The Real Humanitarian
We Pakistanis are fortunate enough to have a person of Abdul Sattar Edhi’s stature among us; who has been constantly involved in the humanitarian efforts over the last so many decades. I had written The Real Humanitarian in 2006 when Muhammad Youns of Grameen Bank had won the Noble Peace Prize. At that moment I thought how come a Nobel Peace Prize committee ignored the struggle and activities of someone like Edhi. Recently, Edhi won the United Nations prize for his efforts. Edhi in my view, deserves Nobel Peace Prize too so let’s make our voices heard.
The Real Humanitarian
In fifty-nine years Pakistan has produced just one Nobel laureate Dr. Abdul Salam. The younger generation of Pakistan knows very little about this prominent scientist who won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1979 for his work in electroweak theory. Unfortunately due to his religious beliefs he didn’t get due recognition from the government in Pakistan.
People often think is there any other Pakistani who could win a Nobel Prize for his genuine efforts in the scientific field, literature or peace? There is certainly one humble personality the more one analyzes his efforts and achievements spanning over five decades the more he seems to be a strong contender for Nobel Peace Prize. Always clad in a simple gray shalwar kameez, black cap and chappal he is none other than the Pakistan’s most loved and respected philanthropist, Abdul Sattar Edhi.
Born in Bantva, a small village of an Indian state of Gujarat to Memon parents, Edhi was taught to be kind and compassionate towards the needy people since his childhood. In 1947 the Edhi family migrated to Karachi. At the age of fifteen Edhi got financially independent as he started off his own small business. Soon after that he got associated with Bantva Memon Dispensary in Karachi. That was the time when he officially started social work. Following some administrative disputes with the other members of Bantva Memon Dispensary, Edhi parted his ways with this organization.
In 1951, he set up his own dispensary at Mithadar that would provide medical assistance and medicines to the poor. Edhi gained popularity among the masses during the 1957 flu epidemic in Karachi. It was during that time that he bought his first ambulance called “Poor Man’s Van”. Later on in 1974 he established the Edhi Foundation. Today Edhi Foundation owns a fleet of almost 600 ambulances, 1 helicopter and 2 aircrafts hence making it the largest volunteer network of ambulances in the whole world.
Edhi Foundation has 3,500 workers and thousands of volunteers who work in over 300 centers all across Pakistan with daily expenditure of 1.2 million rupees. The Foundation runs 8 hospitals in Karachi, including clinics, maternity homes and blood banks. Edhi dispensaries are established all across Pakistan where people get free treatment. There are six nursing schools that provide basic training to the nurses and so far have produced 40,000 qualified nurses. The Foundation’s Apna Ghar, is a home to 50,000 destitute, runaways, orphans and mentally challenged people. Besides that the Foundation has also established shelters for women and Jhoolas for the unwanted infants. His Foundation works day in and day out to make the difference by providing health facilities, food, shelter and basic and vocational education; these are all the duties of a state but instead of looking up to someone he quietly does his work. Edhi Foundation swiftly responds at the time of natural calamity and other crisis. After the earthquake on 8th October 2005 the Edhi Foundation was among the first to reach the affected areas.
Edhi Foundation hasn’t limited its welfare activities to Pakistan only. The Edhi International Foundation has branches in 34 countries including UK, USA, Canada, Australia, Japan, Dubai and Bangladesh. The main task of UK and USA branch is to provide the facilities of temporary residence to the people hailing from the third world countries who come for a treatment to UK or USA. These branches provide assistance to refugees; maintain community centers and work for emergency relief such as after the 9-11 Edhi offered aid and assistance to the New York government and after Hurricane Katrina donated 100,000 dollars to relief efforts. The Foundation also sent relief items and established centers in the countries affected by Asian tsunami of 26th December 2004. Lately Edhi personally visited Lebanon during the Israel-Lebanon war and provided medical assistance and food to the people. Moreover he donated three ambulances to Lebanese government. After witnessing the gruesome scenes of death and destruction in Beirut he requested for immediate cease-fire.
In 1979 Mother Teresa was given the prestigious Nobel Prize for Peace. She, a Catholic Christian of Albanian origin dedicated all her life to the poor people of Calcutta and later on expanded her activities to the other cities of India. By awarding Nobel Peace Prize to Muhammad Yunus this year (2006), the Nobel Committee has certainly broadened its criteria for selection. Edhi has been given many national and international awards and honors in recognition of his services to the humanity such as the “Ramon Magsaysay Award” given to him in 1986 and “Lenin Peace Prize”, awarded in 1988 besides Pakistan’s highest civilian award, Nishan-i-Imtiaz in 1985. In 2000 the Italian government awarded him the ‘International Balzan Prize for Humanity Peace and Brotherhood’. And most recently he won the UN prize for his services in promoting tolerance and non-violence.
The time has come that the Nobel Committee should also consider Abdul Sattar Edhi and his Edhi Foundation for the Nobel Peace Prize. Edhi is one such personality who is selflessly serving the humanity in distress from many decades irrespective of their religion, caste or social status. His achievements speak volumes about his credibility. He is a simple man with no political affiliations and with a vision to bring peace into the lives of suffering humanity.