Calgary

Friends of Calgary man who died from COVID-19 in Pakistan warn of travel risks

Naveed Asghar was known for his smile, his humble nature and his willingness to offer a helping hand to anyone who needed it.

Naveed Asghar died overseas after contracting coronavirus during family visit

An older photograph of Naveed Asghar from a trip to the Rocky Mountains with friend Arshad Chaudhry. Asghar spent time camping with friends in Alberta and B.C. He was a long-time Calgarian and well known in the Pakistani community. (Submitted by Arshad Chaudhry)

Naveed Asghar was known for his smile, his humble nature and his willingness to offer a helping hand to anyone who needed it.

The 62-year-old Calgary Transit driver was a familiar face to many and was well known in Calgary's Pakistani community. 

He passed away in hospital in Pakistan on Feb. 7 after contracting COVID-19 while on a trip home to visit his mother. 

"He was very close to me," said friend Syed Haider. "He was just like an elder brother to me."

Haider knew Asghar for around 19 years. He says Asghar called Calgary home for more than 20 years.

Last month, Asghar visited the Calgary bank where Syed Haider worked for a chat and to tell him he was making a trip to Pakistan to visit his mother, who had been sick.

He left a few days later.

Haider says it had been several years since Asghar had been back to visit and there was a gathering of friends and family to welcome him when he arrived.

"In our culture, people come to see you when you are coming to visit after a few years ," said Haider. "He got sick, COVID positive."

"He was an amazing guy, so polite, so humble, down to earth. Whenever I needed him, he was there," said Haider.

In 2007, Haider was seriously injured in a car crash. He says it was Asghar who was by his side in hospital in the weeks that followed as he recovered from being in a coma.

Just before Asghar left for Pakistan, he installed a flat screen TV for Haider in his basement, always ready to help.

"Whenever we need him, he's always there. I will never forget him. I'm so upset," said Haider. 

"I will miss him every day."

Naveed Asghar died while visiting Pakistan, leaving behind a wife and four children in Calgary. The community has raised nearly $35,000 to help support his family following his death. (Submitted by Arshad Chaudhry)

Arshad Chaudhry recalls camping trips in the Rocky Mountains with Asghar before he started a family, and that same humble nature and smile that anyone who met or knew him remembers.

"I was so sad when I heard he had passed away. He was on a ventilator, and after two weeks he did not survive," said Chaudhry.

"He's a long-time Calgarian. I have a lot of his pictures. Before his marriage, we used to go for camping trips and barbecues. He was smiling all the time and we had a lot of fun," said Chaudhry.

"He was always such a caring person," he said. "The last time I saw him, we met at a wedding and he was still smiling, still humble, and that's why people remember these kinds of people. That's why everyone is so sad and talking about him," he said.

"We leave only our smiles behind."

Haider says he hopes what happened to his friend might make others think twice before travelling overseas.

"I have a request for the whole community in Calgary: please don't travel if it's not mandatory. It's very risky," he said.

"Naveed was so healthy when he left and he died in just two or three weeks. So please don't travel if it's not required. Stay home."

The community has been quick to rally around Asghar's family. He leaves behind a wife and children: two girls, aged 13 and 11, and two boys, aged nine and six.

A GoFundMe page has raised nearly $35,000 to help.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dan McGarvey

Journalist

Dan McGarvey is a mobile journalist focused on filing stories remotely for CBC Calgary’s web, radio, TV and social media platforms, only using an iPhone and mobile tech. You can email story ideas and tips to Dan at: dan.mcgarvey@cbc.ca or tweet him @DanMcGarvey

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