Posts Tagged ‘ Edhi Foundation ’

Edhi Faces Abduction Threat, Authorities Reveal

As Reported By Salman Siddiqui for The Express Tribune

Leading humanitarian worker Abdul Sattar Edhi is in danger of being taken hostage by a militant group in exchange for prisoners that it wants sprung free, authorities have revealed.
Edhi, while talking to The Express Tribune, stated that he was informed by the authorities a few weeks back that his life was in danger. “I was told that the ‘fauj’ (Pakistan Army) had intercepted a conversation of militants where it was being discussed that I may come to be harmed,” he said.
Edhi Foundation spokesperson Anwar Kazmi elaborated that the nation’s most recognisable charity worker was warned that he could be taken hostage in exchange for some prisoners that the ‘Taliban’ wanted to get released —

an allegation the militant group has denied.

Crime Investigation Department (CID) Senior Superintendent Police (SSP) Chaudhry Aslam confirmed that the intelligence reports they had received sometime back indicated that Edhi may be kidnapped by militants in exchange for either “some of their men in custody” or a “large ransom amount”.

“There was a letter in which there were three names, which included my name, Malir SSP Rao Anwar’s and Edhi’s,” he said.

This is the first time that Edhi’s name has been mentioned in a militant group’s hit list. After SSP Anwar was attacked in a suicide bomb in April, it was decided that Edhi’s security would be beefed up as a precautionary measure.

Security provisions

Despite the threat to his life, Edhi remains unfazed and calm in light of this development. “Only God knows what the truth is,” he says. “I don’t have enmity with anyone or any group. I do humanitarian work for everybody without any prejudice.”

Since the threats surfaced, Edhi is being provided with round-the-clock police security — with two official guards escorting him everywhere he goes. “Never before in his life had Edhi ever asked or given security by the state,” the spokesperson said.

Currently, two policemen from the Kharadar police station have been deployed for his security who work in two shifts of 12-hours each, according to Station House Officer (SHO) Agha Asadullah. “We can increase the number of policemen, if need be,” he said.

Edhi himself appears irritated by the presence of policemen near him at all times — especially given that he has to keep the Kharadar police station informed about his movements constantly. “I don’t want any of this security. I really feel there’s no need for it,” he said modestly. Although he is being asked to restrict his movements as a precaution, Edhi said he won’t allow anything to stop him. “I am going to Hyderabad next to do some relief work there,” he said.

TTP reaction

His son Faisal revealed that a three-member delegation of the local chapter of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) recently came to the Edhi office to clarify their position about the alleged threats.

“They said to us that this is all government propaganda to malign the Taliban movement,” he said. “They also added that they respected Edhi for his humanitarian work and could not even think of doing him any harm.”

SSP Aslam said that the good news was that according to recent reports, Edhi’s name had not been mentioned again. “We receive a number of intelligence reports which mention a lot of famous personalities on the hit list on a weekly basis. So hopefully all will remain well.”

Reacting to the development, Edhi said: “I don’t know who [wants to harm me] or why. “I only know that I have to continue to do my work — no matter what.”

Pakistanis for Peace Editor’s Note– The Taliban have once again showed their true colors by threatening a man of Mr Edhi’s caliber. To threaten a person who is akin to Mother Teresa for Pakistan, a living saint, shows us how far off the cuckoo’s nest they really are. Just another reason for us here at Pakistanis for Peace to have great disdain for this group of people.

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A touch of Inspiration Runs Both Ways as Sean Penn Visits Shrine and Edhi Home

By Saba Imtiaz for The Express Tribune

In a t-shirt, jeans and sneakers, the rather unassuming actor Sean Penn stepped out of his car to meet Pakistan’s iconic humanitarian worker Abdul Sattar Edhi and his wife, Bilquis Edhi, at their home for children on Saturday morning.

While the Academy Award-winning star of Dead Man Walking is instantly recognisable to film buffs, the Edhis were unaware of who their visitor was.
Penn, who was accompanied by US Consul General William J Martin and a slew of consular staff, told Edhi that it was a “great honour” to meet him. “Your name is brought up with reverential appreciation,” Penn said. In return, the Edhis were told about Penn’s philanthropic efforts to help the survivors of the earthquake in Haiti in 2010.

Penn toured the Bilquis Edhi Female Child Home in Clifton, dipping into classrooms where Montessori students sang the nursery rhyme ‘Are you Sleeping, Brother John?’ eliciting smiles from him and Martin. The school at the home has 250 students and offers classes till Matric or tenth grade.

“What are they working on?” he asked Ali Edhi, who was showing him around the eighth graders in the computer lab. “Word, PowerPoint, Excel,” a teacher responded. Penn was also told about the number of Edhi centres nationwide and how the organisation is open for ‘everyone – regardless of faith, class, identity.’

As the aroma of food being prepared for lunch wafted in from the kitchen, Penn stepped into a separate room to chat with the Edhis. Bilquis later told the media that Penn said he had wanted to meet them, and there had been no talk of donations or offers of help. “We get enough from Pakistanis, we do not take money from abroad,” Bilquis said. She said Penn had told them that he was happy to be there and that Pakistan was not as bad as people had made it out to be.

Consul General Martin explained: “On the Pakistan Day weekend, we brought Penn to meet Edhi, a great Pakistani who can inspire us all with his big heart and generosity.”

Penn’s first visit to Pakistan included travel to Badin and Karachi and he was expected to leave on Saturday. Before arriving at the Edhi centre, he also visited the nearby Abdullah Shah Ghazi shrine where he paid his respects.

A Nobel Prize for Edhi

Pakistanis for Peace and Manzer Munir cordially and humbly request you to please sign this petition to nominate Abdul Sattar Edhi for the Nobel Peace Prize.

The Nobel Peace prize is an annual prize awarded to individuals who have made formidable contributions to the pursuit of peace and have, through their work, changed the world for the better.

As the founder of Pakistan’s largest welfare organization, the Edhi Foundation and trust, Mr Abdul Sattar Edhi embodies the spirit of this prize, and is a deserving candidate for this honour. He has single-handedly served countless Pakistani’s and has left a lasting impact on his fellow countrymen and the world.

Quite simply, there has never been anyone more deserving of the Nobel Peace prize in its entire history than Mr Abdul Sattar Edhi. Please help us get him his dues by having him finally nominated this year.

Please sign this petition to show your support for the nomination of Mr.Edhi for the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize.

 

Killing of infants on the rise in Pakistan

By Raza Sayah for CNN

At a morgue in Pakistan’s largest city, five linen pouches — each the size of a loaf of bread — line the shelf of a walk-in freezer.
Wrapped inside each small sack is the corpse of an infant.

The babies are victims of what one relief agency calls Pakistan’s worst unfolding tragedy: the killing and dumping of newborns.
“Sometimes they hang them, and sometimes they kill by the knife, and sometimes we find bodies which have been burned,” said Anwar Kazmi, a manager at Edhi Foundation, Pakistan’s largest privately run social service and relief agency.

Records at Edhi Foundation show that more than 1,200 newborns were killed and dumped in Pakistan last year, an increase of about 200 from the previous year.

Families view many of these children as illegitimate in a culture that condemns those born outside of marriage.
Statistics show that roughly nine out of 10 are baby girls, which families may consider too costly to keep in a country where women frequently are not allowed to work.

The babies are usually just days old. Their corpses are often dumped in Karachi’s sprawling garbage dumps, where they’re sometimes mutilated by street animals, Kazmi said. He estimates that hundreds of baby corpses are never found.

The head of Edhi Foundation, 83-year-old Abdul Sattar Edhi, blames Pakistan’s crippling poverty and a government that, for decades, has failed to educate the masses, generate jobs and provide citizens with the most basic needs.

“The distribution of resources by the government is wrong,” Edhi said. “Many people don’t pay taxes; there’s no charity, and what you get from the government is all based on your wealth.”

The Pakistani government has said it’s improving education, but 55 million Pakistanis remain illiterate, according to the United Nations. And the government is billions of dollars in debt while entangled in a costly fight against the Taliban and other Islamic militant groups. The killing of newborns gets little attention in Pakistan, and rarely are they investigated by a police force that’s often poorly trained, lacks resources and stays focused on what’s perceived to be more important crimes.

In many parts of the world, female infanticide is still practiced through direct violence but also by intentional neglect, according to the World Health Organization.

In some Asian countries, infanticide of girls is enough to skew the population figures in favor of males. The United Nations found, for example, that there are 130 boys to 100 girls in parts of Asia, especially in countries with extreme poverty and overpopulation such as China and India.
“Girls are seen as a burden, seen as a property which belongs to somebody else so people see that as a waste of money and the wasting of an education of a girl,” said Bhagyashri Dengle, executive director of Plan India, a nonprofit for children. “Then when the girl gets married, the families have a big, heavy dowry. So that is one of the reasons here.”

Dengle said awareness and education at the grass-roots level are ways to combat this practice. “I think we really need to reach out to young people (to) create an awareness, to change attitudes and dispel the notion that having a boy is better than a girl,” she said. “We launched this program ‘Let Girls Be Born’ — that campaign is reaching out to masses using televisions, through newspapers and through (the) Internet. What we are trying to do is positive messaging on the girls. That girls aren’t a sect; they are as good as boys.”

In Pakistan, until things improve, the Edhi Foundation said, it will keep more than 300 cradles in front of its offices throughout Pakistan where families can drop off unwanted newborns. The foundation cares for them and puts them up for adoption, no questions asked.
“It’s for awareness — that please don’t kill your innocent babies,” Kazmi said.

Killings of Newborn Babies on the Rise in Pakistan

By Hasan Mansoor for The Associated Press

The lifeless bodies of two tiny babies are being given their final bath before burial in Karachi, after they were left to die in the southern Pakistani city’s garbage dumps.

“They can only have been one or two days old,” says volunteer worker Mohammad Saleem, pointing at the two small corpses being gently washed by his colleagues at a charity’s morgue.

In the conservative Muslim nation, where the birth of children outside of marriage is condemned and adultery is a crime punishable by death under strict interpretations of Islamic law, infanticide is a crime on the rise.

More than 1,000 infants — most of them girls — were killed or abandoned to die in Pakistan last year according to conservative estimates by the Edhi Foundation, a charity working to reverse the grim trend.

The infanticide figures are collected only from Pakistan’s main cities, leaving out huge swathes of the largely rural nation, and the charity says that in December alone it found 40 dead babies left in garbage dumps and sewers.

The number of dead infants found last year — 1,210 — was up from 890 in 2008 and 999 in 2009, says the Edhi Foundation manager in Karachi, Anwar Kazmi.

Tragic tales abound.

Kazmi recounts the discovery of the burnt body of a six-day-old infant who had been strangled. Another child was found on the steps of a mosque having been stoned to death on the orders of an extremist imam who has since disappeared, he says.

“Do not murder, lay them here,” reads a sign hanging outside the charity’s Karachi base where it has left cradles in the hope that parents will abandon their unwanted children there, instead of leaving them to die.

“People leave these children mostly because they think they are illegitimate, but they are as innocent and loveable as all human beings,” says the charity’s founder, well-known humanitarian Abdul Sattar Edhi.

Most children found are less than a week old. Khair Mohammad, 65, works as a watchman in the charity’s vast graveyard in the city outskirts. It is dotted with tiny unnamed graves.

“We acquired this land to bury children after another plot was filled with hundreds of bodies,” he says. The death toll is far worse among girls, says manager Kazmi, with nine out of ten dead babies the charity finds being female.

“The number of infanticides of girls has substantially increased,” Kazmi says, a rise attributed to increased poverty across the country.

Girls are seen by many Pakistanis as a greater economic burden as most women are not permitted to work and are considered to be the financial responsibilty of their fathers, and later their husbands.

A Pakistani family can be forced to raise more than one million rupees (11,700 dollars) to marry their daughter off. Edhi says that up to 200 babies are left in its 400 cradles nationwide each year and that it handles thousands of requests for adoption by childless couples.

Abortion is prohibited in Pakistan, except when the mother’s life is at risk from her pregnancy, but advocates say that legalisation would reduce infanticide and save mothers from potentially fatal back-street terminations.

According to Pakistani law, anyone found to have abandoned an infant can be jailed for seven years, while anyone guilty of secretly burying a child can be imprisoned for two years. Murder is punishable with life imprisonment.

But crimes of infanticide are rarely prosecuted. “The majority of police stations do not register cases of infanticide, let alone launch investigations into them,” said lawyer Abdul Rasheed.

Pakistanis for Peace Editor’s NoteThe killing of innocent babies is utterly reprehensible in conservative Pakistan. If one does not want the baby, we urge the parents to drop off the unwanted babies at any Edhi Foundation center to be raised as an orphan. Islam does not condone killing of any life at any age under any circumstances. We are saddened by these stories and hope that this trend comes to an end soon.

Aging Philanthropist is Pakistan’s Mother Teresa

By Chris Brummit for The Associated Press

The aging man in mud-splattered, frayed clothes has barely lowered his body onto the sidewalk when the money starts piling up. Heeding his call for donations for flood victims, Pakistanis of all classes rush to hand over cash to Abdul Sattar Edhi, whose years of dedication to the poor have made him a national icon.

He thanks each donor, some of whom ask to have their photo taken next to him. Four hours later, the crowd remains — and the equivalent of $15,000 is overflowing from a pink basket in front of him.

Edhi has been helping the destitute and sick for more than 60 years, filling the hole left by a state that has largely neglected the welfare of its citizens. Part Mother Teresa, part Gandhi, with a touch of Marx, he is the face of humanitarianism in Pakistan.

Funded by donations from fellow citizens, his 250 centers across the country take in orphans, the mentally ill, unwanted newborns, drug addicts, the homeless, the sick and the aged. His fleet of ambulances picks up victims of terrorist bombings, gang shootings, car accidents and natural disasters.

Pakistan’s corruption-riddled government acknowledges Edhi and other charities do the work that in other nations the state performs. The country has no national health service, insurance program or welfare system, and few state-run orphanages or old people’s homes.

The foundation offers an alternative to charitable work performed by hardline Islamist groups in Pakistan, some with alleged links to terrorism. The spread of these organizations has triggered concerns in the West, including their work in the aftermath of this summer’s floods.

Edhi is a devout Muslim, but critical of Islamic clerics in general, not just extremists. He says they focus on ritual, preaching hellfire and defending the faith against imagined enemies, rather than helping the poor — which he says should be the cornerstone of all faiths.

The 80-something Edhi — he and his children disagree on his exact age — lives with his wife, herself a charity worker, in a tiny room in one of his welfare centers in Karachi, a bustling port city. His bed is a one-inch thick mattress on a piece of wood.

“I am a beggar for the poor,” he says, stained teeth showing in a wide smile, eyes sparkling after a week touring flood-hit areas. “Serving humanity is the biggest jihad. It is the real thing.”

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Edhi deals with birth and death, and almost everything in between.

Just above his bedroom, a maternity ward and an orphanage are home to 18 children, many of them abandoned by their mothers in cradles left outside his centers. They wear hand-me-downs from the city’s rich. Edhi’s wife, Bilquis, tries to get the children adopted, but few Pakistanis want to take girls or older children, she says.

On a recent afternoon, the kids shouted out English nursery rhymes and danced. They then sat cross-legged on the floor, drinking tea from plastic mugs and eating spicy pastries and sticky sweets that an anonymous benefactor had dropped off.

The home was clean and bright, with plenty of toys and loving staff. But there was no place to play outside, and the roar of motorbikes from the lanes below was a constant backdrop.

Across town, workers at the Edhi morgue were dealing with latest influx of bodies. They receive around 25 a day, half of which are never claimed — the city’s unloved and unknown.

Working quickly but carefully, they cut the clothes from the bodies, lather them with a bar of soap from head to toe, rinse them with water from a jug, then wrap them in a white sheet. The bodies are bussed across town, prayed over and buried in unmarked graves.

The body of American journalist Daniel Pearl, killed by al-Qaida terrorists in Karachi in 2002, was picked up by an Edhi ambulance and taken to the morgue, the largest in the city of 14 million people.

The morgue is attached to a hospital for the homeless, a dispensary, a shelter for boys and women and children, even a wedding hall for the marriages arranged for children who have been looked after by the foundation. The smell of baking bread from an oven that churns out 9,000 loaves a day fills the air.

“The poor can come here and get a solution to all their problems,” says Ejal Hassan Zaidi, who had accompanied a neighbor to the morgue to collect the body of his 3-year-old daughter, killed in a hit-and-run incident hours earlier. “From the cradle to the grave.”

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Born in what is now India, Edhi and his parents moved to Pakistan in 1947 when that country was created as a Muslim state at the end of British colonial rule. The family was quite well off — his father was a traveling salesman — and socially progressive.

In his biography, Edhi credits his mother for setting him on a humanitarian path. She urged him to give half his pocket money to someone poor every day and rebuked him if he didn’t.

“‘You have a selfish heart, one that has nothing to give,'” he remembers her saying. “‘What kind of human being are you? Look at the greed in your eyes. Already you have started robbing the poor. How much more will you rob from them in your lifetime?”

When she was dying, he looked after her, bathing her emaciated body and washing and braiding her hair — experiences that would also shape his life.

“The first night she spent in the grave, I dedicated my life to the service of mankind,” he says.

Edhi started small. In 1951, he bought an eight-foot-square shop in a slum neighborhood in Karachi that he converted into a dispensary. Seven years later he bought a van that he used as an ambulance, writing “Poor Man’s Van” on both sides.

He became intimately involved in the business of caring for the sick and dying. He would drive the ambulance to the scene of an accident to pick up the bodies, administer injections during a flu outbreak and travel across the country to help after earthquakes and other natural disasters.

Edhi’s record of round-the-clock service and frugal lifestyle attracted donations, and he soon had a fleet of 14 ambulances. In the 1980s and 90s, he opened centers and ambulance services throughout the country. He donated $200,000 to releif efforts after Hurricane Katrina, and his workers have also helped out in disasters in Asia and the Middle East.

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Pakistanis are a generous people, required by their Muslim faith to give away 2.5 percent of their wealth each year. The last nationwide survey done in 1998 showed that Pakistanis gave the then equivalent of $820 million to charity, around the same as the government’s health and education budget at the time. There are no numbers on how rising terrorism and a poor economy have affected this philanthropy.

Edhi does not accept donations from international organizations or governments, including Pakistan’s, saying he doesn’t need outside help and it is important for Pakistanis to help each other. He and his wife live simply of the interest from some savings.

The foundation does not produce detailed financial statements or annual reports. Edhi points to a wall of files in one office in which he says everything is accounted for. Donors do not seem to mind, such is their trust in him.

“You ask any Pakistani on the streets, Edhi is total credible with them,” says Anjum Haque, the executive director of the Pakistan Centre for Philanthropy. “The success of the trust is down to Edhi himself.”

Last year, donations to Edhi-run charities totaled around $5 million, according to Faisal Edhi, the founder’s son and trust member. A significant chunk of the funds comes from overseas Pakistanis, who want to donate to their homeland.

The lack of transparency has caused some concern among others in the charity sector in Pakistan. Faisal Edhi acknowledges that some of their 13,000 employees — who receive very modest salaries — might skim money off donations. There have also been questions raised about the lack of professionalism and efficiency, specially as the foundation has grown.

Edhi Village, a 65-acre complex in the undulating hills beyond the northern slums of Karachi, is home to 300 children, many picked up off the streets, and 900 adults, many elderly or suffering from mental disabilities.

Most wear clean, ironed clothes, and the food is fresh. Yet there are also signs of neglect. One naked youth dragged himself through a puddle. Some had no shoes and begged visitors to buy them a pair.

The adults live in rooms around the size of three tennis courts, bare except for raised sections for sleeping. They are locked inside for part of the day. There are two doctors, four nurses and two ward boys looking after them.

“We do the most we can do with our resources,” says Billal Mohammad, a regional Edhi manager. “They would be living on the pavement under the sky. We give them shelter, food and treatment. You must not see this place throughout Western eyes.”

___

Edhi has made no secret of his dislike of Pakistan’s ruling class. So it was a surprise to see a gaggle of politicians using one of his orphanages in Karachi as a venue to mark the recent birthday of President Asif Ali Zardari.

The visitors spooned cake into the mouths of the children, shouted political slogans for television cameras and asked Edhi to be photographed next to them. He said he only let the politicians in so the children would have a party to enjoy.

“So what if the politicians are using me? They even use God,” said Edhi, who sat by himself for most of the event. “Landowners, clerics, politicians. They are all looters. There is no fear in telling the truth.”

Hardline Islamist groups have criticized Edhi for his progressive views on women and the secular nature of his work. Some have said that by accepting newly-born babies from unmarried mothers, he is promoting premarital sex.

“We meet them and we read their newspapers. They say we are non-Muslims, unbelievers and communists,” says Faisal Edhi. “The jihadi groups don’t like us. They don’t believe in humanity.”

There are questions about what will happen to the foundation when Edhi dies. He says his two sons and three daughters will take over, though without him at the helm, people may not give as generously.

For now, his children appear more concerned about their father’s health. Apart from an afternoon nap, he works just as hard as he did when he was in his 30s, they say.

“We tell him to take it easy, but he doesn’t listen,” says daughter Almas Edhi. “He wants to keep busy.”

On the Net:

  • http://www.edhifoundation.com/
  • http://www.pcp.org.pk/
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    Pakistanis for Peace Editor’s Note– At a time when the Pakistani nation is in turmoil and dismay due to the epic floods, endless bombings and violence, vast corruption amongst the government, the Sialkot killings, and even the match fixing disappointment from the once cherished national cricket team, Abdul Sattar Edhi and his lifelong service to the people of Pakistan is a testament to the awesome goodness found in one Pakistani man. His service to the orphans, the destitute, homeless, and the generally downtrodden of the country make him a shining role model and a beacon of what is good about the Pakistani people. If there is anyone more deserving of a Nobel Peace Prize than Edhi, then we have not found them as of yet. May he continue to inspire not just the Pakistani people, but all people everywhere with his selflessness and humanity.

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