Background

The journey of Pakistan Foundation Fighting Blindness began after a meeting of Mr. Zaheer Khalid, a Chartered Accountant and Dr. Salma Maqbool, a Medical Practitioner, which took place sometime in late 1987.

Mr. Zaheer Khalid qualified as a Chartered Accountant in 1967 being the first Pakistani to complete his articles with the international accounting firm Coopers & Lybrand, London. In 1975 he was diagnosed an eye disorder Retinitis Pigmentosa and over the next 15 years lost his sight completely.    

In 1974 Dr. Salma Maqbool, was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa, a genetically transmitted hereditary eye disease leading to blindness. In search of a cure for the disease, Dr. Salma traveled to numerous centers of excellence including Dr. Eliot Burson at MIT Boston USA, Dr. Allen Bird at Moorefield Eye Hospital London, Hellen Holtz Eye Hospital Moscow and Dr. D. K. Gahlot at All India Institute of Medical Sciences New Delhi. Meanwhile Mr. Zaheer Khalid was also visiting Ophthalmologists engaged in research on RP in UK and the United States.

DEVELOPMENTAL PHASES OF THE PAKISTAN FOUNDATION FIGHTING BLINDNESS:

At the outset, a group of people consisting of the families of Mr. Zaheer Khalid and Dr. Salma Maqbool and Ophthalmologists agreed to form an organization to be called Pakistan Retinitis Pigmentosa Society (PREPS). According to the law of the country, any organization aiming at improving the quality of life of people must be registered as a Non-profit, Non-commercial body. PREPS was registered under the Societies Registration Act, 1860 on March 15, 1988, and later on the Foundation was registered under the Voluntary Social Welfare Agencies (Registration & Control) Ordinance 1961. The Objectives of the PREPS as stated in the articles of the organization are:

MEMBERSHIP OF IRPA (RI)

Soon after obtaining a registered status, PREPS endeavored to develop an affiliation with Retina International (RI) formaly known as International Retinitis Pigmentosa Assocaition (IRPA). IRPA recognized PREPS as the pioneer Organization working on Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) in Pakistan. After a two years period of negotiations between the two bodies, PREPS was given the status of a full member of IRPA. We have the honour of becoming the first full Asian Member of Retina International.

The Pakistan Foundation Fighting Blindness (PFFB)

In 1995, PREPS was renamed as The Pakistan Foundation Fighting Blindness (PFFB), which continues to implement the objectives and mission of PREPS, and is also extending its services to ameliorate the situation of Visually Impaired persons in the country.

Consolidation of the various organizational systems was carried out with the advice of the Board of Trustees. Simultaneously the research team strategized to collect data about families with at least two to three Visually Impaired persons. Thousands of letters were written to schools for blind children (Government Organizations and Non-Government Organizations), religious Institutions (MADDRISSAS), and the cooperation of the media channels Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation PBC and Pakistan Television PTV and newspapers was obtained. Several PBC Stations launched campaigns in local languages to disseminate information about PFFB and its objectives, asking affected families to make contacts with the Foundation’s research team. Eye Specialists throughout the country were requested to cooperate with the Foundation.

This period of time, during which we at the Foundation waited for responses, was spread over several years. Information trickled in very slowly because approximately 70% of the population of the country is based in rural area.