LARKANA: It requires only a pure heart and a genuine will to serve humanity and perform noble deeds. Anwar Khokhar has both. He has reunited more than 8,500 missing children with their parents since 1988 when he decided to make it his life’s mission.
A barber by profession and with very small means, he was able to establish Khidmat-i-Masoom Welfare Trust, a centre for the missing, abandoned and homeless children and elderly men and women, at the Airport Road which he runs with meagre financial support of local philanthropists.
By the end of this year alone, he has reunited 529 missing children with their families. Of them 338 were boys and 191 girls.
Mr Khokhar who was awarded Tamgha-i-Imtiaz in 2003 in recognition of his services told Dawn on Wednesday about how he went about his job.
He said that police and general public phoned him when they found a missing child or brought him to his barber shop or centre.
“My job is to trace parents of the missing children and take care of them till they meet their families,” Mr Khokhar said.
Philanthropists contribute hardly Rs11,000 a month while the centre’s expenses are over Rs50,000. But he is determined to carry it on.
He said he received no aid from the government and expressed his wish to establish more such centers in other parts of the district.
He blamed parents for their children’s disappearance and said that they should be extra careful about them while leaving home for job or shopping.
Parents carelessly ask their child to go and buy himself goodies and the child often goes far from home in search of his favourite things and eventually gets lost. Torture is another reason which fills children with in angst and they leave their home.
Mr Khokhar said that growing unemployment, mental stress, fragile economic conditions and uncontrolled inflation had shifted parents’ focus away from children’s psychological needs and to more serious problems of survival.
He said that driving force behind his sticking to the mission despite all odds was his satisfied conscience. He believed it was Allah’s will that he continue doing this work.
“Every now and then, I receive threatening calls and messages when I give shelter to an oppressed woman at my centre but my faith gives me strength to carry on the mission,” he said.
A number of gangs are operating in the district who abduct children for sale to other groups and keep them hidden at their hideouts in Golodaro, Kharaee Shaikh (near Sobhodero), Dhori wara Shaikh near Bakrani.
He came to know about them when son of Saheb Khan Jatoi was recovered from Karaee Shaikh and the boy disclosed his ordeal to him.
Gypsies are involved in this nefarious business. Two girls were kidnapped on Nov 29 and Dec 16, 2005 from Rasoolabad, Larkana, and were later recovered from a woman Sanam who admitted to committing the crime during interrogation, he said.
Mr Khokhar started his noble work in 1988 and established the centre in 2001. He has far reunited over 8,500 missing children with their parents.
Besides his noble work, he has a completely different reason to be proud of. He has remained barber to of Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. “Bhutto used to send his servant Chacha Taj Mohammed Abro to me during odd times,” he said.
“Once I was sent for at 4 am at Al-Murtaza House and Noor Mohammad Khokhar, another servant of Bhutto family, used to pay me Rs100 to 200 per visit,” he said.
He has a cheque for Rs2,000 bearing Bhutto’s signature. The cheque has date of 31.1.1975 to be drawn on the National Bank of Pakistans Murree Brewery branch in Rawalpindi. “He (Bhutto) gave this to me as an honorarium,” he said.
* After receiving numerous requests for Mr.Khokar's contact, here are his numbers where he can be reached: Anwar Khokar – landline: 07440334 and mobile: 0333 753 6836