x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Imran Khan raises millions in Dubai gala

Sporting personalities and movie stars join former cricket legend at Dh10,000 a head gala to raise money for Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital in Lahore.

Imran Khan arrives at Atlantis, The Palm for the fund-raising gala dinner in support of his cancer hospital in Pakistan.
Imran Khan arrives at Atlantis, The Palm for the fund-raising gala dinner in support of his cancer hospital in Pakistan.

DUBAI // The cricket legend and politician Imran Khan has come in to bat for a Pakistani cancer hospital at a Dubai charity gala that raised almost Dh2.3 million.

The former Pakistan captain hosted the star-studded event for the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital and Research Centre, of which he is the chairman, in Lahore.

Celebrities and sports personalities joined 1,000 guests at the Dh10,000-a-head event at Dubai's Atlantis, The Palm hotel on Tuesday evening.

They included the former champion Indian batsman Sunil Gavaskar and the ex-Pakistan international Mudassar Nazar, and a host of stars from Indian and Pakistani television and film.

"One of the big misconceptions about cancer is that it is a death sentence to whoever contracts it," Mr Khan told the audience.

"But that isn't true. Now almost all cancers are curable if they are diagnosed as early as possible."

A charity auction included a business-class return ticket for two anywhere in the world, all expenses paid, which sold for Dh40,000.

The hospital was opened in 1994 in honour of and named after Mr Khan's mother, who died of cancer. The money raised will go towards an MRI scanner, which costs Dh3.6million.

"It is a unique hospital. It is the only private cancer hospital that offers to pay for 75 per cent of treatment," Mr Khan said.

"But the problem is that we get 100 people every day coming to us asking for treatment, and we have to turn them away because we can only treat 14 people at a time."

Ground has been broken on a second hospital on donated land in Peshawar, and there is a proposal to develop a third in Karachi.

The hospital has annual running costs of Dh172m. More than half of that comes from donations and zakat, the Islamic obligation for a person to give a set percentage of their wealth to charity. The rest is raised through hospital services.

"Cancer has no borders. It doesn't respect race, religion or how much you earn," said the former Bollywood actress and Indian television presenter Pooja Bedi. "I think there is always scope to help others and this is a tremendously important and worthwhile cause."

For Fawad Khan, the star of the Pakistani series Humsafar, seeing the work done by staff at the hospital first-hand inspired him to take part in the fund-raiser.

"I think there is trust towards Imran Khan and people are will to join and help his cause," the actor said.

"You can see the way the hospital has changed the lives of so many people and it's important that it continues."

Speaking before they took to the stage, Bilal Maqsood and Faisal Kapadia from the Pakistani pop band Strings said they were delighted to have been asked to perform at the event.

"We have been raising money for the Shaukat Khanum Hospital for a few years now," said Maqsood, the group's songwriter.

"We have a trust in the organisation and the work that the hospital does there.

"I think that with everything that has happened in Pakistan, Imran Khan is the new hope."

Kapadia, the lead vocalist, said performing in Dubai gave the band a unique thrill.

"When we do shows in Pakistan or India, the audience is always from one country," he said. "But in Dubai there is a real mix and that is one of the best things about coming here."

The actor Adnan Siddiqui, who performed alongside Angelina Jolie in the 2007 film A Mighty Heart, described Mr Khan as a Pakistani hero who had inspired a nation after the Cricket World Cup win in 1992, and the work he has done with the hospital.

"People give donations because the trust is there and because they see results," Siddiqui said.

Behroz Sabzwari, a veteran television actor, said he was delighted to support a such a noble cause.

"I have supported Imran Khan since 1992 when he started the hospital and have continued to do so because he is a very true and honest person," Sabzwari said.

nhanif@thenational.ae