Naimatullah Khan was the Mayor of Karachi from August 2001 to June 2005. Naimatullah Khan has been involved with Islami Jamiat-e-Talaba, and is a senior member of Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan.
Naimatullah Khan was born in Ajmer, Rajasthan, British India on 1 October 1930 to Abdul Shakoor Khan,a railway postmaster and Bismillah Begum, a housewife. He was the third child of Abdul Shakoor Khan. He had two elder sisters and two younger brothers. In 1940, his father died of tuberculosis. The family then moved to Shahjahanpur, Uttar Pradesh, British India to live with their maternal relatives.
Conditions deteriorated in the South Asia in 1940s as the independence neared. In the meantime, Khan’s family moved back to Ajmer and Khan was now living with his paternal uncles. Khan briefly volunteered as a national guard for the Pakistan Muslim League rallies where he caught glimpses of national leaders like Qaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Liaqat Ali Khan. It was July 1947 and Khan’s departure to newly created Pakistan was eminent. One day during clashes with the Hindus, Khan and his friends made fire crackers filled in packs of cigarette and threw them at the opposition.
Police was in search of Khan and his friends and his uncle advised him to leave Ajmer for Karachi. Khan obeyed the orders and thus commenced the journey which would change his and his family’s life. He left Ajmer alone for Karachi sometime in July 1947. He took a train which took him directly to Karachi via the Rajhastan desert. The train line currently stands suspended. He had a stop at Hyderabad,Pakistan where he met his father’s friend who gave him 10 rupees. Khan’s train was one of the very last trains which completed their journey without any massacre. Naimatullah Khan spent his first night on a footpath on I.I.Chundrigar road in a place where currently the Cotton Exchange of Pakistan stands.
Early years of struggle 1947–58
Khan describes his life from 1947–1958 as that of struggle and hardships. A few days after coming to Karachi, Khan was given a small flat on Burns Road to live under the migrant claims system prevailing at that time. That lot of flats were occupied mostly by Hindus who immediately protested to a Muslim living in the flats and Khan was turned out by the authorities. Thus Khan had no option but to set up a Jhonpari (straw house) near a place where later the tomb of Qaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah was built. Khan started doing part-time jobs mostly that of a stenographer. He had learned shorthand back at Ajmer which helped him. In the meantime he went back to Ajmer and brought his younger brother with him to Karachi. Up until this point Khan was totally uninterested in studies.
His mood changed while he was preparing for the exam of the prestigious Indian Civil Service. Although he didn’t qualify, this preparation inclined him towards pursuing higher studies. He had already done his matriculation back at Ajmer. Khan brought his other family members to Karachi in 1949–50 and they settled with him in the Jhonpari. Both his sisters were married from this Jhonpari. In the meantime Khan concentrated on his work and studies. He worked all day from six in the morning to ten at night doing several part-time jobs. He used to go standing in a truck to work in the morning reading his course book. Interestingly he never attended college or university.
He had the responsibility of feeding his whole family thus he never got time to attend any institution. He enrolled at the Punjab University and just sat his papers. The highlight of his part-time job career was him working as a stenographer for Jamshed Nusserwanjee Mehta. Mehta was the first ever mayor of Karachi. He took office in 1934 when Sindh was for the first time separated from the Bombay Presidency. He was currently working as Chairman of Sindh Purchasing Board when Khan worked as his stenographer. Naimatullah Khan later went on to become the mayor of Karachi himself. Khan completed his intermediate, BA, and a double MA in journalism and Persian. He also did his LLB. He then started working in the office of a lawyer. In the meantime Khan and his family become deeply saddened by the demise of Khan’s eldest sister who died at a very young age.
Khan recalls that he had gone to work and when he returned he was informed that his sister had died and was even buried. Lack of communication in those days meant Khan couldn’t be informed of the death. The lawyer whose office Khan worked at once asked Khan “Naimat, have you completed your studies?”. Khan replied yes. He told Khan to start his own work. This proved to be the turning point in Khan’s financial fortune. He up until then used to earn Rs 225 per month. He started his work in early 1958 as an income tax lawyer after taking out a 5000 rupee loan from a friend. He set up his office in Wazir Mansion I.I.Chundrigar Road. Conditions soon turned into his favour. Just months after he set up his work, martial law was imposed in Pakistan and Ayub Khan announced that whoever had not paid his income tax wont be prosecuted if he/she paid the tax up until a later date. This proved to be fruitful for Khan and many people poured into his office each day to file their tax returns thus providing Khan with loads of clients which meant a healthy income for him. Khan was finally out of poverty.
Khan was married in 1960. He built himself a proper house in 1967 in which he lived until 2011. Naimatullah Khan was always inspired by the writings and works of Maulana Maududi, the founder of Jamaat-e-Islami. His enternce into politics started as far back as late 1960s when he helped organise political programs at his own house. He formally joined the party in 1974 while at Hajj in Makkah. Khan worked diligently for the party slowing rising through the ranks. In 1977 Khan was jailed in Sukkur for holding a rally in Karachi at a time when public gatherings were not allowed due to orders by then Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. Khan spent three months in jail. Khan recalls how he met the infamous General Niazi at the Sukkur jail. Martial law was imposed in 1977 and elections were held in 1979.
Khan was the top most contender to become the mayor of Karachi. Citing personal issues Khan refused to take the office. Khan at that time had nine kids most of whom were very young. Khan realised his children were too young for him to take such an important role. As his replacement Abdul Sattar Afghani was made the mayor who served in the capacity until 1987 after getting re-elected in 1983. Non political elections were held in 1985 and Khan won the PS-81 constituency from Karachi. He subsequently became the Leader of Opposition of the Sindh Assembly from 1985–88. President Zia-ul-Haq was killed in a plane crash in 1988 and all the prevailing assemblies were dissolved. Khan later became the Jamaat-e-Islami Ameer of Karachi in 1990. He served in this capacity until 2001 when he had to resign to take the office of the Mayor of Karachi. In the meantime Khan also retired from his law practice in 1991 after a 34-year career.
Mayor of Karachi
Martial Law was imposed on 12 October 1999. President Musharraf formulated the new system of CDGK (City District Government Karachi). Elections were held in 2001 and Jamaat-e-Islami was able to win 12 town nazim seats out of 20. Naimatullah Khan serving at that time as the party Ameer of Karachi was nominated as the contender for the Mayor of Karachi. Having already won the majority, he was elected as the first mayor of the newly formed local body system. During his tenure he oversaw the Taameer-e-Karachi program aimed at improving the infrastructure of Karachi. He achieved over the years of his tenure to increase the budget of Karachi from 6 billion rupees to 43 billion rupees. He passed various projects such as 18 flyovers, six underpasses, two signal free roads and a huge water supply scheme for the people of Karachi. It was the first time in the history of Karachi that all the stake holders were incorporated for the developmental works. He was also the person behind the project which built dozens of Model Town Parks in Karachi.
Khan was married in 1960 to Tahira Khatoon. He has seven sons and two daughters. All are married. His wife died in 1994 after a protracted illness. His grand daughter born in 1995 from his second son Nadeem was named Tahira, in memory of his deceased wife. He had two sisters, both of whom have died; one of his brothers is also dead. His sons are Waseem, Nadeem, Faheem, Kaleem, Naeem, Asim, Nazim. His daughters are Gohar Lubna and Gohar Afshan. All the sons’ middle name is “Iqbal” after the late sister of Khan whose name was Iqbal. Khan also wrote a book called “Roshni ka safar” that talked about all the work he had done as mayor.
After retiring from politics in 2005, Khan took the office of the President of Alkhidmat Foundation an NGO. He served in that capacity until 2011 when due to age and illness he just decided to look after the southern region of Alkhidmat Foundation. He has extensively worked in the Thar region of Pakistan since 1997 trying to bring that area out of problems such as acute water shortages and illiteracy.