Unilever reality show claims the life of my friend Saad Khan

By Farrukh Ahmed

A little over a week ago, I got one of the most shocking news of my life. An ex-colleague and a good friend Saad Khan passed away during the shoot of a reality show being shot in Thailand. The show was organized by Unilever as part of their ad campaign for Clear Shampoo for Men. Saad died of drowning during an under water challenge which involved pulling weights across the water.

Hearing the news of a friend passing away is in itself devastating, not to mention he was merely 32, a father of 4 very young children, aged between 7 & 2. He was probably the most cheerful person you’d ever meet, and was the 1st in everything among friends, now including leaving us all with memories.

Apart from my personal account, Saad’s death is becoming a closely guarded secret by the multinationals involved in the campaign of the show. Ironically, that has become the very reason of it being widespread internationally on blogs and social networking websites.

Unilever and Mindshare, the 2 advertising giants involved in the promotion of the show are making all efforts to cover the incident across the media, to the extent that all blog posts are being slowly blocked. I still can’t understand why this is being done, but with this post, I want to set some facts straights and publicize some questions that I’m sure would arise in your minds as well upon hearing the details of Saad’s death:

Here’s what is known about the show / event which took his life:

According to the details given by Unilever, the fateful challenge involved 4 participants to carry a 7kg weight on their backs across a pond. Saad reportedly drowned as he lost his balance. It is also reported that he suffered a cramp and could not stay afloat, and yelled for help before going down for the last time. It is to be noted that he was an excellent swimmer and had an athletic build of height 6’2″.

GEO news went on air with Saad’s news for the first time on 28th August at around 5 PST.
The Head of Corporate affairs Unilever Pakistan (Farishtey Gati Aslam) spoke to Geo claiming this to be an accident. She said that the participants were given the option of wearing life jackets but Saad opted out of it. All safety measure were taken.
She never spoke about the 7 kg bag which was fixed with each participant during this stunt, or the fact that none of the participants wore life jackets and the jackets were NOT mandatory.
She also said on air that Unilever is also trying to compensate the family and is in touch with the family, friends etc.

As a representative of the grieved family & friends, I would like the following questions to be answered:

  1. Corporate Social Responsibility of Unilever & Mindshare in the making of this reality show? Was there ever a document regarding the planning of the event?
  2. Were the safety precautions adequate at the time of shooting any stunt?
  3. Were the participants given any safety trainings / briefing for the stunt?
  4. What are the credentials of Unilever & Mindshare to host and manage a reality show? Any corporation while undertaking any project develops a project plan / manual. We would like to see the project manual for the show.
  5. Were the contestants insured?
  6. On what criteria were the candidates selected? Did the organizers inform the participants of potential danger involved?
  7. If the stunt involved danger of drowning, why was the life jacket optional especially when there was a 7kg bag affixed with every participant?
  8. How may lifeguards were present? In other reality shows like Fear Factor, there is usually 1 guard for each participant who is responsible to look after that individual. Why did it take around 15 minutes to search and take out the body when there were cameras watching the precise spot where Saad went down?
  9. The pond in question is located in Chatuchak park in Bangkok. The pond is reported to be muddy with precise depth unknown. Why was the pond selected without measuring the depth and being tested by professional safety officials before the stunt?
  10. Was this place randomly selected or through a series of approvals?
  11. Why is Unilever / Mindshare avoiding the media on the subject if they took the necessary precautions?
  12. Has any staff from Unilever (the main organizer) actually seen the place before / after the incident?

There are many more such questions in the minds of people who have heard or read about the incident. We demand an official explanation from the officials at Unilever and Mindshare in an open forum.

I was probably the last among the friends to see Saad Khan alive a couple of days before he took off for Thailand. He was very excited and though never told me about the show, said there was a big surprise for everyone out of this trip!

Please also take part in the Official Facebook Community.

May Allah bless Saad Khan’s soul & give his family (wife & 4 small kids) the strength to overcome this irreplaceable loss. Ameen

  1. It is sad to see a young life lost and no one stepping up to take the blame. What is sad yet is that he leaves behind 4 young children. Saad went to this show in the hopes of bettering their lives. Any compensation by Unilever would not make up the loss of their father for these kids. But at the very least their education and other basic needs should be taken care of by Unliever/Mindshare.



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  3. Dang. This really sucks. I feel really sorry for his family. And that’s another big stab for Pakistan’s corporate world. THey better rectify themselves.

  4. I am big fan of reality shows but am really shocked to hear this news and also really very sad about it. One one can play with life of any one. They should better learn the safety measures before launching such reality show.

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