A tribute to Pakistan’s hero: Abdul Sattar Edhi

Abdul Sattar Edhi

Maz Saleem is a campaigner against racism and Islamophobia. You can follow her on Twitter @CampaignerMaz

Maz Saleem
pays tribute to to Pakistan’s late hero Abdul Sattar Edhi.

The wonderful late Abdul Sattar Edhi would have just turned 89. He was described by many as the “richest poor man” and the “greatest humanitarian” Pakistan has ever seen. He stands alongside other great Pakistani figures, like the “non-violent soldier of Islam” Badshah Khan, who have not received the recognition they deserve.

My first vivid memories of this great human being was as a child and through my late father Haji Mohammed Saleem. We used to take turns as children to read the Daily Jang to dad, a Pakistani newspaper written in Urdu. This of course would reassure dad that paying for our tuition at the local mosque classes from 5pm till 7pm after school was a good thing.

Abdul Sattar Edhi was always in the Pakistani media for his dedication to the poor of Pakistan. He was a humanitarian who founded the Edhi Foundation which runs hospitals, homeless shelters, rehabilitation centres and orphanages across Pakistan.

Edhi himself was not a rich person in terms of wealth; he just had a very big heart full of kindness and affection. He devoted himself to Pakistan’s poor at the very young age of 20 when he was in fact extremely poor himself. Yet he dedicated his life to helping others, unlike the past corrupt governments of Pakistan which were full of greed and dishonesty.

Edhi was born in India in the late 1920s and spent his teenage years caring for his sick mother before being forced into Pakistan after Partition. His amazing wife Bilquis Edhi was a nurse who assisted the humanitarian efforts of her husband throughout his lifetime and has won the Mother Theresa Memorial International Award for Social Justice.

Edhi honourably provided shelter to the homeless and those less fortunate. He started his charity work in Karachi where he tirelessly campaigned to improve the living conditions of the Pakistani poor in terms of medicine, shelter and education.

Abdul Sattar Edhi (r) always refused to receive medical attention from abroad

The Edhi Foundation was set up in 1951 to run hospitals, orphanages, homeless shelters and rehab centres across Pakistan. It was funded solely by private donations and operates 24 hours a day to offer social services free of charge, which includes the world’s largest volunteer ambulance network in Pakistan.

Abdul Sattar Edhi has received a lot of mainstream media coverage on the 89th anniversary of his birth. It’s been great see that this wonderful man finally been honoured by the mainstream media – he even received a “google doodle” yesterday with an ambulance seen in the background. But I have to admit I did question why Google was honouring him on his birthday all of a sudden when he actually deserved all this attention when was alive.

In his lifetime Edhi won various awards which included the Lenin Peace Prize in 1988 and the Bacha Khan Aman (Peace) Award in 1991. He was also nominated many times for the
Nobel Peace Prize, but never received it, shockingly. Instead Malala Yousafzai received it. I personally feel Edhi was more deserving because of his relentless work over 69 years dedicated to the poor.

Sadly last year Edhi passed away at the age of 88, and at the time of his death he and his wife were registered as parents or guardians of tens of thousands of Pakistani children. Edhi was a beautiful human being with only one religion – humanity – and whose only mission in life was to serve human beings regardless of their caste, creed or religion.

Such individuals are a gift from the Almighty for mankind. Throughout his life he only kept two pairs of simple clothing and he never used the funds for his foundation for personal use. He continued his work without expectations or any rewards. Such a sincere, humble human being who even when he was sick turned down the offer of getting medical treatment from abroad, firmly believing in the Almighty.

Rather, he preferred to get medical treatment from his own country, a country where all the Pakistani elites get private medical care from abroad. Yet his name will always shine in the history of mankind whereas those enjoying the luxuries of the West will quickly disappear.

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