The fourth death anniversary of philanthropist and social worker Abdul Sattar Edhi was observed on Wednesday across the country.
One of the most renowned and respected personalities of Pakistan, Edhi passed away in 2016 at the age of 88. He was diagnosed with kidney failure in 2013 but had been unable to get a transplant due to frail health. He was receiving treatment at the Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation (SIUT).
The late humanitarian established one of the biggest charity foundations of the country, through which he helped the poor, children, women and differently-abled persons as well as animals. He also laid the world's largest volunteer ambulance network, APP reported.
Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif paid tribute to Edhi, calling him "a true embodiment of selfless service to humanity".
"What a towering personality and an unending source of inspiration he was," he said in a tweet. "His life and work have influenced generations around the world."
PPP chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari offered tribute to Edhi in a message posted on the party's Twitter account today, in which he said that the humanitarian "made history by working tirelessly" for those in need.
"The coming generations will give his example," Bilawal was quoted as saying.
Revered by many as a national hero, Edhi created a charitable empire out of nothing. He masterminded Pakistan’s largest welfare organisation almost single-handedly, entirely with private donations.
Born to a family of traders in Gujarat, Edhi arrived in Pakistan in 1947.
The state’s failure to help his struggling family care for his mother — paralysed and suffering from mental health issues — was his painful and decisive turning point towards philanthropy.
Edhi opened his first clinic in 1951 in Karachi. “Social welfare was my vocation, I had to free it,” he says in his autobiography, ‘A Mirror To The Blind’.
Motivated by a spiritual quest for justice, Edhi and his team over the years created maternity wards, morgues, orphanages, shelters and homes for the elderly — all aimed at helping those who cannot help themselves.
The most prominent symbols of the foundation — its 1,500 ambulances — are deployed with efficiency to the scene of terrorist attacks that tear through the country.
Content with just two sets of clothes, he slept in a windowless room of white tiles adjoining the office of his charitable foundation. Sparsely equipped, it had just one bed, a sink and a hotplate.
“He never established a home for his own children,” his wife Bilquis, who manages the foundation’s homes for women and children, had told AFP in an interview.
What he has established is something of a safety net for the poor and destitute, mobilising the nation to donate and help take action — filling a gap left by a lack of welfare state.