Pakistan will give a state funeral on Saturday to social worker and philanthropist Abdul Sattar Edhi, who is credited with setting up an alternate social welfare and medical system for millions of poor people in the country.
Abdul Sattar Edhi, who set up the Edhi Foundation in 1974, passed away on Friday aged 88, his son, Faisal Edhi, told the media.
Recipient of the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay award in 1984, the Edhi Foundation set up one of the world’s largest volunteer ambulance system and helped millions with medical help as well as burial and other services.
Born in Bantwa, near Junagadh in Gujarat, Edhi belonged to the Memon community and migrated to Pakistan in 1947. He worked as a trader and then as a commission agent before setting up a volunteer dispensary in 1951 to offer free medical services after his mother could not be saved because of inadequate medical care at a government hospital.
He founded the Edhi Foundation in 1974 after operating for almost two decades as a loosely knit set-up that served people irrespective of caste or creed. In the 40 years of its existence, the foundation has created an unparalleled ambulance service, burial service, and homes for orphans, old people, mentally challenged individuals, and also started care centres for animals.
In a country where state medical institutions have proved woefully inadequate, the Edhi Foundation managed to fill the gap with its charitable services, run largely by volunteers.
Edhi was known for his ability to reach out to areas that needed medical help. He travelled to Gujarat in India to help the victims of the earthquake as well as to Lebanon, Egypt, Bangladesh and other parts of the world where catastrophe struck. Most of his work, however, was in Pakistan, assisting victims of accidents and natural disasters.
His health deteriorated over the past three years and was under treatment at a local hospital for his failing kidneys. His son told the media that his father wished to be buried in the same clothes he used to wear. He also wanted to donate his body parts, but only his cornea could be donated.
On June 10, he declined an offer from former president Asif Ali Zardari to be flown abroad for medical treatment. In the past, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and real estate tycoon Malik Riaz also offered help but Edhi turned them down as well.