An organ of the American Institute of International Studies (AIIS), Fremont, CA

Current_Issue_Nregular_1_1 Archives
Your_comments Legal

Your donation
is tax deductable.

Journal of America Team:

 Editor in chief: 
Abdus Sattar Ghazali

 Managing Editor:
Mertze Dahlin   

Senior Editor:
Arthur Scott

Syed Mahmood book
Front page title small

Journal of America encourages independent
thinking and honest discussions on national & global issues


Disclaimer and Fair Use Notice: Many articles on this web site are written by independent individuals or organizations. Their opinions do not necessarily reflect those of the Journal of America and its affiliates. They are put here for interest and reference only. More details

July 10, 2016

The legacy of Pakistan's 'Father Teresa' Abdul Sattar Edhi

By Abdus Sattar Ghazali

Abdul Sattar Edhi, a celebrated famed philanthropist who achieved a saintly status in Pakistan has passed away at the age of 88 on July 8 in Karachi. He had been undergoing treatment for renal failure.

Motivated by a spiritual quest for justice, over the years Edhi and his team created maternity wards, morgues, orphanages, shelters and homes for the elderly – all aimed at helping those who cannot help themselves.

He once said “my religion is humanitarianism, which is the basis of every religion in the world. No religion is higher than humanity. Beware of those who attribute petty instructions to God.”

In a country where government run services have been glaringly ill equipped to deal with humanitarian crises, Edhi’s social welfare system has become a trusted household name.

The most prominent symbols of the Edhi foundation – its 1,500 ambulances – are deployed with unusual efficiency to the scene of terrorist attacks that tear through the country with devastating regularity.

Revered by many as a national hero, Edhi created a charitable empire out of nothing. He masterminded Pakistan’s largest welfare organization almost single-handedly, entirely with private donations. His name became synonymous with charitable causes.

Edhi had done extensive work in the field of social service including formation of the Edhi village 25 years ago. The village served as a home to the homeless, destitute, street children, elderly, abandoned babies and addicts.

One of the small girl brought to his shelter home 15 years ago was Geeta, a deaf-mute girl from India who accidentally crossed over to Pakistan. She was adopted by Edhi’s wife Bilquees and lived with her in Karachi. Geeta, now 23, was returned to India in October 2015. Geeta's homecoming was seen as a rare example of humanitarian cooperation between the two hostile nuclear neighbors.

Since its inception, the Edhi Foundation has rescued over 20,000 abandoned infants, rehabilitated over 50,000 orphans and has trained over 40,000 nurses.

It has run relief operations in Africa, Middle East, the Caucasus region, Eastern Europe and United States where it provided aid following Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

He was referred to as Pakistan's version of Mother Teresa by India Today in 1990, and the BBC wrote that he was considered "Pakistan's most respected figure and was seen by some as almost a saint."

To many, Edhi was known as the “Father Teresa” of Pakistan.

In a nation often riven by social, ethnic and religious strife, Edhi won respect from every strata of society for an ascetic lifestyle that was devoted to helping the poor regardless of their background.

What he has established is something of a safety net for the poor and destitute, mobilizing the nation to donate and help take action – filling a gap left by a lack of welfare state.

His work earned him numerous awards at home and abroad, including the Gandhi Peace Award, the 2007 UNESCO Madanjeet Singh Prize, the 2011 London Peace Award, the 2008 Seoul Peace Award and the Hamdan Award for Volunteers in Humanitarian Medical Service.

Edhi has been nominated several times for the Nobel Peace Prize, and appeared on the list again this year.

Edhi was born in 1928 in Bantva in the Gujarat, British India. When he was eleven, his mother became paralyzed from a stroke and she died when Edhi was 19. His personal experiences and care for his mother during her illness, caused him to develop a system of services for old, mentally ill and challenged people. The partition of India led Edhi and his family to migrate to Pakistan in 1947.

Edhi initially sold cloth in Karachi’s wholesale market, but he soon gave up the trade to start a free medical dispensary. The seeds of his devotion to social work were sown in his teenage years, when his mother became paralyzed and mentally ill. Edhi tended to her every need until she died when he was 19. He never completed his high school education.

Content with just two sets of clothes, he slept in a windowless room of white tiles adjoining the office of his charitable foundation. Sparsely equipped, it had just one bed, a sink and a hotplate.

“He never established a home for his own children,” his wife Bilquis, who manages the foundation’s homes for women and children, told the press recently.

Edhi was laid to rest in the clothes he died in, and buried in a grave he himself dug several years earlier at the Edhi cemetery near Karachi. He was given a state funeral attended by President of Pakistan Mamnoon Hussein and Army Chief General Raheel Shareef among other prominent personalities of Pakistan. It was the first state funeral since the death of military dictator General Zia ul-Haq in 1988.

Abdus Sattar Ghazali is the Chief Editor of the Journal of America.