The legendary Pakistani social activist, philanthropist and true humanitarian, Abdul Sattar Edhi is no more. Known in Pakistan as "angel of mercy" he devoted his entire life to humanity and social service. As true icon of humanity, he provided a real succor and love to the socially vulnerable, helpless, impoverished and downtrodden class through his vast empire of charity network which he established and run almost single-handedly, through public donations. In a country, which is plagued by terrorism, where religious intolerance, sectarianism, ethnic and religious dogmas and prejudices are widespread, to stay away from controversies and obtaining the goodwill of all countrymen is a miracle. But Edhi did it, by relentlessly working for the people of all faiths, irrespective of caste, creed, color, cultural, religion, ideology or political differences, without caring for the worldly or heavenly rewards.
Edhi was born in a business family in Indian Gujarat in 1928. He was deeply influenced when his mother became paralyzed and during her illness he had to take care of her. She died when Edhi was 19, but it left in him a desire to develop a system of services for old, mentally ill and challenged people. In several of his interviews over the years, he used to say that he was appalled by the pain he saw around him at the time partition… When he migrated to Pakistan during partition, he initially started as a peddler and later sold cloths in the wholesale market in Karachi. He would often spot the anonymous bodies bobbing in the water of the Arabian Sea and he would provide them a decent burial. He started Graveyard Services. During 1950s he opened his first free dispensary and that was the start of his charity work. This tiny dispensary drew a persistent and wide response for public donations, expanding it at a remarkable pace and it bloomed into a vast network of welfare services across Pakistan and came to be known as Edhi Trust.
Today this trust has over 330 welfare centers which include medical centers, maternity wards, rehabilitation home, orphanages, psychiatric clinics, and shelters for abandoned women and children, ambulance services, along with soup kitchens, across the country. It holds the record for being the largest volunteer ambulance organization with over 1,800 private vehicles. The foundation also owns a couple of private jets, a helicopter and 28 rescue boats. It runs eight free hospitals and several medical units and also provides, free legal aid, to women, children and innocent prisoners. Since its inception, this foundation has rescued more than 20,000 abandoned infants, rehabilitated more than 50,000 orphans and trained more than 40,000 nurses. The foundation also provided technical and religious education to the disadvantaged people like street children, financial and medical support to prisoners and the handicapped. The services have been extended in several countries like USA, UK and Japan. The foundation provided aid to victims of the Gulf war, earthquake and other disasters in Iran, Egypt, US and Nepal.
Despite such a vast charity empire, Edhi all along his life remained a quiet and modest person. His wardrobe never changed from the simple cotton tunics that he wore throughout his life and he lived modestly with his family in a sparsely-furnished room with one bed, adjacent to the main office in a Karachi slum. The millions that were donated to his charity, he didn't spend a single penny on himself and before his death he asked his son that his eyes be donated to a person in need. Edhi cared little about publicity so much so that he used to forget that celebrated Pakistani author Tehmina Durrani had written his biography. Though he received countless honors and awards which include, Ramon Magsaysay Award, Lenin Peace Prize, Gandhi peace award etc but he was not a fan of awards and he often used to say that the work he was doing was bigger than any accolade. "My job is to serve humanity. The work inspires and satisfies me". To steer away from controversies, he never accepted any money from political personalities, religious groups or governments. In October 2015, Edhi turned down an offer of Indian Rs10 million from Prime Minister Narendra Modi after his foundation ensured the return of Geeta-Indian girl who had crossed over the border accidentally and remained in Edhi family for 13 years.
Edhi is really an inspiration for all humanity. In 2014 in an interview with BBC he said that "simplicity, honesty, hard work and punctuality were the cornerstones of his work." It is everyone's responsibility to take care of others, that's what human being means. If more people thought that way, so many problems could be solved," he said. Recently a journalist put a post on his tweeter that " Edhi's war was against prejudice, cruelty. No politics, no fatwas, no greed, just humanity for the sake of humanity". Whether described as "father Teressa" "Angel of Mercy", or a hero of the country, he was truly a real human being and a Messiah for Humanity. Though Edhi was not formally educated but the world of suffering became his real tutor and he truly became an institution for generations to follow. He lived a poor living but the wealth he took with him is unmatched. He surely deserves a Nobel Peace Prize. For the last 65 years, Edhi and his crew were doing the same thing everyday which Malala did only in few days to receive Nobel Peace Prize.
People in Kashmir have little knowledge what Edhi has contributed towards humanity. The Edh's way of life is a great lesson for the whole humanity and we also can derive a lesson for ourselves. We too have welfare and philanthropic organizations, NGO's, consultancies, collecting money in cash and kind, providing services, conducting programs. We have JK Wakf Board with enough financial strength and good administrative network. But so far we have not been able to provide real succor to the needy on large scale. We have more number of widows, orphans and homeless, and the beggars on our streets, but equally, the donation collectors have grown over the time. I don't see any end to these problems. Then, we didn't create any quality institutes or training center or established any quality University. People do not refuse to donate but they hardly trust these organizations. The best solution for this Imbroglio is to follow the noble example of Edhi. We certainly can make this place a paradise on earth.