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.”