MAW Foundation, India, of which Mr. Salman Khan is an active member.

A special ceremony was organized at the Mehboob Studios. Salman Khan and his brother, Sohail Khan, entertained the children, hugging each one and spent considerable time with them, giving them a glimpse of his latest film being shot. The children presented him with Pakistani gifts and invited him to Pakistan to meet other ailing children. Mrs. Yousufzai thanked Salman Khan, extending good wishes from Pakistan and the national carrier.

MAKE A WISH FOUNDATION, PAKISTAN, relies on the generosity of philanthropic individuals and organizations. To contribute, please contact Make A Wish Foundation at: 208-A Clifton Centre, Block 5, Clifton, Karachi, Pakistan

Tel: 021 3586 3016 or 3587 4196. Visit:

PIA’s Industrial Home

On the 8th of March, 2011, the 100th Women’s International Day, a dynamic scheme, befitting the occasion was announced by Mrs. Zareen Yousufzai – the creation of PIA’s Industrial Home for the wives and women folk of PIA’s staff members. “By generating employment and growth opportunities for our PIA families, we trigger an ascending spiral of increased income, growth opportunities, status and pride of performance, and above all a great saving for PIA. Instead of purchasing items from outside companies, items such as napkins, pillow cases, sheets and even uniforms, can be obtained in-house” she said, having personally donated a generous sum of 12 Lakhs for the building’s refurbishment.

Thus the new PIA Industrial Home was inaugurated on the 23rd. of March 2011. PIA is one of the first organizations in the country to set up such an industrial unit.  

The once dilapidated building has now been transformed into an air-conditioned industrial unit, with the latest equipment – electrical sewing machines, ironing boards, washing machines… and more. The employees are trained to produce articles used onboard flights, such as napkins, curtains, pillow cases, seat covers and uniforms.

Mrs. Yousufzai has instilled in the employees, the spirit of the necessary skills required, training those who have previously not handled electric machines, while some ladies are hired for ironing and thread work. There are two work-shifts for the ladies, so as not to disrupt their household duties.  

The Industrial home is a powerful testament to the transformation led by the tenacity and vision of Mrs. Zareen Khan Yousufzai. 

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