Saudi Arabia’s ‘Pakistani hero’ remembered by family

Farman Ali Khan was honored with the King Abdul Aziz Medal of the First Order in 2011 (AN Photo by Rafi Ullah)
Updated 17 February 2019

Saudi Arabia’s ‘Pakistani hero’ remembered by family

  • Pakistani Farman Ali Khan lost his life rescuing people in a flood in Jeddah in 2009.
  • Both Saudi and Pakistan governments have posthumously honored Khan

KARACHI: The daughters of a Pakistani man considered a hero in both his home country and Saudi Arabia for rescuing 14 Saudi nationals during torrential floods in Jeddah said he had always dreamt of being a doctor but circumstances forced him to leave his education and become a grocer in the port city on the Red Sea.

In late November 2009,  flash floods churned through Jeddah, killing at least 116 people. Khan tied one end of a rope to a pipe and the other to his waist and jumped into the roaring floodwater to rescue people. He saved 14 lives and lost his own during his attempt to rescue a fifteenth person.

He was posthumously awarded the King Abdul Aziz Medal of the First Order by the Saudi government and Pakistan’s Tamgha-e-Shujat by then president Asif Ali Zardari.

Zubaida, Madeeha and Javeriah Khan, Khan’s three daughters, and other relatives spoke to Arab News by phone from his hometown of Swat and remembered him as a patient, mild-mannered, sporty family man who loved to joke and lived to help others.

“He couldn’t become a doctor so now we will fulfill his dream,” said Zubaida whose father was forced because of financial troubles to quit studying after the intermediate level and move to Saudi Arabia to seek work.

“We unluckily spent little time with Khan Jee,” she said, using the title with which his family addresses him. “But the life he lived has made him alive in our memories forever. Everyone in our neighborhood and school knows us as the children of a hero. Khan Jee is our superstar,” she added.

Khan’s father Umar Rehman described his son, one of nine siblings, as hardworking and always busy but said he would call his family in Pakistan every opportunity he got. He loved playing sports, especially weight training and karate.

“He was brave and fearless but very kind and highly obedient,” Rehman said. “He would always talk in a light way, laughing out loud. I remember that when my mother [his grandmother] would get upset, he would crack jokes till she would start laughing. I had never seen him angry or quarreling with anyone.”

Rehman said he was crushed when he heard about his son’s passing but the story of his bravery “started healing my wounds, gradually.”

Soon after Khan’s death, the family got a condolence letter from Saudi King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and an invitation to Saudi Arabia. The family was seen off at Islamabad airport by the Saudi Ambassador in Pakistan and arrived in Saudi Arabia as special state guests.  A grand reception was held at the palace where the king awarded Khan the King Abdul Aziz Medal of the First Order.

Khan’s brother Asmat Ali Khan said a Saudi charity organization, Al Nadwa Shabab Islami, had also built a huge mosque in his brother’s name.

His father said just weeks before his death, Khan said he planned to get Rehman a longer-term Hajj visa so they could spend some time together.

“Farman from his childhood had learnt to live for others. He gave us the message that those living for others live long, even if their souls journey to another world,” Rehman said. “Farman is alive, in our hearts and in our memories.”


Alice Wells discusses Afghan peace process with Islamabad

Updated 21 January 2020

Alice Wells discusses Afghan peace process with Islamabad

  • Islamabad reaffirms commitment to the Afghan peace process, says FO
  • Wells is in Islamabad since Sunday on a four-day visit

ISLAMABAD: The chief US diplomat for South Asian affairs, Alice G. Wells, on Tuesday discussed the ongoing Afghan reconciliation process with Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Sohail Mahmood in Islamabad, ahead of an expected US-Taliban peace agreement.

The principal deputy assistant secretary for South and Central Asian affairs at the US State Department has been in Pakistan since Sunday on a four-day visit to discuss a host of issues of bilateral interest, including the Afghan peace process.

US-Taliban talks have been ongoing in the Qatari capital, Doha, where they are moving toward a peace deal. 

Pakistan has been involved in bringing the Afghan Taliban to the negotiating table with the US to restore peace in the region.

“The two sides (Pakistan and the US) ... discussed recent developments regarding the Afghan peace and reconciliation process,” Pakistan’s Foreign Office said in a statement after the hours-long meeting between Wells and Mahmood.

During the meeting, the statement said Pakistan, has “reaffirmed its resolve to continue to support the peace process and pursue positive development of Pakistan-Afghanistan relations.”

This is the second time in recent months the US and Taliban have appeared close to announcing a peace deal. 

In September, President Donald Trump abruptly called off the talks in response to a suicide bombing in Kabul that killed an American soldier.

Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen said on Monday in a Twitter post that a three-member team representing the Taliban – Mullah Baradar Akhund, Sher Muhammad Abbas Stanekzai and Amir Khan Muttaqqi – met with US special envoy for Afghan reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad and Gen. Scott Miller, the US and NATO commander in Afghanistan.

Experts have termed the recent negotiations between the US and Taliban decisive and are expecting them to reach an agreement by the end of this month.

“Taliban have already agreed on a violence reduction in Afghanistan that was one of the key demands of the US. So, it means both sides are close to a significant peace pact,” Rahimullah Yousafzai, an expert on Afghanistan and Taliban affairs, told Arab News.

He said that Pakistan has played a crucial role in bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table by using its influence over the militants. “Alice Wells may discuss the pros and cons of the proposed peace agreement with Pakistan’s top civilian and military leadership during her meetings,” he said.