August 2016

By | Newsbeat National | Published 3 years ago

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Cover Design by Aman A. Khan

The ruling clique appears to have discovered the legendary humanitarian Abdul Sattar Edhi in his last days. So several of them made a beeline for the Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation (SIUT) — bouquets, media teams et al — to meet him, make those “generous” offers of treatment abroad, and secure their two minutes of fame on TV channels.

No thank you, said Edhi, he was being well looked after by Dr Adeeb Rizvi and his team. When he died, they hijacked his funeral, making it virtually impossible for the masses, whose messiah he was and who revered him, to attend it. Further, they exhorted everyone to emulate his life. A fine thought, indeed. But are the rulers willing to lead by example? Around the same time that Edhi was fighting for his life in a Karachi hospital, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was recuperating from an open heart surgery in a London clinic. A camp office was set up in London. And when it was time for the PM to return home, a vacant Boeing 777 was sent to London to fly back the entire Sharif entourage.

All this is rumoured to have cost the public exchequer a cool 30 to 40 million rupees. But what’s a few million rupees in a poor country, whose parliamentarians have graduated from Awami suits and Bata shoes to Savile Row suits and Jimmy Choo shoes, are driving Prados not Corollas anymore, own plush apartments and luxurious mansions in Dubai, London and New York, and have millions stashed away in Swiss Banks and elsewhere.

Compare all this to Edhi’s modest residential quarters in Kharadar, where he spent his entire life; or the khaddar shalwar kameez in which he asked to be buried; or the worn-out slippers in which he walked the streets of Karachi, day after day, asking for donations; or the rickety ambulances in which he drove the dead and the dying to hospitals and morgues. In a country, where the leaders shirked their responsibilities, it was left to the indefatigable Edhi to shoulder the burden of the sick, the poor, the homeless, the dead — and the unwanted babies left in cradles outside Edhi homes.

For the last, he was lambasted by the maulvis who deemed this act “unIslamic.” As they did his final generosity of donating his corneas to two blind persons. He was even branded a kafir, and a smear campaign against him was set in motion after his death. These religious bigots would probably love to see the end of the Edhi Foundation — in the vain hope that all donations made to the Foundation thus far would be diverted to the nurseries of sectarianism and terrorism run by them, to preach more hatred and create divisions between man and man. The messiah is gone but, hopefully, his sons, his daughters and his wife, who travelled the difficult road with him, have imbibed his spirit and the soul, which will see them through these murky waters. And we, the people, must not allow Edhi’s mission to fail.

Rehana Hakim is one of the core team of journalists that helped start Newsline. She has been the editor-in-chief since 1996.

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