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November 24, 2012

'Where else but America?'

From immigrant from war-torn Pakistan to state representative


“It’s the freedom,” he said. “I always wanted to come to America because of the freedom the United States offers.”

He’s lived in the United States since 1981, when he came as a young student and attended New York’s Columbia University for a time. Khan insists that in the United States, if a person does the right thing, plays by the rules and works hard, “the whole world is open to you.”

“I lived 20 years in New York in the Bronx before I came to Seabrook,” Khan said. “Most of the people living in the Bronx were Jewish, there were very few who were Muslim, like me. But there weren’t any problems; we were neighbors.”

Owning the Route 1 Richdale Store since early in 2001, even when Muslim terrorists crashed planes into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field on Sept. 11, his experiences never altered his opinion about the basic fairness he’s found in the culture of the American people. No one retaliated against him, his family, or his business, he said.

“This is a wonderful town, a wonderful country,” Khan said.

Witness to history

Khan’s personal story gives him the experience to recognize fairness and opportunity when he sees it. Khan was born the son of a government magistrate in East Pakistan, located in the northeastern corner of the Indian subcontinent. For the first decade of his life, Khan lived in East Pakistan before it won its freedom from what was then West Pakistan, more than 1,000 miles away on the other side of India.

The odd division was the result of the partition of India after it was given its independence from Great Britain in 1947, Khan said. Both East and West Pakistan are mostly Muslim in religion, but East Pakistan lived under the thumb of West Pakistan with little say over governmental rule.

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