A GLOOMY Pakistan on Saturday (July 9) bade farewell to its national hero Abdul Sattar Edhi, the founder of the country’s largest welfare organisation who died last Friday (8) in Karachi aged 88.
Edhi, whose death was confirmed by his son Faisal, was revered for setting up maternity wards, morgues, orphanages, shelters and homes for the elderly, picking up where limited government-run services fell short.
Prime minister Nawaz Sharif announced a state funeral and day of national mourning in honour of the man who owned just two sets of clothes, but whose work uplifting the nation’s destitute and orphans cemented his place in the hearts of Pakistan’s masses.
Thousands attended Edhi’s funeral at the National Stadium in Karachi, which included a military guard of honour. After the funeral prayers and gun salute, his body was taken to Edhi village, which he founded 25 years ago, and laid to rest.
The biggest celebrities in Pakistan also added their tributes to Edhi, and called on everyone to preserve his impressive legacy.
Singer and actor Ali Zafar said words could not define the stature of the revered charity worker and that “his contribution to humanity would be with us always”.
Actor Fawad Khan added that “a great human being and shining example for all” had passed away.
Pakistan cricket captain Misbah Ul Haq said nobody served humanity better than Edhi and heartbroken singer Atif Aslam said his hero had left the world.
Pop star Hadiqa Kiani added it was everyone’s responsibility to carry out his efforts to create a better world and like many others, demanded the government of Pakistan dedicate July 8 to him to inspire future generations.
Singer/songwriter Zehra Komal Rizvi echoed these sentiments, asking that the day of his death be dedicated to Edhi and telling everyone to do something charitable in his name.
Singer Annie Khalid hoped his legacy would be preserved and acclaimed musician Salman Ahmed said that even if 50 per cent of those paying tribute to Edhi did something charitable then Pakistan would rise.
“Be the change you want to see in the world. We all need to continue his mission – that’s the only way we can honour his memory,” said Ahmed.
Actress Mahira Khan said there would never be anyone like him, while Oscar-winning filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy pointed out there was a lot to learn from Pakistan’s greatest humanitarian.
Malala Yousafzai described Edhi as a legendary figure and repeated her call for him to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. She said: “He lived his life for the lives and happiness of others and that is why he is a role model. I haven’t seen anyone else like him.” Ali Zafar said Edhi was beyond the Nobel Prize and no prize could do justice to what he was.
Singer and musician Quratulain Balouch summed up a nation’s sentiments when she said: “Abdul Sattar Edhi. A name forever embedded in our souls. God must’ve welcomed you in the heavens himself.”
Edhi, known as a “servant of humanity”, was suffering from severe kidney problems, his son revealed.
Born to a family of Muslim traders in Gujarat in British India, Edhi arrived in Pakistan after its creation in 1947.
The state’s failure to help his struggling family care for his mother – paralysed and suffering from mental health issues – was his painful and decisive turning point towards philanthropy.
In the streets in the heart of Karachi, Edhi, full of idealism and hope, opened his first medical clinic in 1951. Abandoned children and the elderly, battered women, the disabled, drug addicts; Edhi’s foundation now houses some 5,700 people in 17 shelters across the country.
Referred to as ‘Pakistan’s Mother Teresa’ and a living saint, Edhi isthought to have rescued more than 20,000 abandoned infants and rehabilitated over 50,000 orphans. His welfare centres, clinics, women’s shelters and nursing homes helped millions across seven decades.
The most prominent symbols of the foundation – its 1,500 ambulances – are deployed with unusual efficiency to the scene of extremist attacks that tear through Pakistan with devastating regularity. The foundation’s adoption service sees unwanted children, many of them girls, left in cradles placed in front of every centre, where they can be safely cared for.
Edhi would often refrain from taking showers to save water.
“We have to conserve water for our future generations and that is why I don’t misuse this precious gift of nature,” he had said.
During his last days and as his condition worsened, he refused offers to get medical treatment from abroad. Frail and weak in his later years, he appointed his son Faisal as managing trustee in early 2016.
Edhi leaves behind his wife Bilquis and six children.
He gave until the very end, his son said, seeking to donate all his body organs after death. However, doctors said that due to his age, he could only donate his corneas.
“I have done a lot of work. I am satisfied with my life,” he said in an interview earlier this year.