In her narrated biography of Abdul Sattar Edhi, Tehmina Durrani billed Pakistan’s leading philanthropist and social activist as a ‘mirror to the blind’. Interestingly, it is difficult to find lapses in this judgment. On the contrary, for once, the hyperbole of a compliment reached appropriate justification. Edhi’s charitable ventures have cut through the veneer of long-standing prejudices that plague society and have revealed the bare bones of humanity. Whenever the government has balked at providing facilities, he has stepped in, filled the vacuum and established some of the traces of infrastructure we have today. Edhi is an institution — a man who embodies courage, belief and rare enthusiasm to help the world. His work speaks a language of its own and heightens awareness about the art of giving.
Unfortunately, the assailants who looted Edhi failed to understand this language of peace. The day they broke into the Edhi Centre, marked an attempt to break the mirror to the blind. When they held him at gunpoint and robbed him, they single-handedly dismantled the values he had taught by example. A man who had once been admired as the champion of humanitarian causes was shown gratitude through hooliganism and disrespect.
At this critical stage, the questions which have been bubbling in our minds need to find a voice. After this heinous incident, every sliver of emotion is needed to demand an answer, a justification and an apology. We must find the culprits and hold them to task. The entire world wants to know one thing: why did you have to steal from Edhi when you could have just asked him for help?
And if they don’t answer, we should hold them on account for trying to obscure the only beacon of light that has shone in the eyes of the masses.
Recently, after Malala’s Nobel was being debated across the board, Edhi’s name was brought up frequently as the only one deserving to receive this award. And yet, recent events have called into question the support he has in society. After the groundswell of support he was shown last week, even the thought of holding a gun to Edhi’s head seems like sacrilege. Have we — as a society — only paid lip service to Edhi and forgotten the services he has rendered for us?
This question should raise alarm among every conscientious citizen. After all, it is difficult to see yourself in a mirror that is cracked and beaten down.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 23rd, 2014.