Known as Pakistan’s own ‘Mother Teresa’ renowned philanthropist Abdul Sattar Edhi died on Friday.
Edhi was responsible for setting up of one of Pakistan’s biggest welfare organisations and was revered as a “living saint” by many in the sub-continent.
According to Reuters, the announcement of Edhi’s death triggered a wave of accolades on TV and social media.
Leading the fray was Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who described his death as “a great servant of humanity” adding that the social worker would receive a posthumous presidential medal and a state funeral.
Sharif said, “There are few men who have done as much good, and made as much a difference to the lives and livelihoods of the Pakistani people as Abdul Sattar Edhi.”
Edhi has been ill for several years after suffering kidney failure.
The Pakistani government had offered him to fly abroad for treatment, but he refused, saying he wanted to be treated at a public hospital in his own country.
The Edhi Foundation runs a vast fleet of ambulances both land and aerial, orphanages and medical clinics across the country.
Last year when a devastating heat wave struck Karachi – a city of about 20 million people – the foundation was at the forefront of the response: its ambulances tended to the sick, the Edhi morgue was used to store the dead and many of the poor buried their family members in the Edhi cemetery for free.
Edhi’s funeral on Saturday is expected to be one of the biggest in Pakistan’s history.
“He was a noble soul who dedicated his life in service of mankind,” said Sushma Swaraj, the foreign minister of India, Pakistan’s historic foe.
“PAKISTAN’S MOTHER TERESA”
In a nation often riven by social, ethnic and religious strife, Edhi won respect from every strata of society for an ascetic lifestyle that was devoted to helping the poor regardless of their background.
Edhi lived in a bare room in Karachi, alternating between his two suits of black clothes and occasionally listening to recordings of Koranic verses on a battered old tape recorder.
“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 well-known for berating Islamist groups such as Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) for their attacks on civilians, criticising the government for incompetence and corruption and denouncing the elites for dodging taxes.
His wife, Bilquis, a nurse, oversees the women’s shelters and the adoption of orphans. They have found homes for about 25,000 children.
Edhi’s foundation has provided relief in Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Iran, Sri Lanka, Croatia, Indonesia and in the United States after Hurricane Katrina.
Pakistanis took to Twitter to mourn the death of a national hero many call a “living saint” and “Pakistan’s Mother Teresa”.
“In his death he has united all of Pakistan, across all affiliations, in mourning. That in itself is a measure of his greatness,” said a Twitter user named Imran Khan.