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Shabbir A. Khan

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By Syed M. Aslam
Feb 07 - 13, 2000

Air Commodore (Retd) Shabbir A. Khan is the founder of Rashid Memorial Welfare Organisation. The organisation aims to eliminate illiteracy, eradicate poverty and provide healthcare facilities. It plans to build a role model city 35 kilometers from Hyderabad, five miles short of Tando Allah Yar. It has already purchased 100 acres of land at the cost of Rs 10 million for the pilot project, ‘Rashid Abad’ at the chosen site. It will house a school for 3000 children from elementary to HSSC level, a modern 200-bed hospital, an orphanage for 100 children, mosque, microcredit facility for the poor, and an environmental programme for the recreation of poor people. The estimated cost of the project is Rs 950 million.

The poverty alleviation programme through microcredits was launched on May 1 last year. A free dispensary was also opened on the same date which opens four hour daily and is run by a doctor and two dispensors to provide free medical treatment, medicines and even free disposable syringes.

The elementary school will be commissioned next month. It will accommodate 15 students each in one of the five classes— Prep I and II and classes 1,2 and 3. The organisation will bear the cost of all the expenses including stationery, books, new uniforms. It will also provide such facilities to the young pupils as free medical check-ups, a glass of milk at 10 am break and a nutritious lunch.

Since May 1 last year microcredits facilities have been provided to 30 persons. Instead of giving cash the organisation provides chickens, cows, buffaloes and goats to the borrowers to help them earn a living. The average loan is between Rs 8,000-10,000 and is payable over a period of one year without any interest.

Air Commodore (Retd.) Shabbir A. Khan shuns self-projection. He refused to have his photograph published in the Profile and instead asked PAGE to highlight the project which is much closer to his heart.

PAGE: What moved you to initiate the project?

Commodore Shabbir: It has its basis in an experience which I underwent in 1956 when I was 13 years old and a student of class 8. I was refused to volunteer as flood relief worker at Deepalpur area in Punjab due to my short height as I would be swept away by the currents. This, however, did not discourage me — I sold my wrist watch to join the volunteers’ base camp at Mandi Heera Singh. The pathetic condition of a school there and even a more pathetic appearance of the poor students instilled a thought that if Allah would give me resources I would establish a good school. I forgot about the idea soon after. I joined the Pakistan Air Force and was an under trainee pilot during the 1965 war with India. During 1971 war another experience moved me. On December 13, 1971, I remember the date exactly, Number 7 Squadron which comprised B-57 bombers and of which I was member, lost six of my colleagues in one night over Jesselmir air base India. The same day me and my colleagues emptied our pockets to chip in Rs 2,180, a reasonable amount then, to establish Shaheen Welfare Account, which may be called the forerunner of the Rashid Organisation. Initially we provided cash to the poors. After the 1971 war we changed the way of disbursing microcredit— we no more provided cash instead we probed what a person could do and provided buffaloes, cows, goats, chickens, sewing machine and cycles for selling newspapers to help the borrowers help themselves.

The scheme was spread to other PAF bases around the country where I got posted— Masroor (then Mauripur) Base in Karachi, PAF Academy Risalpur where I served as commandant. It was simultaneously introduced at PAF Base Peshawar and Chaklala and Faisal (former Drigh Road) Base.

PAGE: Your son Flight Lieutenant Rashid Ahmad Khan was martyred in 1997 when he preferred to take his Mirage, which had developed a technical fault, away from the civilian areas of Karachi. Is the ‘Rashid Abad’ project is founded in his memory?

Commodore Shabbir: No. It is not even one of the reason. The project was already planned by a number of my colleagues. I was not in the country when the mishap took place. On my return I was received at the airport by my grieving relatives, acquaintances and colleagues. While everybody else was crying I was embraced by this colleague with a smile on his face. He said, "Shabbir, you have asked me to find a name for the project which I was unable to pick thus far. I have now found a suitable name. It should be named ‘Rashid Abad.’

PAGE: What’s the status of the project at present?

Commodore Shabbir: The land has already been purchased and land survey has been completed. The architectural drawings of the school, hospital, orphange and mosque have also been made. The reception area has been built at the cost of Rs one million by the designers of the General Head Quarters (GHQ) of the army. The Pakistan Telecommunications has installed a 30-line telephone system. The WAPDA has already supplied electricity. The district council has constructed the central road at the project site at the cost of Rs 1.5 million. Pumps are being installed to meet the water requirement. We have found sweet water at 165 feet. At present, the free dispensary, elementary school, microcredit programmes are housed two kilometers from the project in donated premises. Thus far we collected donations from the people we know. We have now started approaching local as well as multinational companies now. The first such donation of Rs 400,000 has already come from Infaq Foundation Karachi which is used to fund the free dispensary which is also funded by four retired PAF officers.

PAGE: Any message to PAGE readers?

Commodore Shabbir: God does not change the condition of a people who themselves don’t want to change their condition. Our phone numbers are 4578975,4310672 and 4549414. Fax number is 4578579 and e-mail address is: rashidwo@khi.compol.com.