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Abdul Sattar Edhi laid to rest

10 July, 2016

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KARACHI: Pakistan on Saturday bode farewell to its national hero Abdul Sattar Edhi, the founder of the country’s largest welfare organisation, who died on Friday in Karachi aged 92.

Edhi, whose death was confirmed by his son Faisal, was revered for setting up maternity wards, morgues, orphanages, shelters and homes for the elderly, picking up where limited government-run services fell short.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif announced a state funeral and day of national mourning in honour of the man who owned just two sets of clothes, but whose work uplifting the nation’s destitute and orphans cemented his place in the hearts of Pakistan’s masses.

Edhi, known as a ‘servant of humanity’ and who also ran the world’s largest private ambulance network, was suffering from severe kidney problems, according to his son.

According to an estimate, more than one million people attended Edhi’s funeral. Among those who attended the funeral were President Mamnoon Hussain, Army Chief General Raheel Sharif, Governor of Sindh Ishrat-ul-Ibad Khan, the chief ministers of Sindh and Punjab and many other national politicians, notables and servicemen. Edhi’s coffin, wrapped in the green national flag and covered with pink rose-petals, was carried on a military jeep into the national stadium in Karachi where there was a guard of honour as thousands paid tribute. Security officials said that a 21-gun salute was also offered.

Army Chief Raheel Sharif and Edhi’s son Faisal saluted the coffin as it was carried by soldiers.

More than 3,000 security and traffic police officers were deployed as the coffin was taken for burial to Edhi Village near Karachi’s main National Highway, which Edhi himself had selected as a place for his grave 25 years ago. Born to a family of Muslim traders in Gujarat in British India, Edhi arrived in Pakistan after its creation 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, Edhi, full of idealism and hope, opened his first medical clinic in 1951.

Abandoned children and the elderly, battered women, the disabled, drug addicts; Edhi’s foundation now houses some 5,700 people in 17 shelters across the country. The most prominent symbols of the foundation -- its 1,500 ambulances -- are deployed with unusual efficiency to the scene of extremist attacks that tear through Pakistan with devastating regularity.

The foundation’s adoption service sees unwanted children -- many of them girls -- left in cradles placed in front of every centre, where they can be safely cared for. Edhi has been nominated several times for the Nobel Peace Prize, and appears on the list again this year -- put there by Malala Yousafzai, Pakistan’s teenage Nobel laureate.

Frail and weak in his later years, he appointed his son Faisal as managing trustee in early 2016.

Edhi leaves behind his wife Bilquis and six children. He gave until the very end, his son said, seeking to donate all his body organs after death -- though doctors said that due to his age he could only donate his corneas.

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