Enough of power politics. Let us take a moment and discuss the politics of selflessness, philanthropy, giving away, and seeking nothing.
Let us pay tribute to ‘Mother of Pakistan’ Bilquis Edhi who walked away with an angel to her Maker on April 15. The woman was a force to be reckoned with. I am not sure how we have celebrated her work but all over the world, her work was recognized as much as Edhi sahab. She was awarded the Lenin Peace Prize, the 1986 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Public Service, and the Mother Teresa Memorial International Award for Social Justice in 2015. She was also a recipient of Hilal-i-Imtiaz, Pakistan’s second-highest civilian honor. Together with her husband Abdul Sattar Edhi, Bilquis Edhi established the Edhi Foundation and its many wings.
Abdul Sattar Edhi has a list of projects to his credit, but Bilquis Edhi was particularly known for her Jhoola project which asked people to leave their unwanted babies in the care of the Edhi Foundation. She established over 300 cradles throughout Pakistan, which allowed over 16,000 babies to live. Yes, 16,000 lives.
Edhi and her foundation kept the children in their orphanages and provided them with care and love. She was also a part of many people’s journeys in adopting children. Since Bilquis Edhi treated all cradle babies as her own, she established an extensive and rigorous procedure through which people were allowed to adopt from the Edhi Foundation. At one of the stages, she interviewed the prospective parents herself to make sure the children ended up in good hands. An Edhi baby, as she likes to call herself, wrote a beautiful note at the passing of Bilquis Edhi, who to her was Barri Amma. Rabia Bano Osman wrote that Bilquis Edhi’s jhoola project saved her life and that she named her after her own mother. Osman wrote that whatever she is today is because of the efforts of Edhi who found two amazing parents for her. The Edhi baby, who is now a lawyer, stated that because of Bilquis Edhi she dared to dream and had a chance at life and freedom. Her account is just one of the many lives the ‘Mother of Pakistan’ touched.
Bilquis Edhi married Abdul Sattar Edhi when she was only 19.
Together, they established a large network of ambulances and a hospital. The foundation provides many welfare services, such as children’s services, educational services, burials of the abandoned, disaster relief all over the world, missing person service, and refugee assistance among other services.
The couple lived a fairly simple life and did not even own a house in their name. They supported and aided each other in every way. Since the first day of their marriage, they devoted their lives to philanthropy together as a couple. Abdul Sattar Edhi left the world in 2016 and Bilquis joined him this year.
They were a power couple in the real sense of the phrase and without them the poor and abandoned of Pakistan would have suffered far more.
As a woman, Bilquis can be seen as a true feminist icon who paved her way in society and empowered many along the way. She worked too much, far away from the media galore. She provided the motherly love to thousands of abandoned children.
She will be truly missed and one hopes that her legacy is carried forward and everyone will learn a thing or two from her services.