Tributes have poured in for Abdul Sattar Edhi known also as Pakistan’s Angel of Mercy after he passed away from kidney failure on July 8.
The founder of Pakistan’s largest welfare organisation died aged 92, as tributes swiftly poured in for the national hero, who is thought to have rescued over 20,000 abandoned children and found homes for 50,000 orphans.
The man credited with single handedly changing the face of welfare in Pakistan was honoured with a state funeral and day of national mourning in honor 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.
“We have lost a great servant of humanity,” Prime Minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif, said in a statement. “He was the real manifestation of love for those who were socially vulnerable, impoverished, helpless and poor. This loss is irreparable for the people of Pakistan.”
UN Secretary General, Ban Ki moon, expressed his “profound condolences” on the passing away of Abdul Sattar Edhi, saying he was “a living example of social justice, compassion and solidarity in action.”
“Through his humility and humanity, he changed countless people’s lives for good,” he said in a statement issued through his Deputy Spokesman, Farhan Haq. In 2013 The Huffington Post dubbed Edhi “the world’s greatest living humanitarian.”
Motivated by a spiritual quest for justice, over the years Edhi created maternity wards, morgues, orphanages, shelters, and homes for the elderly, picking up where limited Government-run services fell short. His ethos of humanitarianism transcended religious and ethnic lines, but made him the target of many ferocious smear campaigns.
Hardliners branded him an a non-Muslim and his work un-Islamic. His response was hard work and an obstinate asceticism, a bid to leave his enemies with no ammunition.
He slept in a windowless room adjoining the office of his foundation furnished with just a bed, a sink and a hotplate.Born to a family of Muslim traders in Gujarat in British India, Edhi arrived in Pakistan after its bloody creation in 1947.
The state’s failure to help his struggling family care for his mother – paralyzed a decisive turning point towards philanthropy, propelling him to open his first clinic in 1951. Edhi’s foundation now houses some 5,700 people, including street children, the elderly, battered women, the disabled as well as drug addicts in 17 shelters across the country.
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. He was so widely respected that armed groups were known to spare his ambulances, as he tended to the wounded and buried the dead after their gun battles.
Meanwhile, the foundation’s adoption service sees unwanted children – many of them girls – left in cradles placed in front of every center, where they can be safely cared for. Together with his wife, Bilquis Edhi, he received the 1986 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Public Service two years later he received the Nishan-e-Imtiaz Prize. He was also the recipient of the Lenin Peace Prize and the Balzan Prize.
In 2006, Institute of Business Administration Pakistan conferred an honoris causa degree of Doctor of Social Service Management for his services. In 2010, Edhi was also awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Bedfordshire. On 1 January 2014, Edhi was voted the 2013 Person of the Year by the readers of The Express Tribune.
He was recommended for a Nobel Peace prize by the Prime Minister of Pakistan.
Edhi leaves behind his wife Bilquis and six children.
Elham Asaad Buaras