Abdul Sattar Edhi – Greatest humanitarian and guardian angel to Pakistan’s poor, homeless and uncared Pakistanis is no more

KARACHI (Pakistan) – Legendary humanitarian and Edhi Foundation Chairman Abdul Sattar Edhi passed away at the age of 88 in Karachi on Friday night.

Edhi’s family announced his death and his son, Faisal Edhi, asked all people to “pray for the departed soul” of his father.

“He wished to be buried in the same clothes he used to wear. He also wanted to donate his body parts, but only his cornea can be donated as rest of the organs were not in healthy condition,” said Faisal Edhi.

Revered by many as a national hero, Mr Edhi created a charitable empire out of nothing. He masterminded Pakistan’s largest welfare organisation almost single-handedly, entirely with private donations.

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 AFP in an interview this year.

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

Mr Edhi has been nominated several times for the Nobel Peace Prize, and appeared on the list again this year – put there by Malala Yousafzai, Pakistan’s teenage Nobel laureate.

Edhi’s journey

Born to a family of traders in Gujarat, Mr Edhi arrived in Pakistan 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 sticky streets in the heart of Karachi, Mr Edhi, full of idealism and hope, opened his first clinic in 1951. “Social welfare was my vocation, I had to free it,” he says in his autobiography, ‘A Mirror To The Blind’.

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

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