ISLAMABAD, RIYADH: When Farman Ali Khan died after rescuing people from raging floods in Jeddah in 2009, his family in Pakistan could never have imagined how his heroism would bring fresh tributes almost a decade later.
Khan, who was working in the Saudi city at the time, tied a rope to his waist and jumped into the torrid waters to pluck 14 people to safety. He drowned in the flooding.
He was posthumously awarded the King Abdul Aziz Medal of the First Order by the Saudi government in 2011 for his courageous act, and his family was given a cash reward at the king’s palace in Riyadh.
On Monday Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman further honored his memory by ordering that a new health center be set up in his home province and named after the former grocery store worker, the Saudi state news agency SPA reported.
“We already owe much to the Saudi government. The announcement ... to establish a health facility in the name of my son has further indebted us,” Umar Rehman, Khan’s father, told Arab News by phone from his hometown of Swat, in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
Rehman said his son’s sacrifice was a source of pride for the family, Swat residents and Pakistan too. “I am impressed with the crown prince’s way of (paying) tribute. What can be best for a humanitarian person like my son than to establish a health facility in his name where poor people will be treated?” he said, adding that they were thankful to the crown prince “for this great gesture.”
The sense of pride and gratitude has also spread to local government.
“The announcement of a health facility in the name of Farman is not only a tribute to his gallantry, altruism and sacrificing his own life for saving others, but it also reflects the kindness and spirit of the crown prince ... to take care of the needy ones,” Shaukat Yousafzai, the province’s information minister, told Arab News. “Farman cared about others. This facility is about providing health care to many of his countrymen.”
He added that Faisal Mosque in Islamabad, which was built with funding from the late King Faisal, was evidence of the strong bond between the two countries. “It’s a huge symbol of friendship. Likewise, when the people of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa see the health care center, it will remind them of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and his great gesture of friendship.”
Khan’s memory also lives on in the city, where a street was named after him.
“What this man displayed is a rare act of heroism,” Rania Khaled, an account executive in Jeddah, told Arab News. “He didn’t pause to think of where these people came from or their nationality — all he cared about was that everyone survived the terrible flood. As a result, he lost his life and that’s what makes his tale so heroic. He cared for humanity, not just his own well-being and safety.
“He set a very high example of what a human should aspire to be. Your background, race and nationality shouldn’t matter; what matters is that we all stand together and help each other. I think if people lived with a similar mindset to that of Khan, the world would be a better place.”
Commenting on the decision, Dr. Khalid Abbas Alasadi, an author, said: “This is a beautiful tribute to his services. I do appreciate and pay my respects to the crown prince for the greatness he has shown to the people of Pakistan. The Pakistani nation stands with the crown prince. I would like to extend thanks on behalf of every Pakistani to the royal family. They are great people and doing amazing things for the good of the Islamic nation.”
The 2009 Jeddah floods killed at least 120 people and made around 10,000 people homeless. Those accused of being responsible for causing it — including academics, engineers, businessmen and foreign workers — were convicted in 2014, sentenced to 118 years in prison and ordered to pay millions of riyals in fines.