Pakistan is always in the news for the wrong reasons and Pakistanis are often disillusioned by the lack of a hero. Traditionally, a hero is supposed to be a person who is larger than life. Someone who is bold, outspoken, charismatic, confident, and defies the status quo. Someone who enjoys the limelight and willingly hands their life over to the public. It is no wonder then that we forget that we have a true hero living among our midst – the greatest humanitarian the world has seen – Dr. Abdul Sattar Edhi.
Dr. Abdul Sattar Edhi or Edhi as he is popularly known is a most unassuming man who has received little to no formal education but who has single-handedly changed the face of welfare in Pakistan. Edhi’s story began with a mere sum of $50 in his pocket, a one-man, one-room operation and over the past 60 years the Edhi Foundation has expanded its reach and its range of services. It has:
- rescued over 20,000 abandoned infants
- rehabilitated over 50,000 orphans
- trained over 40,000 nurses
- runs over 330 welfare centers in rural and urban Pakistan which operate as soup kitchens, rehabilitation homes, shelters for abandoned women and children and clinics for the mentally challenged
According to the Guinness World Records, the Edhi Foundation has the largest private ambulance service network in the world. It also owns air ambulances, providing quick access to far-flung areas. In Karachi alone, the Edhi Foundation runs 8 hospitals providing free medical care, eye hospitals, diabetic centers, surgical units, a 4- bed cancer hospital and mobile dispensaries. In addition to these the Foundation also manages 2 blood banks in Karachi.
Edhi is a man who has dedicated his life to every poor, disadvantaged, underprivileged person in the world. He has worked for human causes in 73 countries around the world asking for nothing in return. He does what he does simply for the love of humanity or insaniyat. He says:
Insaniyat is the only religion. I am a Muslim and I do what God has asked me to do. The only message of religion is that humanity is one. Nowadays, the world has become so big that we find ways to divide it up, but that’s what destroys us-divisions, divisions, divisions.
Edhi receives a lot of fanfare and adulation from all corners but stays away from the media. He has grown tired of all the attention he gets and the lack of impact it creates. So when two budding filmmakers wanted to shoot a documentary on him, he refused to be filmed except on one condition. As the filmmakers Omar Mullick and Bassam Tariq put it, his challenge was this:
If we wanted to know him, we should go to the ordinary people who work for him and whom he serves. If wanted to know his story, it was there
That is the true philosophy of Edhi. That is the power of his love for humanity and the work he does. The filmmakers lived up to this challenge and have developed a visually stunning, highly acclaimed documentary ‘These Birds Walk‘.
Today we received news that both of Edhi’s kidneys have failed, but there is no stopping this saint of a man. He is expected to live on dialysis for the rest of his years and thanks God for his health. He announced that he would donate all his other organs upon his death. He says:
It is normal to live without proper kidneys. I came here to live and serve people and even when I am no longer alive I will live in parts in many people’s bodies
To see a human being as a human being without being cloaked by prejudice is a difficult task, one that Edhi carries out effortlessly. He inspires us by his work, his passion, his commitment and humility. Get well soon Edhi sahib. This world needs more people like you.