Haji Daraz Khan is welcomed at the Pakistan Social Centre in Sharjah on Monday. Khan has been instrumental in convincing Pakistani airlines to provide free repatriation of bodies. Image Credit: Atiq-ur-Rehman/Gulf News

Dubai: Prominent Pakistani social worker and philanthropist Haji Daraz Khan spends most of his time helping community members repatriate bodies of low-income workers in the UAE.

An unsung hero among the Pakistani community, Khan’s services were finally recognised by the Pakistan government when he was invited to Islamabad to confer on him Tamgha-e-Imtiaz (Medal of Excellence) by Pakistan President Mamnoon Hussain in a ceremony on Pakistan Day, March 23. Tamgha-I-Imtiaz is the highest civilian award for Pakistani or foreign nationals.

Speaking to Gulf News, Abu Dhabi-based Khan on Monday said that his mission in life is to serve people — not only Pashtuns but all Pakistanis living in the UAE. “I have been repatriating bodies of people who die in the UAE, for more than 30 years, and I took this responsibility after realising that most people, especially the labour community, finds it very difficult to complete the tedious paperwork.”

Khan has also been instrumental in convincing Pakistani airlines to airlift the bodies and an accompanying passenger back home free of cost. “I thank all the three Pakistani airlines — PIA, Shaheen Air and Air Blue — for carrying bodies free of cost,” he said. Khan said he repatriates at least four to five bodies a month to Pakistan.

Khan not only repatriates bodies but also makes sure to provide financial assistance to the deceased’s family to help them survive after the death of their breadwinner. “We have developed a community-based fund collection system whereby residents contribute a very minor amount every month towards the fund which is provided to the family of the person who dies here,” he said. The amount provided ranges from Dh100,000 to Dh150,000.

Khan, 65, who has been living in Abu Dhabi for 36 years, also ensures that needy children attend schools and arrange their tuition fees. He also helps victims of traffic accidents, especially those working as professional drivers. “My mission is to send every child in the community goes to school because education is the only way to improve our reputation and fight terrorism back home,” said Khan, who is from the troubled northern area of Pakistan.

Khan was also honoured on Monday at a ceremony organised by Pak-Khyber Wing, a social organisation of Pashtun community from Pakistan, at Pakistan Social Centre Sharjah.

“I urge you to join hands with me to serve people in need,” Khan called on the community members.

Pakistan Ambassador Asif Ali Durrani, who nominated Khan for the award, said that Khan has taught people to respect everyone and help those in need regardless of their social status. “We are blessed to have someone like Haji Daraz Khan among us in the UAE,” he added.