By Rob Crilly in Islamabad
Published: 10:00PM BST 11 Jul 2010
Essa Khan found the bag of notes stuffed in a safe deposit box while carrying out a routine inspection of a room vacated by a Japanese NGO worker before another guest arrived.
After years of negative publicity from terror strikes and political unrest, politicians have lauded the housekeeper’s honesty as the “real face of Pakistan”.
But Mr Khan told The Daily Telegraph he was simply doing his job.
“I have a responsibility as a human being, as a Pakistani, a Muslim,” he said on Sunday. “I never thought about keeping the money.”
Mr Khan, 50, has worked for the past 20 years at the Gilgit Serena Hotel, which stands amid dramatic scenery at the foot of the Karakoram mountains, in northern Pakistan.
Hotel staff managed to track down the guest, who works for the Japan International Co-operation Agency, and return the money, which was intended to fund a feasibility study into tourism projects in northern Pakistan.
Rashid Uddin, the hotel’s general manager, said the Japanese man, who has not been named, was embarrassed to learn he had lost the cash.
“Even after three days, he had no clue that he had left the money,” Mr Uddin said by telephone from Gilgit.
“He came in the next day, and it was easy to see from the look on his face just how relieved he was.”
The hotel has given Mr Khan a 10,000-rupee (£77) reward for his honesty.
But his general manager said his actions deserved wider recognition.
“In these economic conditions, and in a region of poverty, we should be very, very proud of people like this,” said Mr Uddin.
The story has been taken up by politicians in a country tired of negative publicity. Years of suicide bombings mean tourist hotels have struggled to survive as foreigners stay away.
Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab province, declared Mr Khan a “national hero”.
“He’s a humble housekeeper and we are really proud of him,” he said. “This is the face of Pakistan that people don’t see normally.”
He telephoned Mr Khan on Sunday to promise him another reward and to invite him to Lahore for a ceremony in his honour. Source