Pakistan’s Edhi: A ‘failed state’ and a ‘messiah’

Sattar Edhi

As the Pakistani state failed to fulfill its responsibilities towards its people, the philanthropist Abdul Sattar Edhi filled the vacuum and helped the destitute for over six decades. What legacy does he leave behind?

Pakistan is a country with a huge civilian and military bureaucracy, many state departments and ministries and countless ministers. Yet, the state has failed to deliver to its citizens since its independence from British rule in 1947.

Known as the “Mother Teresa of Pakistan,” Abdul Sattar Edhi was neither a politician nor a rich businessman, but his devotion to and relentless work for the welfare of the underprivileged people of the South Asian country delivered more goods than the Pakistani state could ever manage.

After realizing that the state was not fulfilling its responsibility to provide the basic necessities to its people, Edhi, who passed away in the southern Pakistani city of Karachi on July 8, launched his charity organization as a relief agency. As the security situation in the Islamic country deteriorated in the late 1980s and the early 1990s, Edhi expanded his services to help the victims of terrorism.

Edhi was doing a very difficult job with no help or support from the government, and he did it with a humbleness and grace that the Pakistani people had never witnessed before. He was undaunted by the challenges posed to him by both extremists and state authorities. He lived an austere life and continued his mission, acquiring a saintlike status during his lifetime.

Today, the Edhi Foundation has the largest private ambulance network in South Asia. It runs “public kitchens” that provide free meals every day to thousands of hungry people. Edhi’s charity services also provide shelters to “unwanted children” and the victims of domestic violence.

Edhi’s life, struggle and philosophy will continue to inspire those who want to serve humanity against all odds. His legacy proves that humanity is greater than nationalistic, ethnic and religious affiliations. Millions of poor Pakistanis will continue to benefit from the institutions that Edhi established.

The great philanthropist was laid to rest on July 9, with full honors given to him by the Pakistani state. The civilian and military leadership attended his funeral and gave him a final salute, recognizing his services and contribution to the society.

But Edhi didn’t need any state honor or award. His struggle proved that the state officials were not doing their job. The love and respect that he earned from his countrymen was his true reward.


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