Daily Archives: July 27, 2010

The Man Called Edhi

By Natasha .

Charity , credibility , humanity are a few words that instantly come to mind when the name Edhi is mentioned. Abdul Sattar Edhi ,the declared ‘faqeer’ or ‘beggar’ as he describes himself is one man the country adores and admires unanimously. With an entire life dedicated to the uplifting of the poor, Edhi sahib inspires millions of Pakistanis around the world to work for the cause of humanity.

 A mirror to the blind , Abdul Sattar Edhi is one man who has unconditionally loved this nation plagued with countless problems. His life is a blessing to this country , to the world and to all those who are wasting their lives in persuit of insignifacant goals.

The passion for charity sown into his heart in his childhood by his mother grew each day, turning him into ‘the’ man who took it upon himself to eradicate from the society, the sufferings it faced in one form or the other.

Born in Gujrat in present day India , Edhi’s family migrated to Pakistan where they settled in Karachi. The dispensary he set up in his neighbourhood , Mithadar, became the foundation stone of the Edhi Foundation. Today, Edhi is the most respected philanthropist of the country. His Edhi Foundation serves humanity across the world.

 Providing a twenty-four hours emergency service , the Edhi foundation provides numerous services. The ambulance service provided by the organization has served millions of Pakistanis since its starting.The largest fleet of ambulances working throughout Pakistan , Edhi ambulances are the most easily accessible ones during times of emergency. Along with field ambulance services , the Edhi foundation also provides air ambulance services – providing transportation of doctors to remote and disater-hit areas ,conducting search and rescue operations, transfering patients from one hospital to another , transporting food supplies to people stranded in war-torn areas, transporting blood and human organs,conducting geological surveys of under gorund water in famine stricken deserts of Pakistan etc.

The Burial services provided for unclaimed bodies is a blessing for those who die in conditions of anonymity. Edhi himself gets involved in providing funeral services to those who are abandoned either by families or the society.In his autobiography ‘a mirror to the blind’, Edhi narrates an incident where the family would not come forward to deal with the deceased due to the stench caused by decomposition of the body whereas he, being a complete stranger, carried out the funeral services putting the unfortunte relative to eternal rest.

His compassion is not only restricted to the ‘ashraf-ul-makhlookat. Edhi also extended his passion to the innocent animals left to be trampled on roads. On encountering a dead animal on a road etc. Edhi never passed by feeling sympathetic towards the animal and doing nothing. He personally carried hundreds of dead animals and disposed off their bodies – something most of us would never think of doing.

Edhi’s cradle home scheme has prevented millions of unwanted babies from being killed , dumped or abandoned. Edhi has taken it upon himself to give these babies a respectable status in the society providing them shelter, education and skills necessary to make a living. Babies abandoned due to poverty or any other reason are welcome at Edhi homes. Edhi is their father.

From psychotic centres dealing with mentally disturbed to rehabilitation centres for drug addicts , Edhi and his staff are responsible for improving millions of lives across the country. Maulana Abu is what Edhi was known as in the psychotic centre in Karachi. Kids used to wait for their Maulana Abu each friday to give them a bath himself. While such people are dealt with contempt in the largely illiterate society of Pakistan , Maulana Abu made sure he showered his love on these unfortunate kids, washing them himself turn by turn.

From Hospitals providing free medical facilities to awareness centres providing literacy, medical care, sanitation programs, immunisation, safe drinking water and community support on self-help basis , Edhi has tried to improve the Pakistani society in every way possible for him. Donating blood, funds and other medical facilities to government run hospitals Edhi has proven to be one of the biggest support to our unstable governments over the decades.

 Edhi Welfare centres providing free food and shelter are home to the destitutes , old, runaways and all those abandoned by the society and their loved ones. When nobody needs them , Edhi does- for the love of his duty towards his unfortunate fellow beings.

His compassion towards animals has resulted in the establishment of animal shelters catering welfare services to various abandoned , diseased , crippled and wounded animals including dogs, cats, mules, donkeys , horses and different kinds of birds.

The credibility Edhi has earned throughout the world is largely due to his extra-ordinarily simple life-style. Edhi does not sit in air-conditioned rooms and ask for money. He does not roam about in toyotas, eats at five star resturants and sleeps on cozy mattresses. Despite being the country’s most respectable man , Edhi is the most simple Pakistani one can ever come across. He wears worn out clothes and chappals, eats simple food, usually stale bread, and spent his life sleeping at a bench outside his dispensary at Mithadar.Despite having the ability to lead a comfortable life, he chooses to live like a beggar. While various other social workers live in bungalows and ask for money , Edhi goes out in the scorching heat and’ begs‘ for his countrymen at an old age.

His humanitarian work is not restricted to Pakistan. He believes in working for the destitutes wherever they are. Age , religion , race, sect, nationality do not matter to the Edhi Foundation. Welfare services have been extended throughout the world including the United Kingdom , United States, Bangladesh, Burma, Nepal , India, Sudan, Uganda, Russia , Ethiopia, Japan, UAE, Hungary , Canada , Afghanistan, Sri Lanka. Edhi is available for all.

Although not a Maulana , as he is popularly called , Edhi understands the basic message of Islam more than many other learned men. His emphasises Huqooq-ul-ibaad ( the rights of fellow human beings) being a means to completing Huquq Allah (the rights of God). According to Edhi , people concentrate on the ritualisitic side of Islam :

“We verbally and ritualistically adopt Huquq Allah but ignore that Huquq ul Ibad is the fundamental principal that implements it”

He believes the Social Welfare System to be the only way forward for Pakistan and the world at large. He believes his Edhi foundation is one step towards achieving that goal and the system must be adopted by the Third World to rid itself of its countless problems.

Edhi has won various national and international awards including Pakistan’s highest civil award Nishan-e-Imtiaz in 1989 and the UNESCO Madanjeet award for his efforts towards promoting tolerance and non-violence. Many Pakistanis are hopeful about a Nobel Peace Prize for Edhi sahab for dedicating his life to the mankind.

 Labels like Shaikh Chilli (a dreamer), mad man, communist, fraud, soft-organ trader, Israeli agent and Indian spy by propagandists aiming to disrupt his humanitarian work never discouraged Edhi. He rose higher and higher with every stone pelted at him. His work , life and credibility fought every allegation thrown at him by his enemies.He has influenced many to work for social welfare but no one until now has been able to stand up to him. Today, Edhi lives in every Pakistani heart and has acquired the status of the ‘real’ hero. The man indeed is the ‘pride of Pakistan’. .

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Living On A Prayer

By Yasser Latif Hamdani (courtesy Daily Times)

The truth is that we are living on a prayer in sport, in politics and even in our economy. And prayer usually means a handout, which itself is a reprehensible thing for any self-respecting people and, may I remind the self-styled Islam-pasand types, a clear violation of the dignity with which a Muslim ought to live his life under Islamic injunctions

As I write these lines, editorials and blogposts all over the blogosphere are full of euphoric scribbling on how the unpredictable Pakistani cricket team has brought down the mighty Australians by bowling them out for 88 on the first day of the second Test match for our home series, which, ironically, is being held abroad in fields of the erstwhile colonial master who gave us cricket. There is a certain pride that our writers have in the unpredictability of our cricket team. It would almost be cute if it were not so tragic. Need I remind you of the heartbreak when indomitable Mr Hussey pulled the rug from under us at the World T-20 Championship? Continue reading

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Fallibility and Democracy

 Ahmad Ali Khalid

 Source : THE DAILY TIMES

Many Pakistani commentators have spoken on the absence of a charismatic figure that can bring about change; however, this is a mistaken analysis. Yes, charismatic authority can be a source of inspiration, but also of corruption and unchecked power.

 The issue of fallibility has been a source of great inspiration and discussion throughout literature and the arts. It is a sobering examination of the human condition, about the fragility and vulnerability of human beings in their thoughts or actions. In the political context (disregarding philosophy and epistemology), however, in the works of great political theorists, the issue of fallibility can be one of the crucial psychological and social bedrocks for democracy.

Since human beings are fallible and equally fallible at that, and none of us can hope to achieve supernatural authority, we must engage, debate, discuss and criticise with the aim to refine and reinterpret our notions of ethics and politics. No single human being among us mortals has the right or the merit to rule in an authoritarian fashion, since, firstly, the best solutions to our social and political problems can never be achieved perfectly and, secondly, no human being possesses the vision for a perfect and practically working utopia. ‘Truth’, in the political context, is not naked. It is obscure and requires deliberation. If this political and social truth cannot be accessed and is not self-evident, one does not have the right to impose and coerce the nation for these ends. This allows — in a simplistic manner — a middle ground between absolutism and relativism. There may be objective standards of ethical conduct and there may be an ultimately ‘perfect’ system of political arbitration and interaction, but we human beings can never be conclusively in possession of or determine these standards.

This simple presentation illustrates the necessity of such an attitude in the establishment of a democratic culture. The problem with Pakistan specifically is that such an attitude is not widespread. Our political consciousness is still shaped by the experience of the Mughals and their benevolent and pious autocracies in the name of faith, coupled with the notion of a ‘redeemer’, a quasi-messianic complex that will deliver the people to a state of bliss and salvation. This is tinged with religious language. However, as many scholars and commentators — both pre-modern and modern — have shown, the Quranic narrative of man shows him as essentially fallible, though endowed with free will and reason. There are standards of objective truth present in faith and revelation, but the act of interpretation and the act of deliberation on this message is an exercise in human reasoning, which again is fallible. This ‘religious fallibilism’ is abundantly present in the canons of Sufi poetry, with sober rendering on this very delicate view of man. The reasons why in Pakistan the democratic experiment has never really taken off are many, but surely one of them is the psychological complexes of the electorate.

Many Pakistani commentators have spoken on the absence of a charismatic figure that can bring about change; however, this is a mistaken analysis. Yes, charismatic authority can be a source of inspiration, but also of corruption and unchecked power. Ultimately, it will be in vain unless a democratic culture on the notions of fallibility and pluralism is constructed. A nation cannot be uplifted on the will of one person. This dissonance in political psychology, on the one hand stating in a benign manner allegiance to democratic principles and on the other, fervently waiting for a modern-day Saladin, is endemic in the electorate. This Saladin complex is reflected in the spurt of new radical movements.

 Idealism is welcome but utopianism is a poison that has been responsible for much loss of human life. Utopianism, particularly of a religious flavour in Pakistan, is deadly to the democratic spirit; it is deluded and is bereft of rational analysis. Utopianism, more often than not, is a corollary of fanaticism and extremism and is emptied of the reservoirs of rational analysis, emphasising passion and emotion at the cost of reason.

A cessation of false, distorted historiography for ideological ends, an end to hagiographic depictions of the past and a sober and critical look at history is in order. To learn from the mistakes of the past, and to improve and build upon the successes, engaging in a type of philosophical anthropology that focuses on the construction of a democratic culture is imperative.

There are signs of change in the emergence of independent media structures, but if one is to say that this phenomenon is a sign of ‘liberalisation’, then we are mistaken. Yes it can be seen as sign of democracy — a minimal conception excluding rights and liberties, taking the literal meaning of the word at face value without further elaboration — but it is not the sign of an enlightened, pluralistic and liberal democracy. It is rather an indicator of a brutish majoritarian democracy. The content of this newly freed press has to be considered when talking of a paradigmatic shift in the political conscience and thinking of the electorate.

Fallibility is important because any individual who thinks that s/he is endowed with special privilege from a supernatural source or otherwise, or imagines that politics and statesmanship are expressions of divine right or believes that they are in sole possession of the truth and that truth alone is what matters in the final analysis (and not the means by which you implement this truth), will and can easily fall prey to violence. This type of intolerance and absolutism is the biggest threat to democracy, since in this notion violence becomes a duty in the pursuit of implementing this inviolable truth.

This attitude is becoming rampant in Pakistan. Autocracy is autocracy whether it is of a religious hue or some other shade. There are examples in our culture (mostly in poetry) that emphasise liberty and pluralism, but the notions of free will, human fallibility in relation to the majesty of God and the notion of a common humanity with the same Creator, who can rejoice in the love of God regardless of creed, have to be explored and elaborated further before they can be presented in intelligible and modern forms of democratic thought.

The liberal democratic experiment Jinnah envisioned for his new nation state was always fighting against the historical tide of an authoritarian political culture. Now it seems this tide is threatening to sink this fragile ship of democratic politics altogether.

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