Ghulam Nabi Khan

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Ghulam Nabi Khan, Rahimullah Yusufzai
Published in Khyber.ORG on Friday, September 16 2005 (http://www.khyber.org)


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Ghulam Nabi Khan

Rahimullah Yusufzai

Belgium Based Philanthropist Cares for Hometown Mardan

Publishing Date: Friday, September 16 2005

A personal tragedy often changes the life of a person. Ghulam Nabi Khan also became a kind hearted philanthropist when he experienced the kind of suffering that is the fate of so many human beings.

He would never have known about existence of bonded labor in our society if some of his missing relations hadn't ended up as dehqans in Swabi district. The joy of locating an uncle and cousins after more than three decades turned into sorrow when they were found to be living like slaves. Their inability to clear their debt had made them bonded laborers at the beck and call of their master.

Khan decided to liberate his relations by paying off Rs 180,000 that they owed to the landlords. This was the start of a campaign that has won freedom for many dehqan families in Swabi and enabled them to live a decent life. By paying Rs 9.3 million to their masters, he managed to liberate 296 families from bonded labor. Their debt ranged from Rs 6000 to Rs 47,000 each. The farmers were unable to pay even such small debts and as a consequence were held in bondage for years, sometimes for two to three generations.

"I refer to such people as Ghulaman (slaves) because they are sold off by one master to another. They are like the slaves of yore. Unfortunately, all this is happening in our modern age and the government and the society is unconcerned," Khan observed.

The suffering of his daughter, Sumera, motivated him to start caring for polio patients. As a nine year old girl, Sumera was afflicted by polio and walked with a limp. "In 1999, I took her to Lahore to seek treatment from orthopedic surgeon Dr. Mazhar Iqbal Chaudhry. After two surgical procedures based on a new technology, she recovered so much that her limp was no longer noticeable," Khan recalled. His daughter's recovery made him so happy that he pledged to provide free surgical treatment to 1000 polio patients. He fulfilled the pledge and decided to continue the project. Dr. Chaudhry operated upon 1,085 polio patients in Lahore, lowering his fee to Rs 27,000 per patient on Khan's request. Fresh patients are registered at the Free Polio Hospital in Mardan's Sheikh Maltoon Township. About 25,000 polio patients to date were offered consultation at the hospital.

One thing led to another as Khan became involved in new humanitarian projects. The work expanded so fast that the Belgium Based khan sought help from social workers to run the projects. His cousin, Muhammad Iqbal Khan also joined him and the Bay Bay Welfare Trust was launched. Bay Bay is a Pashto word for mother. Khan said it referred to all mothers rather than his late dear mother. He also remembered his late father, Haji Kashmir Khan, by naming his trust's free legal aid centre and rehabilitation centre for drug addicts after him.

The Kashmir Khan Memorial Free Legal Aid Centre headed by Mardan Lawyer, Naveed Khan, is conveniently sited at the Kutchery and provides assistance to needy litigants, especially women and children. The Kashmir Khan Memorial Rehabilitation Centre is located in a nice and spacious bungalow on Canal Road. It was recently inaugurated by NWFP Governor, Lt. Gen. (Retd.) Syed Iftikhar Hussein Shah and is now home to detoxified addicts needing rehabilitation. So over whelmed are the addicts by the kindness shown to them by Khan that they raise slogans of Ghulam Nabi Khan Zindabad whenever he visits the centre.

Kashmir Khan was a wealthy Mardan businessman. But his sons made their fortune in Belgium. Khan, his brothers and nephews now own 205 petrol and gas stations there. The family business has now extended to Spain and Pakistan but its members, particularly Khan, are firmly rooted in Mardan. Khan said it was his mission to do everything within his means to help the people of Mardan.

Khan's generosity has benefited a large number of people. A free medical dispensary on Shamsi Road, which receives Rs 50,000 monthly from him, has provided treatment to 21,567 patients to date. Free medical camps are held for needy patients while about 2,000 people were screened for Hepatitis B and C. The operation theatre at District Headquarters Hospital, Mardan was renovated and upgraded at a cost of Rs 200,000 and by spending Rs 40,000 the hospital's children ward was repaired. The Bay Bay Welfare Trust has also set up a maternity hospital and has funded the Red Crescent Eye and General Hospital in the city.

In the field of education, the trust rented a building at a monthly rent of Rs 30,000 to house Mardan's second government run girl's degree college. A computer academy for girls is also coming up. Under its computer literacy programmes, computers were provided to government colleges in Mardan, Khairabad and Takht Bhai and to the offices of District Nazim and EDO (Health). Funds were also made available for renovation of schools and colleges and to the scouts.

Khan gave Rs 150,000 to the Mardan Prison for provision of quilts, beddings, TV set, food, etc. to the prisoners. The orphanage in Mardan was provided a vehicle, refrigerator, and Rs 10,000 monthly donation and the orphaned children were given clothes, shoes and woollies. Cloth was provided to poor girls receiving skills training at an industrial home in Mardan. The Christian community was given Rs 650,000 in cash to enable them to celebrate Christmas.

An amount of Rs 2.8 million was pent on leveling the ground and laying parks at the Bagh-e-Iram and Bijlighar. A tractor trolley was bought to sprinkle water on the city roads. Food rations are frequently distributed among the needy during Ramazan and money given to the poor. Several other projects are in the pipelines, all geared to improve the quality of life in Mardan.

"I enjoy doing social work. It is very satisfying to minimize someone's suffering. Let me also tell you that I have no intention of contesting elections as some people thought," Khan stressed. He said he quietly did humanitarian work for a number of years and shunned publicity. Gradually the sword spread and politicians, social workers as well as media men came to k now about his work. A simple man, Kahn said he loved his hometown and was keen to serve Mardan. The family's Pakhtun origins, he pointed out, contributed to its success in the competitive world of business in Belgium. "As Pakhtuns, we strive to be the best. Our past glory and dynamism motivates us to edge out competitors," he added.

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Ghulam Nabi Khan, Rahimullah Yusufzai
Published in Khyber.ORG on Friday, September 16 2005 (http://www.khyber.org)