Anyone who knows the name Edhi, they will tell you that Abdul Sattar Edhi was a great man. He was one of the greatest men not only in Pakistan but perhaps across the whole world. Edhi started welfare services in 1951. As the founder of the Edhi Foundation, he and the organization became famous for running the largest volunteer ambulance network in the world.
Mr. Edhi passed away at the age of 88 on July 8, 2016. While some have called him as the “Mother Teresa” of Pakistan, others argue that his mission was much more than that.
Edhi foundation is run entirely with the help of volunteers. There are around six thousand volunteers, comprising of zonal heads, workers at several Edhi Homes, clerks at Edhi Centers, workers at maternity homes and ambulance drivers. Abdul Sattar Edhi’s existence served as a beacon of hope for those who bore first-hand witnesses to injustice and inequality.
Some called him a saint, a rather apposite title, while others often referred to him as ‘Pakistan’s Mother Teresa, but everyone agreed that he was a beacon of light and hope to all that needed ray of light in their darkness. He was the only hope of the poor, and the very needy.
At the tender age of eleven, Edhi’s mother became paralyzed and after suffering from a major stroke. The young Edhi devoted himself to her care and took on the role of feeding, bathing, and clothing her daily while responding to any and every call and necessity she required. Her deteriorating mental and physical condition left a strong and lasting impact on Edhi’s mind. As a result, he dropped out of school and strictly focused on his mother’s health. Edhi’s mother died when he was nineteen in 1947. Her death made him reflect on others around him who were suffering from similar illnesses. After his family moved to Pakistan later that year, Edhi established a free dispensary with the help of other community members.
Edhi began to recruit medical students to support his cause. The newly formed Edhi Foundation came to prominence by distinguishing itself in public service during the Asian Flu Pandemic of 1957.
“When my ambulance takes a wounded person who is in pain to the hospital, when people reach the hospital, I find peace in knowing I helped an injured person who was in pain,” Edhi told Reuters in an interview in 2013. “My mission is to love human beings … Each day is the best day of my life.”
Edhi was never afraid to speak out against corporate greed and political mendacity and always engaged in international affairs, providing support during the 1985 Ethiopian famine and raising $100,000 for the victims of Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana in 2005.
Edhi was born as a Muslim, however he never allowed faith to interfere in his focus on humanity. Once asked why he helped non-Muslims, he answered simply: “Because my ambulance is more Muslim than you.”
He is also well-known for saying, “People have become educated… but have yet to become human.”
Abdul Sattar Edhi died of kidney failure on July 8, 2016, leaving behind his wife of 52 years, Bilquis, a former nurse, and four offspring. And he also left behind the 20,000 other children he was registered as the parent or legal guardian of at the time of his death.
Rest in Peace Mr. Edhi – Your life, legacy and humanity will be remembered by generations to come.