Tributes are pouring in from all over for Abdul attar Edhi, the most revered hero of Pakistan.
The celebrated humanitarian and founder of the Edhi Foundation, a non-profit welfare organisation died at the age of 88 at a hospital in southern city of Karachi late on Friday.
“We have lost a great servant of humanity, prime minister Nawaz Sharif said in a statement.
“Abdul Sattar Edhi’s tireless work has helped save hundreds of thousands of lives and shown us what it means to be a man who works for the people…”Despite all his success, he has always stayed humble, living a simple life in a small house barely large enough to encapsulate his enormous heart,” the statement said.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf leader Imran Khan described Edhi as a “noble soul”, while military chief General Raheel Sharif expressed his “deepest sorrow and regret”.
As news broke of his death, social media lit up with tributes lauding him as “the greatest Pakistani”.
“Edhi sahib … one of the greatest man of our times who was really larger than life … an icon & inspiration to generations … RIP, Sir!. Punjab chief minister and prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s brother Shehbaz Sharif tweeted.
Goodbye my legend …
Goodbye my hero …
May Allah, in His infinite mercy, bless you in the most rewarding of ways …
— Shehbaz Sharif (@CMShehbaz) July 8, 2016
Abdul Sattar Edhi was the greatest humanist in #Pakistan. Was honored to know him & to humbly participate in his great work, Hussain Haqqani who was Pakistan’s envoy in Washington said in a tweet.
Abdul Sattar Edhi was the greatest humanist in #Pakistan. Was honored to know him & to humbly participate in his great work.
— Husain Haqqani (@husainhaqqani) July 8, 2016
Edhi’s funeral will be held on Saturday afternoon, his son said. He would be buried with the national flag wrapped around his coffin and would be accorded a police guard of honour.
He would be laid to rest, in a grave he had himself dug, in the clothes he was wearing at the time of his death as per his wishes.
He was born to a family of traders in what was then the Bombay Presidency in undivided India on January 1, 1924.
His family migrated to Pakistan in 1947.
Edhi headed a foundation which supported thousands of needy people and children. He was conferred several national awards for his services to humanity.
The Edhi Foundation is one of Pakistan’s largest public welfare organisations and runs one of the biggest fleets of ambulances, dozens of clinics and orphanages in the country.
The foundation was home to the speech-impaired Indian girl, Geeta, who was found in Lahore city after she strayed across the border abroad the Samjhauta Express train in 2003.
Edhi foundation played a significant role in helping Geeta to return to India. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, expressing gratitude for this, announced a contribution of Rs 10 million for the foundation, which Edhi politely declined to accept.
Motivated by a spiritual quest for justice, over the years Edhi and his team created maternity wards, morgues, orphanages, shelters and homes for the elderly, picking up where limited government-run services fell short.
Edhi Foundation’s most visible presence is its over 1500 ambulances. He was so widely respected that terrorists were known to spare his ambulances.
Edhi had also donated his organs but due to continuous medical treatment, only his corneas could be harvested.
Faisal said Edhi had declined an offer from former president Asif Zardari for medical treatment in a foreign hospital saying he preferred to die in Pakistan.
Edhi was diagnosed with kidney failure in 2013, but had been unable to get a transplant due to frail health.
Edhi has been nominated several times for the Nobel Peace Prize, and appears on the list again this year — nominated by teenage Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai.
Frail and weak in his later years, he appointed Faisal as the managing trustee in early 2016.
Edhi and his wife, Bilquis Edhi, received the 1986 Ramon Magsaysay Award for public service. He is also the recipient of the Lenin Peace Prize and the Balzan Prize.
In 1989, Edhi received the Nishan-e-Imtiaz from the government of Pakistan.