Omar Asghar Khan

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Omar Asghar Khan
Omardp.JPG
Omar Asghar Khan speaking at a conference
Ministry of Environment
In office
October 2, 1999 – December 18, 2001
President General Pervez Musharraf
Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development
In office
September 9, 2000 – December 20, 2001
President General Pervez Musharraf
Personal details
Born Omar Asghar Khan
(1953-07-03)July 3, 1953
Died June 25, 2002(2002-06-25) (aged 48)
Karachi, Sindh Province
Resting place Abbottabad, Khyber-Pukhtoonkhwa Province
Nationality  Pakistan
Political party Independent
Other political
affiliations
Qaumi Jamhoori Party (National Democratic Party)
Spouse(s) Samina Khan
Relations Air Marshal Asghar Khan (Father)
Ali Asghar Khan (Brother)
Children Yasmeen Khan (daughter)
Abdullah Asghar Khan (son)
Mustafa Khan (son)
Residence Islamabad, Islamabad Capital Territory
Alma mater University of Essex (B.A.)
University of Cambridge (M.Phil.)
Occupation Politician and Professor
Profession Professor of Philosophy, Politics and Economics
Religion Islam - Muslim
Military service
Nickname(s) O.A. Khan
Allegiance  Pakistan
Service/branch  Pakistan Army
Years of service 1971-1973
Rank US-O3 insignia.svg Captain
Unit Army Armoured Corps
Commands OC Arrow Company, Armoured Corps
Battles/wars Indo-Pakistani War of 1971

Omar Asghar Khan (3 July 1953 - 25 June 2002) was a Pakistani economist, social, political scientist. A professor of Philosophy, Politics and Economics at the Quaid-i-Azam University, he was the founder of Qaumi Jamhoori Party (National Democratic Party).

Early life[edit]

The son of Amina Shamsi and Air Marshal (retd) Mohammad Asghar Khan. Omar started his education from Peshawar Middle School, continuing in Habib Public School, Karachi, when his father retired from the PAF (Pakistan Air Force) and became Chairperson of PIA (Pakistan International Airlines). He completed his schooling in APS (Abbottabad Public School) where he did his FSC. Omar excelled in sports in these institutions; "In his school days he was well-known for his exceptional sporting talents. He captained the school's swimming & hockey."[1] Omar had a lively sense of humor and kind, gentle temperament.

Education, career in academia and Pakistan Army[edit]

Omar joined the Pakistan Army in 1971 and left it at the rank of a captain in 1973 because of the military action in Baluchistan by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. He then gained a Bachelors Degree in Economics from the University of Essex, and a M.Phil. in Economics from the University of Cambridge, before returning to Pakistan in 1979. From 1980-83 he taught economics at the University of the Punjab in Lahore. According to Sungi, Omar's popular efforts to promote progressive political thought among students instigated a physical attack on him by the Islami Jamiat-e-Talaba. In 1983, General Zia-ul-Haq's repressive regime ordered Omar's dismissal from the Punjab University.

Political activism[edit]

After his dismissal from the university, Omar joined his father, retired Air Marshal Asghar Khan’s political party, the Tehreek-I-Istiqlal. In 1988 and 1990 he lost the national elections. Omar established/conceptualized many social organizations in the country:

According to Professor Pervez Hoodbhoy:

He, (Omar) and the organization he founded, Sungi, stood up resolutely to hostile maulvis opposed to education of girls and against the timber mafia in Hazara. As a member of Pervez Musharraf’s cabinet, he was a voice for the poor and disenfranchised. Omar’s achievements were extraordinary in a society so hostile to change and forward movement. He succeeded far better than most, with his unique mix of idealism and pragmatism. Many of us have our own reasons for being grateful to Omar. He was an open, caring, and courteous person who I had never seen being rude to anyone. I am deeply grateful to Omar that he encouraged me to speak and write about General Zia’s fraudulent Islamic science at the peak of that repressive dictatorship.[2]

Among the major tasks he carried out as the head of Sungi was the fight for the settlement of the affected people of Tarbela Dam. He did a commendable job to stop deforestation in the Hazara division, (hence making an enemy of the timber mafia), and prepared different studies for the most deprived sections of the society, especially women, labourers and farmers.

The target areas of Sungi in the Hazara division were Haripur, Balakot, Kaghan and other far-flung areas, where, on a partnership basis, it developed a chain of small NGOs working in different villages of Hazara. Sungi was awarded the 1996 United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia-Pacific Award for its exemplary work in the field of human resource development.

Work as Federal Minister under General Musharraf's interim government[edit]

His works benefited him when Omar joined General Pervaz Musharraf’s cabinet as Federal Minister for Environment, Local Government & Rural Development, Labor, Manpower, and Overseas Pakistanis after a bloodless coup in October 1999. According to some circles,[who?] the local body's plan[which?] was the brainchild of Omar Asghar Khan, who as minister, did the spadework.[citation needed] In his earlier days, he was very close to labour leaders and organizations. His policies in the environmental field went a long way in protecting the environment.

In December 2001 he resigned from the cabinet and launched a new political party, the Qaumi Jamhoori Party, to contest the general elections, but he died on 25 June 2002, before the elections.

Death[edit]

Omar's death at the age of 48, (just a week before his 49th birthday), caused severe shock and devastation amongst his supporters. He was found hanging from a ceiling fan at his in-laws' residence in Karachi.[3] Khan's family continues to insist he was murdered, though the authorities still label his death a "suicide".[4] His body was flown from Karachi to Islamabad, and then taken to Abbottabad, where he was buried at his family graveyard. His funeral in Abbottabad witnessed an unprecedented number of attendees for that town. He is survived by a widow and three children.

Omar often recited the touching poem of Faiz Ahmad Faiz's "Hum Dekhain Gay", and this became a regular feature of his political "jalsas" and meetings.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Omar Asghar Khan, sungi.org
  2. ^ Remembering Omar Asghar Khan, The Defence Journal, July 2002, www.defencejournal.com
  3. ^ Omar Asghar found dead, 26 June 2002, DAWN.com
  4. ^ Omar Asghar’s family wants no more ‘probes’: Five years of state apathy, 25 June 2007, DAWN.com

External links[edit]