The Unsung Hero of Pakistan
When I went to middle school, which promised many attractions such as a school canteen and a cricket field, I fondly remember my mummy giving me one hundred rupees every day for lunch while saying, “Fifty is for you and the remaining is for any hungry student you can find”. Years later while reading about Abdul Satar Edhi, I got to know that this was the habit of Edhi’s mother who wanted her son to become a generous and big-hearted person. Since that very day, I have been fairly inspired and motivated by Abdul Satar Edhi, keeping a regular check on his works while taking every possible step to ensure that his cause, legacy, and organization never fall. Therefore, today, I will be analyzing the “Edhi Foundation”, the brainchild of Abdul Satar himself by emphasizing their mission, projects, funding sources, and reputation amongst the society in itself, impact in the civil society and what does the future hold for them?
Edhi Foundation is not only the most prestigious foundation across Pakistan but also one of the best social welfare service providers across the world operating without commercial, political or communal incentives without any discrimination between race, class, or ethnicity. The numerous fields in which Abdul Sattar Edhi played his greatest role for were placing cradles outside the Edhi centers to save the lives of thousands of infants, fostering abandoned babies and children, free nurturing of handicapped people, feeding and looking after women and elderly people who were neglected by their families, free medication and medicines through his mobile dispensaries, hospitals, and the diabetic center at Karachi (“OUR SERVICES.”).
In addition to above, the foundation offers services like providing land, air, and marine ambulance services during accidents to transfer patients to hospitals, national and international relief and aid assistance to those affected by natural disasters, providing relief aid to refugees in numerous states, providing emergency services to the sufferers of drought, fire, and flood, saving the lives of drowned people added with recovering dead bodies from the seas and floods, free rehabilitation of drug addicts, locating missing people, arranging marriages for the helpless couples, providing free food, clothing, and shelter to needy people.
Under the “High Way” project, plans were initiated to construct five hundred Edhi Centres to cover a sizeable population on all highways and major link-roads of Pakistan in a systematic order. Currently, centers not only provide first aid to accident victims but also facilitate their transfer to nearby hospitals. Moreover, these centers are being used for providing medical facilities in rural and semi-urban areas where people do not have access to proper medical facilities. Furthermore, they provide ambulance service at nominal charges, vaccinate new-born babies and children against diseases, etc. Approximately two hundred and fifty patients daily can be catered with the various dispensaries at the centers for medical assistance (“OUR SERVICES.”).
‘Edhi Home’, commonly known as “Apna Ghar”, is a home for the mentally ill destitute, for orphans and runaways with a total of 13 such homes in the country. A mentally ill or homeless becomes a member of Edhi’s family once he enters its premises. All expenses ranging from boarding, clothing, and lodging are free of cost. If a person dies within these homes, the burial arrangements are made by the Foundation according to the religious rites of the deceased. Moreover, the Edhi foundation does not rely on only one source of income for its maintenance. While the Edhi family has funded almost all of its assets for the Foundation, both the public and the government support the organization by providing resources through donations and grants (“OUR SERVICES.”).
Needless to say, Abdul Satar Edhi’s organization is considered one of the most credible with an outstanding number of awards and honors dedicated to him. Edhi Foundation not only holds the Guinness World Record for Largest Voluntary Ambulance Organization of the World but also Ramon Magsaysay Award for promoting public service along with Peace Prize Award from the Soviet Union for their services in Armenia earthquake (“OUR SERVICES.”). At an individual level, Edhi was awarded one of the most decorated civilian award “Nishan-e-Imtiaz” by the Government of Pakistan in light of his contributions for the state as a whole along with the international ISA award for social welfare (“Edhi Foundation Awarded Isa Award for Service to Humanity.”). In short, the perception of the society is that this particular organization is one of the most transparent, efficient, and effective with milestones that are unparalleled (“Pakistani Philanthropist Abdul Sattar Edhi Dies Aged 88.”).
In terms of social capital, the reputation of the Edhi Foundation remains unprecedented. His dedication and commitment to the cause have convinced the society as a whole that he’s trustworthy especially considering the large sums of money he overlooks but his lifestyle was fairly modest. The organization is fairly dependent upon volunteer work and donations from the masses, and the successful operation of the Foundation is considered a fair reflection of the belief expressed by the masses on Edhi. During the lockdown initiated due to the Corona outbreak, the children who grew up at Edhi homes were at the frontline of helping the community by initiating volunteer work (Ousat). Those who once didn’t have proper shelter for themselves proved to be a shield for their fellow citizens against Corona Virus. While religious extremists targeted Edhi several times for his efforts to help and emphasize with people from different religions, it did not stop him at all in his universal service of mankind (“Pakistani Philanthropist Abdul Sattar Edhi Dies Aged 88.”). Moreover, he further improved the socio-political environment of our community by preaching the possibility of women empowerment with his act of providing females with jobs at his Foundation. His persistence to persuade the Government to grant orphans National Identity cards were also hailed globally and the orphans finally felt like proper citizens with equal rights (“14 Things to Know about Abdul Sattar Edhi.” ).
The extent of social work for this organization is not limited to state borders or religious grounds. Over the last couple of decades, our foreign relations with countries such as Afghanistan and Bangladesh have been fairly complicated with several issues preventing closure to one another despite common religion. In these circumstances, organizations such as Edhi Foundation can mend the broken ties with their humanitarian services such as refugee support in Afghanistan and flood relief efforts for Bangladesh which depict the empathetic, soft side of our nation. Similarly, international activities for the help of Armenians and Somalians (in the past) showcase that humanity over religious background sowing the seeds of international cooperation and increased globalization, hence positively contributing to the geopolitical dynamics.
The person commonly known as “farishta” by millions who approached him for help, was truly a man ahead of his time. Unwavering determination to promote the noble cause of service to humanity despite threats from the extremist circles of the society, Edhi served the humanity without any hesitation proving to be the greatest source of strength, support, and assistance for the poor and needy in such an era where empathy and care seem to be absent in most. Going into the future, there are doubts raised as to whether the Foundation would continue to operate the way it used to as even Faisal Edhi admitted that ever since the death of Edhi, donations have significantly decreased with tougher times leading to the sale of some of their assets.
While today, our world is involved in a web of propaganda revolving around religion and sectarian difference, driving a wedge between the different communities, dismantling the little chances we had for national unity, the fact remains that at the end of the day all of us are Pakistanis. The white part in our flag is meant to represent the minorities situated within the borders of this beloved nation. Even this unsung hero was accused of being an “improper” Muslim, based on his acts for serving minorities and people belonging to other religions. However, the criticism did not influence the angel who carried out his work with unwavering determination, bearing the criticism with his subtle attitude. He is also quoted to have said, “So, many years later there were many who still complained and questioned, ‘Why must you pick up Christians and Hindus in your ambulance?’ And I was saying, ‘Because the ambulance is more Muslim than you’.” Similarly, on another occasion, he claimed, “No religion is higher than humanity.” While we may celebrate Edhi Sahab for being the pride of Pakistan, we tend to cast a blind eye to some of his beautiful acts and deeds. If only we learned about humanitarianism from Edhi himself, maybe then we wouldn’t have murdered Christians for buying houses in Muslim localities or misused blasphemy laws for driving out minorities away from their settlements.