Abdul Sattar Edhi, the founder of Pakistan’s largest welfare organisation, died on Friday at the age of 88, his son confirmed, as tributes swiftly poured in for the humble man almost unanimously revered as a national hero.
“Abdul Sattar is dead,” Faisal, his son and heir to his charitable empire, said.
“My father was suffering from severe kidney problems and both of his kidneys had failed,” he said.
Edhi, was admitted in the intensive care unit of a Karachi hospital. His condition became critical on Friday afternoon, when he faced difficulty in breathing while undergoing dialysis at the Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation, his son told a news conference.
Edhi, often referred to as “Pakistan’s Mother Teresa”, was diagnosed with kidney failure in 2013 but was unable to get a transplant because of his frail health. In June, he declined an offer from former president Asif Ali Zardari for treatment abroad, saying he would only be treated in a government hospital with Pakistan.
Social media quickly lit up in honour of the man whose work uplifting the nation’s destitute and orphans cemented his place in the hearts of Pakistan’s masses.
“May Allah give Edhi Sahib the best place in paradise and make his journey to Ahkira (the world hereafter) easy,” said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in a statement released to media.
“He was a real gem and asset for Pakistan. We have lost a great servant of humanity.”
Others lauded him as “the greatest Pakistani”, calling his death a “national tragedy”.
Motivated by a spiritual quest for justice, over the years Edhi and his team created maternity wards, morgues, orphanages, shelters, and homes for the elderly -- all aimed at helping those in society who cannot help themselves and picking up where limited government-run services fell short.
The most prominent symbols of the foundation -- its 1,500 ambulances -- are deployed with unusual efficiency to the scene of terrorist attacks that tear through Pakistan with devastating regularity.
His work was so widely respected by across Pakistan that armed groups and bandits were known to spare his ambulances.
Frail and weak in his later years, Edhi appointed his son Faisal as managing trustee in early 2016.
Edhi was been nominated several times for the Nobel Peace Prize, and appears on the list again this year -- put there by Malala Yousafzai, Pakistan’s teenage Nobel laureate.
“I have done a lot of work. I am satisfied with my life,” he told AFP in an interview earlier this year.
Edhi, who was born in 1928 at Bantva village that is now part of India’s Gujarat state, received the Ramon Magsaysay Award for public service in 1986. He was the head of the Edhi Foundation that operates ambulance services, orphanages, women’s shelters, dispensaries and morgues in several Pakistani cities.