What is Abdul Sattar Edhi going to do now?

Published: October 21, 2014

And so it goes. Edhi abbu he is. A father figure for Pakistanis. PHOTO: Screen shot from ‘Seerat 4: Philanthropist – Abdul Sattar Edhi – by Ali Kapadia’

There’s something about Abdul Sattar Edhi that makes Pakistanis feel safe… almost protected, like a child feels with a parent around. He is old and frail and sickly. But he is there. He is alive. And till he is alive, we have hope. We have hope that goodness prevails, and that there exist those we can look up to.

With Edhi around, we have an elder.

This August 14th, I happened to celebrate Pakistan’s Independence Day with children from the Edhi home who were attending an event held for them.

“Edhi abbu got us these clothes for Youm-e-Azadi,” said a 14 year old, smugly flaunting a bright green shirt and white pants and shoes, the pants with bits of grass and soil smudged on to it as the kid was sitting on the lawn.

And so it goes. Edhi abbu he is. A father figure for Pakistanis.

The man is one person the country’s leftists and rightists and centrists agree on. Thus, Edhi has done more than raise abandoned babies and feed the hungry and lift laawaris laashain. He has not built bridges – he IS a bridge in an otherwise exceedingly polarised society. Pakistanis are like estranged siblings a lot of times; we are united in our gratitude towards Edhi abbu.

The common responses to Edhi and his staff being held on gunpoint and looted of gold and cash worth around Rs 30million had reactions that went like this:


“Don’t know what to say.”

“Edhi hum sharminda hain.”

“ Edhi Sahab we don’t deserve you.”

“May those who did this to you rot in hell.”

The most heart-wrenching was him saying in an interview,

“I am heartbroken.”

The nation’s intelligentsia and literati are still reeling from the post-Noble Prize discussions over whether Malala deserved the prize or not. And those who were from the Malala camp saw this as an opportunity to even scores with those who had dared to question the young girl’s win and had dared to say that Edhi would have been a more deserving candidate.

“Why don’t all those who wanted Edhi to win make up for his loss now?” was a common sentiment on the vent-ground called Twitter.

But then, what do we expect from a people that have been through what Pakistanis have?

The marauders, mind you, were a sample part of the whole. And the whole has suffered, and continues to. There is corruption, insecurity and a lack of governance and that is costing us lives, honours and sanities.

A few examples stating the obvious: we lose 92000 children annually to Pneumonia because they do not have access to a vaccine that can save them. In the last one month we have seen 40 plus new cases of Polio. In 2013, 1600 plus Pakistani women were killed in the name of honour. Just last month, a girl withdrew charges of gang rape against a minster’s sons. Our maternal mortality rates are almost the highest in the region. Some one million IDPs have dimming hopes of returning home before harsh winter sets in. Our mothers kill their children and commit suicide as the hunger is too much, and at the other end our affluent class bathes in wealth. Our politicians continue to pledge service to the masses in public, and continue to spew powerful narratives that fuel anger. Ironically, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari’s Karachi jalsa and the promised historic speech was hours ahead of Edhi Sahib being looted, and was a case in point.

We are an angry, intolerant nation. And those dacoits were a part of us. Why, then, the naive surprise? They saw money, and they decided to loot it. It was may be too trusting of Edhi Sahab to think they would not do this to him. He should have learnt a thing or two from our political leaders and kept the money somewhere no one can touch it. Money is money. It’s tempting, everyone wants it, and is out to get it. And in this quest, they are not even going to spare a man who is an emblem of humanity.

So what is Abdul Sattar Edhi going to do now?

Well, he is going to do exactly what he has been doing. He will pick up the pieces of a broken heart, and continue to try and put in his share of healing the aches and pains of humanity, as a good Pakistani and as a human par excellence. If we have any respect for him and have learnt anything from him, then we must do the same. We cannot let hope wilt, and cannot become jaded cynics saying “nothing’s going to get better”.

I can make myself better, can’t I?

Farahnaz Zahidi

Farahnaz Zahidi

A writer and editor, who has worked as a Features Editor with The Express Tribune. Her focus is human-centric feature stories. She now writes as a freelancer, and works as a media trainer and communications practitioner. She tweets as @FarahnazZahidi (twitter.com/farahnazzahidi?lang=en).

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • suresh

    what a good country.Recommend

  • Dajjal

    “What is Abdul Sattar Edhi going to do now?”

    Probably going to immigrate to Canada or AustraliaRecommend

  • Parvez

    You said what needed to be said…..thank you.
    When I read the title I said to myself ……. everyone knows the answer to that one, but after reading your piece I realised how necessary it was to actually SAY it.Recommend

  • Dr Faheem Ahmed

    Wrong question madam. What is Pakistan going to do ? And we know the answer. Nothing. We have been talking for years about a need for a huge change but we talk and do nothing. This country is rotten because the people are apathetic, selfish, illiterate and basically rotten. Admit it and start from there. Teach the people basic morality. Don’t steal. Don’t lie. Don’t be emotional. Don’t kill people who think differently rom you.Recommend

  • Talha

    @ Author: Kudos to you for writing such a beautiful piece but sadly, i am one of those cynics you mentioned in your writeup.

    I so want life to be better for the people of this country but on the other hand everyone is trying to loot/ mug/ suck the life out of this motherland. Whether you have a good blue collar job or you work on the streets; we have tuned ourselves to the fact that there is no one or authority who can actually stop making us Invincible. As you mentioned, surely i can change as an individual and try to do better and should give back to the society as all the progressive nations do but I can only do to a certain level and will surely hit my ceiling one day! Individuals do influence society just like our “Mighty Heart” Edhi Sahab but there are only handful of people in the world who have dedicated their entire lives for the betterment of mankind.

    My point is, the access to Justice in our country is so derogatory that people take matters into their own hands which makes our society so intolerant. Every Individual in our country whether rich or poor try to bend rules according to their own will and as disappointing it already is the most ironic thing is they will surely have justification of their wrong doing!

    Lastly, i support you and surely “I can make myself better” but can I?

    God Bless!Recommend

  • Ali Akbar Shah

    “What is Abdul Sattar Edhi going to do now?”

    Excuse me! Has anything unusual happened?
    Well, I don’t think so… Has Edhi Sahb not been witnessing the extreme callousness and merciless attitude of this society when he picks the abandoned child from the waste or when he picks the ruthlessly killed dead body of a person or when he watches the perpetrators making sins blatantly. So If this time around it has happened to Edhi Sahb, then this is same dot of that big chain. Yes surely we feel greater shock because we held him very high and we all believe he is true living saint. But we must deal this problem in a wider perspective.
    Indeed it is very true, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”Recommend

  • Maximus Decimus Meridius

    I watched his interview on the news and i could not imagine a more heart wrenching spectacle. The man is truly a miracle. What makes his greatness a thousandfold in my view is the pinned tweet on his account
    Here is a direct copy paste in case the pinned has been changed when this comment goes through
    “Eventually when these robbers will be gunned down someday, it will be only #Edhi providing them kaffan and transport. We dont discriminate”Recommend

  • Sohaib

    You should first realize this is not actually his account. Its a tribute to him. Not his official or real account. Not saying that Edhi would do any differentRecommend

  • sursh

    where is this nation inching towards ? Am an Indian and i invite you Sir with broken heart ” Please come to our nation Sir”Recommend

  • suresh

    he is one among the symbols of Pakistan. where is this nation is inching towards?.with all respect and broken heart “i invite you sir to our nation India”Recommend

  • suresh

    No doubt it is conspiracy of RAWRecommend

  • Fareed Khan Afridi.

    Do not worry about Edhi.
    Ever think of that?
    But your friends at ET the hindu moderators,
    will not print this. Because they hate Pakistan

    and Muslims. And they give a platform in ET to
    paid hindu trolls to abuse Pak readers.Recommend

  • Sane

    Thanks. Better than yours.Recommend

  • Sane

    If he comes to your country you will burn him alive like you have done with many Muslims.Recommend

  • Maximus Decimus Meridius

    yeah i saw that written on the account. But tbh what he wrote if pretty accurate. not even the near and dear come to claim the bodies of those who are shot by the police during encounters and it is foundations like Edhi who bury them.Recommend

  • Dajjal

    Besides what this Hindu/Muslim nonsense? I am neither… the only thing evident from you comment is your appalling level of ignorance and bigotry.Recommend

  • suresh

    then how do we have world second largest muslim population. dont be childish.Recommend

  • suresh

    whole world knew who is betterRecommend

  • suresh

    dont be childish. then how do we have second largest muslim populatiion, Nice that Edhi is not shot at head like Malala .Otherwise you could secured yet another noble prise. What a way get world attention.Recommend

  • suresh

    whole world knew who is better.Recommend

  • Maulana Maulvi

    Salute to this great man. May Allah reward you for your selfless deeds!Recommend