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Pakistan's 'Mother Teresa' Abdul Sattar Edhi dies, accorded state funeral

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  10 July 2016 12:00 AM GMT

ISLAMABAD, July 9: Celebrated Pakistani philanthropist Abdul Sattar Edhi, founder of the non-profit Edhi Foundation that provided succour to millions of poor and destitute over the years, has died at a hospital in Karachi. He was 88. The Edhi Foundation also looked after an Indian hearing and speech-impaired girl, Geeta for over a decade, before she was returned to India in October last year. Edhi, who passed away at the Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation in Karachi of kidney failure, high blood pressure and diabetes on Friday night, was given a state funeral at the tiol Stadium on Saturday. The funeral prayers in Karachi were attended by top military and political leadership, including President Mamnoon Hussain, Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, amid tight security. There was a guard of honour for Edhi before the funeral prayers began.

Pakistan Prime Minister waz Sharif, who is returning from London on Saturday evening, announced a state funeral and a day of tiol mourning in honour of Edhi, who was known as Pakistan’s Mother Teresa. “We have lost a great servant of humanity,” Sharif said in a statement. “He was the real manifestation of love for those who were socially vulnerable, impoverished, helpless and poor. This loss is irreparable for the people of Pakistan.”

Edhi’s son Qutab Meer could not attend the funeral as he is abroad, his son Faisal said, adding that Meer could not reach on time. Edhi’s body will be flown to Edhi village where the philanthropist will be laid to rest. He would be buried with the tiol flag wrapped around his coffin and accorded a police guard of honour. Edhi is to be laid to rest in a grave that he had himself dug, in the clothes he was wearing at the time of his death, as per his wish. Edhi was born to a family of traders in what was then the Bombay Presidency in undivided India on January 1, 1924, and arrived in Pakistan in 1947. He headed a foundation which supported thousands of needy people and children. He was conferred several tiol awards for his services to humanity. The Edhi Foundation is one of Pakistan’s largest public welfare organisations and runs one of the biggest fleets of ambulances, dozens of clinics and orphages in the country.

Indian girl Geeta was sheltered by the Edhi Foundation after she strayed across the border over a decade ago. The Foundation med her Geeta and allowed her to follow the Hindu religion, as per her wish. The Edhi foundation played a significant role in helping Geeta to return to India. Prime Minister rendra Modi, expressing gratitude for this, announced a contribution of Rs 10 million for the foundation, which Edhi politely declined to accept. Motivated by a spiritual quest for justice, over the years Edhi and his team created maternity wards, morgues, orphages, shelters and homes for the elderly, picking up where limited government-run services fell short.

Edhi had also doted his organs but due to continuous medical treatment, only his corneas could be harvested. Faisal said Edhi refused to go abroad for medical treatment and preferred to die in Pakistan. Edhi was diagnosed with kidney failure in 2013, but had been uble to get a transplant due to frail health. He was so widely respected that armed groups and bandits were known to spare his ambulances. As news broke of his death, social media lit up with tributes lauding him as “the greatest Pakistani”. Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf leader Imran Khan described Edhi as a “noble soul”, while military chief General Raheel Sharif expressed his “deepest sorrow and regret”. (IANS)

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