KARACHI: Another beautiful personality is gone, wiped out in a flash leaving an everlasting impact on the poor and the destitute of Pakistan. Never before has a passing away as devastating as the Quaid’s struck us before, Pakistan has been scarred forever. A mother to the orphans, a helping hand to the needy and a friend to the helpless, Bilquis Edhi, has left the world, the entire Nation in a pool of tears.
Bilquis Bano Edhi, also known as the Mother of Pakistan, died yesterday, of cardiac arrest, at the age of 65 after being taken to hospital in Karachi. She was a national hero- one of Pakistan’s biggest humanitarians and aide workers.
“The pain is unbearable,” says her widower, Abdul Sattar Edhi sadly, “but it cannot amount to what the Pakistani’s feel.”
She was born on 14 August, 1947 in Karachi and started her life as a nurse gaining momentum every step of the way. She was in 8th grade when she quit school and joined the 6 month nurses training program in the Edhi Foundation. She proved to be an efficient worker; her strong will and talent made her stand out from her colleagues.
“Her response, enthusiasm and interest during the training program really intrigued me,” Abdul Sattar Edhi says with a sad smile, “I put her in charge of the nursing department in 1965. A year later we got married.”
She was only 17 while her husband was almost 20 years older. She bore him 4 children, two sons, Faisal and Almas and two daughters, Kubra and Zeenat. Their marriage proved to be a success according to their longtime family friend and fellow aide worker, Jamil Ansari.
“It was a match made in heaven,” he says with a gleam in his eyes, “Two different people, their hearts beating as one, joined their hands together to create a better Pakistan of tomorrow.”
At the time of their marriage, Edhi foundation was run in Edhi’s old home, they didn’t have much to start off with. Bilquis Bano bore through it all, her eyes searching not for help but to give. Even though they had a tiny place and owned no possessions, Bilquis Bano did not let this get in the way of her humanity. Her first major experience at the Edhi Foundation was during the 1965 war with India.
“The bombings resulted in a number of brutally mutilated bodies which she and 60 voluntary workers had to collect and wash for burial,” Jamil Ansari recalls, “Sometimes they’d find only an arm, or leg or a head.”
The time was tough, it was changing but her spirit remained as helping as before. Her responsibilities at the Edhi Foundation included looking after the ladies and the children section. Bilquis Edhi Foundation has saved over 16,000 unwanted babies, sheltered orphans and helped destitute women.
“Amma was not just my mother,” says son Almas, his voice breaking up, “she was a Mother to everyone.”
Edhi Foundation has 300 cradles, most popularly known as jhoolas installed all over the country. They carry the message “Do not kill, leave the baby in the cradle” in both English and Urdu. Most of the children they take in are disabled or unwanted females.
“Amma was truly like my own mother,” weeps Abdur-Rehman, a 13 year old orphan raised and housed in one of the Edhi Centres, “For she was the one who clothed, fed and sheltered me when I was left at the jhoola.”
Later in her life her children joined the Foundation she had set up with her husband and took it to whole new levels. They manage the offices in Pakistan and London.
“It is true that she had a big heart,” says daughter Kubra tearfully, “She spent her entire life working for aa great cause.”
Bilquis Bano Edhi is no more, but her spirit and memory will never be forgotten. No words can describe the amount of her work and accomplishments. No doubt one can rank her among the league of the leading ladies of Pakistan.
*A Journalism project, writing obituary for a famous person from Pakistan who was not deceased.