Obama-Osama dilemma: I choose Edhi

Published: May 7, 2011

Perhaps we can find Mr Edhi as our ideal, who has fought repression by saving rather than taking innocent lives.

The news of Osama Bin Laden’s death was broken to the world by US President Barack Obama on Sunday. However, the covert operation to kill Bin Laden was undertaken thousands of miles away in an upscale town of Pakistan.

On paper, it seems fitting that the country where Bin Laden was hiding should have taken part in the secret operation, but with regards to this particular incident, the US simply did not trust Pakistan.  CIA director Leon Panetta said on Tuesday that Pakistan could jeopardise the mission and “alert the targets” if Islamabad took part in the mission.

Many will cite this incidence as yet another blow to Pakistan’s sovereignty and honour. Initially, President Asif Ali Zardari eagerly informed the world that Pakistan participated in the operation, only to retract his statement later. Furthermore, the contentious allegations of Panetta might be a blot on Pakistan’s credibility but there is no room for whining and self-pity.

The fact that our nation is shown little or no respect is not only due to America’s arrogance and our politician’s misjudgements, but also due to dishonesty on our part. We the people are lazy, ill-informed and inflammatory. Although, this latest episode may have severe repercussions for Pakistan, we as a society had already degenerated to low levels of integrity. Hundreds of people have been killed in Karachi due to the ongoing gang violence; killings and abductions continue in Balochistan; corruption and domestic crime are rampant; the Taliban are on a bombing spree; the list goes on. Our misfortune seems to be a symptom of a wider malice: collective irresponsibility.

Lack of collective responsibility

Angelika Pathak (Amnesty International, South Asia) spoke of her organisation’s inability to help disadvantaged Pakistanis during Protect Human Week at Warwick. She focused on the longstanding issue of innumerable missing people in Pakistan,

“What worries me is the complete non-accountability of those responsible for these missing people,”

Angelika remarked during her talk,

“It is not only unfortunate that families are left clueless about their loved ones, more saddening is the fact that the perpetrators are given refuge in countries like the UK.”

Angelika was accompanied by Nawaz Hanif, a British born Pakistani, whose father spent four years on death row in Pakistan. Hanif exclaimed,

“My father’s only mistake was to help a dying man.”

The family of the man, whom Hanif’s father had helped, registered a FIR against him. After gruelling him for four years, it was found that the deceased was a victim of a family feud and Hanif’s father was finally released.

“Police used to say, “It’s our right to extort money from our wealthy brothers living abroad.” They not only extorted money, they took our father away from us.”

But, Hanif importantly remarked,

“My father’s story ended on a good note. However for many people falsely accused of a crime, the story ends under the hang man’s noose.”

Despite the subsequent governments’ claim of ‘bold’ and ‘radical’ steps to oust injustice, human rights violations take place consistently and we the people have become indifferent. This indifference is yet another symptom of the collective irresponsibility.

Hope for the future

However, not everyone whines and expresses anguish over this bleak scenario. Although the shrines of Sufi saints like Syed Sakhi Sarwar have been brutally attacked, one living saint refuses to bow down to criminal tactics. Peter Oborne of Channel 4 recently wrote a wonderful piece detailing his visit to this saint,

“In the course of my duties as a reporter, I have met presidents, prime ministers and reigning monarchs. Until meeting the Pakistani social worker Abdul Sattar Edhi, I had never met a saint. Within a few moments of shaking hands, I knew I was in the presence of moral and spiritual greatness.”

For decades, Mr Edhi has braved the violent and nihilistic legacy of organised crime, political killings, assault against women and more recently, suicide bombings. He started off his humanitarian organisation ‘Edhi’ by feeding the poor and burying unclaimed dead bodies. Now, his foundation has orphanages, drug rehabilitation centres, women shelters and an ambulance network spread around the country. His servitude to humanitarian work knows no bounds. While we as a nation cannot agree what Jinnah’s vision for Pakistan was, Mr Edhi lives that vision.

Peter Oborne accentuated this point in his column,

“The story of Mr Edhi coincides with the history of the Pakistan state. More than any other living figure, he articulates Jinnah’s vision of a country which, while based on Islam, nevertheless offers a welcome for people of all faiths and sects.”

To be sure what Bin Laden and the US has done to Pakistan is perverse. Both have, in their own ways, terrorised Pakistan consistently in the last decade. Killing of innocent civilians, whether it’s done by a man with brown skin, white clothes in a dark cave or a man with white skin, dark clothes, in a the Whitehouse, is reprehensible. But simply feeling sorrowful that the ‘bad guys’ have wronged us again will do us no good. We made ourselves so vulnerable that firebrand individuals and selfish nations made our country their battleground. Therefore, it is us who can (and should) rekindle the Pakistan, as dreamt by our forefathers.

For those who praised Bin Laden’s fight against repression, they were grossly mistaken. Perhaps they can find Mr Edhi as their ideal, who fought repression by saving rather than taking innocent lives.


Hassan Talal Maitla

A student of economics at the University of Warwick and the President of the university's Islamic Society

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

  • Disco Molvi

    The picture accompanying the article is distasteful. What’s a great man like Abdul Sattar Edhi doing sandwiched between two douche bags?Recommend

  • Z. Akbar

    Mr Edhi for President!Recommend

  • http://Karachi Kazmis

    I appreciate the views of the writer. Just because that A Warrior was sitting with pregnant women since last five years and the other was picking up the dead and wounded innocents from the streets will all tolerance and dignity.Recommend

  • Minto

    Radicals have really degraded the serene image of Islam. Kudos to Abdul Sattar Edhi for upholding the true image of this beautiful religion.Recommend

  • http://www.pkhope.com Maleeha Khan

    A good write up!Recommend

  • http://nuclearsupremacyforindiaoverus.blogspot.com Satish Chandra

    With all the criminals, jews and non-jews, the United States is harboring, justice will not be done without its coast-to-coast destruction; I am India’s expert in strategic defence and the father of its strategic program including the Integrated Guided Missile Development Program and my blog titled ‘Nuclear Supremacy For India Over U.S.’, which can be found by a Yahoo search with the title, shows how India will do it. Satish ChandraRecommend

  • Nurmomad

    Excellent piece Talal. Thanks Tribune for posting this.Recommend

  • Saadia Khan

    Very nice article and thought provoking. Can i request you to write this in Urdu and have it published in urdu newspapers as well. It would be nice if these thoughts are read by the masses as well. Thank you !!!Recommend

  • Asad Baig

    Very Well Written. Edhi is a True Role Model for Everyone in Pakistan.Recommend

  • Hafeez Ishak

    It is my firm belief that Mr. Edhi deserves a lot more respect and recognition then it has been given to him. I salute Mr. Edhi for the work he has done over the years. As far as the comment by Disco Molvi about Obama, it is totally unfounded. There are a lot of us here in the United States that understand President Obama. We study and research before making a comment, and I am talking about folks that are unbiased and independents. There are a lots of us that are neither Democrats nor Republicans. We just seek the facts and then as a result of those substantive facts respect President Obama.

    Hafeez IshakRecommend

  • Syed Hussein El-Edroos

    Every word to the point especially about Mr Edhi. Well writtenRecommend

  • SaraKhan

    I want to raise only one point from my politicians and establishment.

    Why 3.5 million afghans are still here in our country?

    They have purchased properties, they have pakistnai passport and pakistani id cards on what bases?Recommend

  • Hassan Talal Maitla

    @Saadia Khan: Thanks for the suggestion. You are right, English newspapers are read only by a small minority. I will endeavor to write a similar themed piece in an Urdu newspaper.Recommend

  • Anurag Sharma

    It really is a great thing that individuals like Abdul Sattar Edhi exist in this world. History is full of certain individuals who have made real differences to the society they live. Even though I am very much with Mr Edhi’s cause, I feel in today’s world it is very difficult to fight the system unless you are backed by someone in the political hierarchy.

    A recommendation: How about having “The good, the bad and the ugly” as your article title? lolRecommend

  • Minto

    @Sara Khan: Would you ask the same question to Bristish politicians in regard to over a million Pakistanis living in Britain? Ofcourse many of them have been granted British passport after spending 14 years illegally in the UK.Recommend

  • Minto

    @Anurag: I humbly disagree with you regarding your comment on having support from a political hierarchy to fight corruption in the system. As in Mr Edhi’s case, he has the support of millions of Pakistanis. You just need the intention to help the needy and poor and God paves the way for you.Recommend

  • seeker

    Edhi for noble peace prize, 2012.Recommend

  • Ali Akbar Khan

    Give me Edhi as President of Pakistan any day. He should first get rid of the Army brass and the corrupt politicians of yesteryear and fill cabinet posts with those who have worked in his organization and know the face of human suffering, irrespective of religious bias..Recommend

  • I Owe Edhi

    Edhi has been the reason i am in this world!! Thank you Edhi Sahab for having such a big great heart without bias. I owe my life to you. I will pass on this to someone else who deserves help. :)Recommend