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Tears as jailed Pakistani trucker returns home after Saudi pardon

Tears as jailed Pakistani trucker returns home after Saudi pardon

WAZIR DHAND: A Pakistani truck driver pardoned by Saudi Arabia after spending seven years in jail following a deadly road accident received an emotional welcome from relatives and friends when he returned to his hometown in northwestern Pakistan on Tuesday. 

Zahir Hussain Zar Khan traveled to the Kingdom from Peshawar in 2012 to work as a trucker, but was jailed over his involvement in a road accident that killed four people.

Unable to pay SR1.3 million ($350,000) in blood money to relatives of the victims, Khan languished in jail until July when Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman intervened and Saudi Arabia’s Bait-ul-Maal social welfare organization paid off the debt, leaving him free to return home.

After landing at Peshawar’s Bacha Khan International Airport on Tuesday, Khan emerged from the arrivals gate in tears as he embraced his children, and met jubilant family and friends. He then drove straight to his ancestral graveyard to offer prayers for his father, who died while he was imprisoned in the Kingdom. 

“Spending years in jail, neither my children recognized me nor I them,” Khan told Arab News at the airport as he fought back tears and hugged his seven-year-old son. 

“But today I am among my children, and we all pray for the stability of the Saudi government and the long life of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who paid such a big amount of money on my behalf.”

Khan said he would have spent another 20 years in jail had the crown prince not intervened and shown mercy.

“When I rushed to hug my ailing mother, she started weeping, all the while praying for the long life of the crown prince,” Khan said. 

Pir Zada, Khan’s younger brother who studies on a scholarship in the UK, said that he had flown to Pakistan from London after learning of brother’s release. 

“The last wish of my ailing mother was to see Khan alive once more in her lifetime,” he said. “We don’t know how to express our happiness and gratitude to the Saudi government and the crown prince.”

As Khan reached his hometown of Wazir Dhand in the Khyber district, relatives and neighbors gathered outside his house to greet him, placing garlands around his neck and showering him with prayers.

Tribal elder Hajji Khudadad said the government of Saudi Arabia and the crown prince had set a great precedent by paying Khan’s blood money. 

“Today, it is like Eid in Wazir Dhand,” Khudadad said. “I feel rose petals are pouring in from the sky because it feels like Khan has another life. Thank you, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and thank you Saudi Arabia.”

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