’I keep looking at the door’: 11-year-old Afreen awaits her father after Saudi pays blood money

Pakistani trucker Zahir Hussain Khan with his children in his home in Pakistan. Khan was sentenced by a Saudi court after four people died in a road accident in Saudi Arabia. He is now to walk free after Saudi bait ul-maal paid off his blood money. (Courtesy: Zahir Hussain Khan’s family)
Updated 24 July 2019
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’I keep looking at the door’: 11-year-old Afreen awaits her father after Saudi pays blood money

  • Pakistani trucker Zahir Khan was asked to pay 1.3 million SAR after four people were killed in a road accident in 2012
  • Khan will walk free after seven years as Saudi authorities pay off his blood money

KARACHI/JEDDAH: Hafizullah, the youngest of Zahir Hussain Khan’s four children, was just an infant in the winter of 2012 when the truck that his father was driving collided with a car on Makkah highway collided and killed four people.
The judge who heard the case ordered Khan to pay 1.3 million SAR, the equivalent of almost $350,000, as blood money to the families of the deceased. It was an unaffordable sum for the struggling truck driver, who had left his family behind in Pakistan’s northwestern city of Peshawar and traveled to Saudi Arabia in search of a better paying job.
Khan was sent to a Makkah prison where he languished for almost seven years until now, when the Saudi bait ul-maal paid off the bloody money he owed to the accident victims.
Hizbullah Khan, a friend of Khan’s told Arab News, “We approached the royal court for paying the blood money of Zahir Khan and got a very positive response from them.”
But the journey that led the family to the royal court was not an easy one.
When the news of Khan’s imprisonment first reached his family in Peshawar, his father died of a broken heart, Khan’s brother Hidayatullah told Arab News by telephone from Peshawar.
“We appealed to the government of Pakistan and local news channels ran the news with a call for funds... but nothing happened,” he said.
The family had lost all hope but six months ago, Hidayatullah said he heard they could get help from the Saudi bait-ul-maal.
“They don’t see the face or the nationality, they just entertain every deserving person,” he said.
“I cannot express my feelings in words,” he continued, his voice breaking with emotion. “I don’t know how to say thank you to King Salman for this generosity.”
Behind him, Khan’s mother’s voice spoke up: “We will always pray for King Salman and his long and healthy life. He made my dream come true, now I will see my son again.”
Hidayatullah said that Khan is eager to come home and see his children again, especially his youngest son who was born after he last left for Saudi Arabia.
“When my brother was in prison, he would stare at the pictures of his children in a story published by Urdu News,” Hidayatullah said.
The order for Khan’s release came two weeks ago, and the family is now anxious for next steps.
Hidayatullah says he hopes his family will have to wait no more. “We are just a few days away from a great family reunion.”

Khan’s eldest daughter, Afreen, now 11 years old, says she has been told her father has been set free. She has no memories of him from before he left, but her uncle says she and the other children get up every morning and rush outside to check if their father has arrived.
“I keep looking at the door and wait for when my father will enter,” Afreen said.


Islamabad administration invites beggars, trans people to join campaign to ban plastic

Updated 23 August 2019
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Islamabad administration invites beggars, trans people to join campaign to ban plastic

  • Deputy commissioner proposes that marginalized groups sell paper and fabric bags instead of begging on the streets
  • Local government banned the manufacture, sale and distribution of plastic carrier bags last week

ISLAMABAD: The deputy commissioner of Pakistan’s federal capital has invited beggars and transgender persons to sell paper and fabric bags instead of seeking alms around the city, thus helping the Ministry of Climate Change implement its decision to ban plastic bags.
The Islamabad local government banned the manufacture, sale, and distribution of plastic carrier bags last week, on the country’s independence day, as part of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s “Clean, Green Pakistan” campaign.
The new ban follows a three-month-long campaign to raise awareness about the environmental hazards of plastic bags, which can kill wildlife, block drainage systems, collect in waterways and cause other environmental and health problems.
“We have invited transgender people and beggars to sell paper bags – or any type of biodegradable shopping bags – in the city,” Muhammad Hamza Shafqaat, Islamabad’s deputy commissioner, told Arab News on Friday. “We will neither charge them rental or license fee nor impose a fine on them. They can also set up makeshift stalls after informing us at a location of their choice.”
Shafqaat is spearheading the awareness campaign against plastic bags in Islamabad and said involving beggars and transgender persons in the administration’s campaign against plastic would also help them earn a decent living.
“Our local administration’s new policy has widely been welcomed by the public,” the official said. “This is because our aim is also to help these marginalized segments and make them contribute toward a clean and green country.”
Pakistan is on its way to becoming the 128th country in the world that will end the use of non-biodegradable material made from various types of polymers that are harmful to the environment. It is ranked number seven on the index of climate change.
In an interview to Arab News just days before the ban came into effect, State Minister for Climate Change Zartaj Gul said: “We want Pakistan to be plastic-free because it is a burden on our environment.”
She also added that Pakistan wanted to demonstrate to the world that it was “contributing to green initiatives.”