By: Zamir Hussain Laghari
I’m at loss of words over sad news of Abdul Sattar Edhi’s death, a tireless leader of the country’s largest network of social assistance. Can’t understand what title of respect I present him to honor his services to humanity.
If words accompany my bereavement, I will proudly call him the ‘King of his own charity empire’, ‘Pakistan’s Real Life Superhero’, ‘The Richest Poor Man’ and ‘the angel of mercy’ and much more… but all such words and titles are unable to explain towering personality of a saint and a greatest humanitarian who dedicated his entire life for a great cause.
Edhi, who declined the offer of Indian Prime Minister Modi to donate 10 million Indian rupees to his charity last year, and declined Asif Zardari’s offer for treatment abroad, never established a home for his own children and lived till his last moments in a windowless room of his small two-bedroom house adjoining the office of his charitable foundation.
When Aseefa Bhutto-Zardari, the youngest daughter of Asif Zardari, met Edhi to reiterate the offer of his treatment, the seriously ill and weak man turned it down with thanks.
And the only thing the ailing activist appealed for was the land from the Sindh government to expand graveyard his foundation established in Mowach Goth for unclaimed bodies.
Thanks to this great man who, content with just two sets of clothes, continued to think for the underprivileged people till last moments of his life.
His work conquered the esteem of Pakistan’s masses and filled a gap left by a lack of a ‘welfare state’.
The self effacing man only with primary school education single handedly created the largest and most successful health and welfare network with his passion, hard work, and asceticism.
He established something of a safety net for Pakistan’s poor and destitute by mobilising the nation to donate and help take action for service of the humanity.
In Karachi, we often used to see Mr Edhi sitting in his foundation’s ambulance or on a wheelchair at roadside or footpath and passers-by depositing alms or pay their respects to the frail and humble old man.
It was state’s failure as well as a tragedy which prompted Edhi to mastermind Pakistan’s largest welfare organisation.
He was born in 1928 to a family of Muslim traders in Gujarat (British India) and migrated to Pakistan with his family after partition. When he was just eleven, his mother became paralysed from a stroke and she later died when Edhi was 19.
It was his painful and decisive turning point towards philanthropy. This personal experience caused him to develop a system of services for old, mentally ill and challenged people.
He initially started as a peddler in the sticky streets in the heart of Karachi, later became a commission agent selling cloth in local wholesale market.
After a few years, Edhi, full of idealism and hope, opened his first free dispensary in 1951 with help from his community. He later established a welfare trust, “Edhi Trust”.
Salute to the great mother who gave birth to such a noble child, motivating him for charity and justice. I read somewhere that Edhi’s mother would give him 1 paisa for his daily eats and another to give to a beggar.
This is why, through a spiritual quest, Edhi and his team established maternity wards, morgues, orphanages, shelters, and homes for the elderly, abandoned children, rehabilitation centers for drug addicts and mentally ill individuals all across the country – only to help those in society who cannot help themselves in the port megalopolis of glaring inequalities.
This is surprising to see that Bilquis Edhi, the wife of Abdul Sattar Edhi awarded the Mother Teresa Memorial International Award 2015 in India, even proudly cares for minor daughter of a thief jailed for 2014 burglary of the Edhi Foundation.
Edhi received at least 15 international and nine national awards.
His foundation has run relief operations in Africa, the Middle East, the Caucasus region, Eastern Europe and even the US.
But let me mention here hypocrisy of the West which did not appreciate such person who served humanity without any discrimination, though he got much appreciation from Japan, China, India, Australia and Arab states!
In 2008, he was stranded in New York because US immigration officials had taken his passport.
He was nominated several times for the Nobel Peace Prize, but was not awarded the same despite the wish of Pakistani nation.
But we don’t care as we believe that work of ‘the angel of mercy’ is beyond such awards and Allah is sufficient to give him reward hereafter.
I’m sure the undisputed icon of Pakistan will always remain alive in hearts of the nation for his devotion to humanity. May his soul rest in peace…!!!
[The author is an online journalist, likes research and writing on social issues, culture, tourism and international affairs.]
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