QUETTA: At Haroon Razzaq’s tailor shop in Quetta, there is little chatter. Workers are busy completing orders and only the whirring of sewing machines fills the space. Many of them, including the master outfitter, cannot hear it.
Born deaf, Razzaq learned his profession at the age of 15 and has been sewing clothes for the past 50 years.
Knowing the different socio-cultural and economic difficulties living with a disability poses in Pakistan when he opened his own shop in 1983, he also created a space where he could empower others.
“I started hiring deaf and hard-of-hearing workers in my shop to give them jobs,” Razzaq told Arab News at his shop on Yat Road, Quetta, the capital of Pakistan’s Balochistan.
“In our society, the majority of people with physical or other impairments start begging in order to sustain themselves, or their families consider them a burden.”
Razzaq currently employs 19 people. Half of them are deaf or hard of hearing.
“They feel comfortable at my shop because I can communicate with them more quickly,” he said.
The nine disabled stitchers who work at his shop are not the only ones he has trained. There have been many more over the years and most of them have started their own careers.
“Many of my apprentices with speaking and hearing impairments are now working as professional stitchers in various tailor shops in Quetta,” Razzaq said.
Razzaq has hundreds of faithful customers in Quetta. One of them, Sohail Akhter, has been coming to his shop for the last 30 years.
He has never faced any problems in communicating with the tailor. He writes his request on paper and Razzaq answers in writing too.
“For the last three decades, the master tailor Haroon and his craftsmen have never given us a reason to complain,” he said.
“They have been sewing our clothes with perfection.”
Ejaz Qadri, a cutter at Razzaq’s shop who has no hearing impairments, said that in the first days it was difficult for him to communicate with him, but the barrier soon disappeared and for the past eight years he has been enjoying working at the shop where conditions and wages are better than elsewhere.
“I have worked at many tailor shops where masters mistreat their apprentices,” he said. “But Haroon helps and encourages his workers.”
Naveed, a 37-year-old who learned the craft from Razzaq over 10 years ago, said it gave him the chance to earn with dignity.
During Ramadan, ahead of the Eid Al-Fitr holiday season, when most Pakistanis buy new clothes for festive family celebrations, he said he earns even more than Rs45,000 ($240).
“I have found a teacher,” Naveed told Arab News.
“Haroon Razzaq is the only man in Balochistan who has been encouraging people of our community by providing them good job opportunities.”