EDITORIAL: Bilquis Edhi, who died in her hometown Karachi on Friday, was a remarkable woman married to a remarkable man, the late Abdul Sattar Edhi. Trained as a nurse, she joined a small dispensary run by Edhi Sahib, as he was popularly known. There she looked after sick people and also completed a six-month course in midwifery. Like her husband she was neither rich nor belonged to a famous family, yet she was instantly recognisable for the altruistic spirit and boundless compassion with which she partnered with her spouse in humanitarian work.
Together they established the Edhi Foundation, a private countrywide network of ambulances (acknowledged as the world’s largest volunteer ambulance organisation by the Guinness Book of Records), nursing homes, soup kitchens, shelters for the homeless, rescue services in disaster-hit areas, and help even to people in other countries during natural calamities. They extended a helping hand to anyone in need, regardless of his/her religious or any other identity.
Bilquis later started managing the Foundation’s Jhoola (cradle) project for people to leave their unwanted babies without being asked any questions. More than 300 cradles were placed outside various Edhi centres. This helped save as many as 42,000 lives. Most of such babies were either girls, disabled boys, or born out of wedlock.
Also, many poor families who could not afford to feed and educate their children left them in the nurturing care of Biquis Edhi. She found these abandoned babies families for adoption, and those who were not adopted she brought them up like a real mother, educating them and marrying them off on adulthood in charming wedding ceremonies. One of such children was an Indian Hindu girl, unable to speak or hear, who had strayed across the border as a small child.
She raised her as a Hindu naming her Geeta while a search went on with the assistance of Indian government for her family. Geeta was finally returned to her country as a young woman. Besides earning the love and gratitude of countless abandoned children Bilquis Edhi’s noble service to humanity won her several awards, including Hilal-e-Imtiaz, Mother Teresa Memorial Award for Social Justice, and Lenin Peace Prize.
On her demise tributes have poured in from various quarters. In his condolence message President Arif Alvi said her “selfless work for humanity will always be remembered.” Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif described her as “an incredible woman” in her own right who “stood by Edhi Sahib like a rock, and together they set up an example of human compassion and ran one of the largest philanthropic organisations of the world.
” And to honour her, the Sindh government announced a day of mourning on Saturday, the day of her funeral. It is hoped that their children will not allow to extinguish the light of great humanitarian work lit by Bilquis Edhi and Abdul Sattar Edhi.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2022