Saturday, September 8, 2012

From Bus Driver to Pakistan Hero

Mahar Mohammad Khalil was scarcely known by his own neighbors. Now he is a celebrated national hero.Khalil saved the lives of a visiting Sri Lankan cricket team from armed assailants who ambushed them, near Colonel Qaddafi Stadium in the northeastern city of Lahore. Since then he has been showered with praises and rewards from everyone.“I am thankful to Allah that he gave me the courage to serve my nation,” a humbled  Khalil told   “When I remember that scene I can’t believe that I have done that all.” Khalil was behind the wheel when 12 gunmen, firing automatic weapons, grenades and a rocket launcher, ambushed the convoy.“I could not understand, what was happening when I heard the firing sound. I thought the people were welcoming the Sri Lankan players with fireworks,” he recalls.“But later, I realized what’s going on when a terrorist came in front of the bus and threw a hand grenade under it.” Miraculously the grenade did not explode.Khalil immediately pressed the accelerator evading, by inches, a rocket fired by another attacker.“It was because of one of the players sitting next to me who shouted, don’t stop, go go go,” he notes.“If I had not moved the bus on his screams, the rocket would have hit the bus, and could have been catastrophic.”National Hero Khalil can not quite figure out how he kept a cool head and drove his bus to the stadium from where the visiting team was airlifted to safety by Pakistani air force.“I had nothing in my mind when I was rushing towards the stadium that I had to save the lives of our guests,” said the father of three children.“It would have been a big blot on our honor if any one of them was killed.”None of the Sri Lankan plays was killed in the unprecedented attack on a cricket team, but several were slightly wounded.Khalil met later with the Sri Lankan team who wanted to thank him in person for keeping his composure in the face of adversity and saving their lives.“You have saved us. We don’t have words to say thank you,” reads a letter written by the players and presented to Khalil. “Our families and we will always remain thankful to you. You risked your life for us.”Khalil has also hit stardom in the Asian Muslim country.He was accorded a rousing welcome as soon as he reached the crime scene where thousands of citizens thronged to pay homage to the deceased security personnel. “He is our Hero. We salute him,” Mohammad Adnan, a local businessman in Lahore, the capital of Punjab province, told IOL. “He has saved the honor of Pakistan.” He gave Khalil a cash reward of $2500. “People like Khalil are pride of any nation,” said an emotional Adnan. “We should learn to respect our living heroes. You do not have to be a king or saint to become a hero.”Shahbaz Sharif, who recently lost his job as Punjab chief minister after the supreme court banned him and his brother former premier Nawaz Sharif from holding public office, visited Khalil in his home and gave him another 2500-dollar reward.But a humble Khalil insists he has not done that much. “I don’t think that I have done anything extraordinary.This is just because of the grace of Allah who has given me this honor to serve my country.” 

                                                                Pakistani Hero Driver

  Sri Lanka’s cricket community on Monday honoured a Pakistani bus driver as a hero for risking his life to get Sri Lankan cricketers to safety as bullets pierced their vehicle in last month’s deadly terror attack in eastern Pakistan.
By God’s help I did not feel scared at all and never thought of jumping out of the bus to save myself,” brave Pakistani driver Mohammad Khalil said through an interpreter at an elaborate ceremony at Sri Lanka Cricket headquarters.
Six police officers and a driver were killed and seven members of the Sri Lanka contingent wounded in Lahore on March 3 when more than a dozen heavily armed gunmen ambushed the team convoy en route to a match against Pakistan.
We are here to thank one unarmed man for his courage, selflessness and quick thinking that enabled many of us to see another day,” said Kumar Sangakkara, who sustained minor injuries in the attack. “We will always have a special place for you in our hearts.
Khalil was credited with putting his foot down hard on the accelerator to power the vehicle away from the coordinated attacks at an exposed intersection.
Moments later the bus, riddled with 25 bullet holes, careered into the nearby stadium and medics rushed to treat the injured players and staff.
Khalil thanked the Sri Lankan cricketers who went to Pakistan when most of the top teams refused to tour the country because of security concerns.
We are proud that we are even ready to sacrifice our lives to save our friends,” he said.
Khalil was presented with cash totaling about $20,000 and a leading newspaper group has sponsored a holiday for his family in Sri Lanka. Khalil also gave the cricketers boxes of sweets and henna from Pakistan.
Batsman Thilan Samaraweera, the most seriously wounded of the Sri Lankan players, was released from hospital two weeks after the attack. Former captain Mahela Jayawardene said all the wounded players except for Samaraweera have resumed playing domestic cricket.

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