Naureen Aqueel

Archive for April 2011

Published in The Express Tribune – city, April 15, 2011

When you hear calls for a revolution from the most humanitarian of philanthropists in the country, you know for sure that the revolution narrative has seeped deep into the public psyche. Abdul Sattar Edhi, who was introduced by the host as a “welfare state in and of himself”, stressed the need for a bloody revolution to set things right in the country.

Edhi, the founder of Pakistan’s largest welfare foundation, was speaking on Thursday at the Aga Khan University in a special lecture series on emergency management during disasters. When probed about his statement, however, he said the government should be allowed to complete its term and that any revolution would last longer if it came from the people.

“We are tax thieves. We are Zakat thieves,” he said. “Our politicians are also thieves.”

But he was still positive and hopeful. “People ask me whether Pakistan will live and I tell them it will indeed live and it will live forever.”

Answering a question about how to deal with disillusionment, Edhi advised that a life of simplicity, honesty and hard work was the key.

Around 700 men and women from different walks of life attended the lecture and most of them were eager to speak to and take pictures with the elderly philanthropist after the event ended.

“I am not a maulana,” Edhi pointed out after the host introduced him as Maulana Abdul Sattar Edhi. “I do not have any formal education… what use is education when we do not become human beings [after being educated]? My school is the welfare of humanity.”

Edhi’s jibes at medical students who “thought they became doctors by earning degrees and wearing good clothes” drew giggles from across the auditorium.

“In reality, we have gone very far from becoming humane. We have lost our identity,” he said.

“The greatest religion is to love humanity,” he said, earning a round of loud applause.

“I am a Muslim. I believe in Allah and I offer my obligations as a Muslim,” he said. “When your intention is good, God helps you too. I rarely make appeals but even without that, people come forward to help in many ways. Allah keeps creating ways and helps you when you intend to help someone.”

Edhi described how he had always found Pakistanis helpful, adding that he only made appeals for donations to Pakistanis and that he often found all he needed here.

The philanthropist spoke about the difficulties and criticism he and his family had faced, but said he had never let that stop him because allegations are always made against people who set out to do good.

Advising young students on how to play their role, Edhi said they should develop a humanitarian approach from the beginning. When asked how one should deal with the menace of beggary and reports of mafia being behind it, Edhi said, “if your intentions are good, you should help them. Allah will look at your intentions.”

Edhi said his unparalleled network of welfare work is now being managed by his children and that he only provides them with advice when needed.

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