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Abdul Sattar Edhi: Making of a Transformational Leader

Nasir Afghan1 Gerhard Apfelthaler2 Once again, it is a very early morning for Abdul Sattar Edhi. He is sitting behind the window of his personal office in Karachi, staring at the skyline of the bustling capital of Pakistan. Setting up his organization, many years ago was anything but an ordinary journey. Abdul Sattar Edhi started his humanitarian work in 1951 from a very small dispensary in Mithadar (it is Urdu language word for sweet water land), Karachi, Pakistan. After more than 50 years, his humble beginnings had grown into a large organization, the Edhi Foundation. In 2008 it employs more than 7,000 workers, including medical doctors, nurses, health care workers, ambulance drivers and volunteers. It operates more than 1400 ambulances all over Pakistan from more than 250 Edhi centres. There are more than a dozen Edhi homes (see details in Exhibit 2) for approximately 6,000 people without homes - seniors, special children, teenagers, children, infants and babies, complemented by an animal shelter. 3 In 2008, the Edhi Foundation’s annual expenditures were at about 800 million Rupees with revenues around 750 million Rupees, and the rest being covered through the interest of 3 billion Rupees in cash deposits. More than 50 years have passed since he started his work, and in 2008 Edhi himself is approaching eighty years of age. The environment was changed and he would not be there forever. The organization which he has built on dedication and compassion was much in need of systems and standard operating procedures, and financial sustainability. Edhi had already transferred most of the day to day operational decisions to his son Faisal Edhi, his daughter Kubra Edhi and his wife Bilquise Edhi. While reflecting on his last 50 years life Edhi was thinking what values and principles could be valuable for the next generation of leaders to manage Edhi foundation in the future without putting the spirit of the past decades at risk, he stopped reflecting, when he heard the call for morning prayer from the distant mosque.
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Lahore University of Management Sciences, Lahore, Pakistan, California Lutheran University, Thousand Oaks, USA, For some details on the Edhi centers, see exhibits 1 and 2

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All rights reserved Dr. Nasir Afghan and Dr. Gerhard Apfelthaler © 2008

The History of the Edhi Family and Abdul Sattar Edhi’s Childhood

About three centuries ago, the ancestors of Abdul Sattar Edhi migrated from Hala, Sindh (Pakistan) to Kathiawar in Gujarat (India) after they converted from the Hindu faith to Islam through the contact with Abdullah Shah Ghazi, a well known spiritual master and Sufi at that time. He also advised the family to adopt trading and business as their vocation, the profession of Prophet Muhammad. He named them Momins (which later became Memons). Some of these Memons later settled in Dorajee, some in Kotyana, some in Kuchi, some in Mithal, and some in Bantva. The Edhi family settled in Bantva (therefore they are known as Bantva Memons), where his grandfather started to work as a commission agent for agricultural food items. Interestingly, Edhi recounts that his grandfather, Haji Rehmatullah, did not believe in surpluses. He even disapproved of having extra food at home. He kept his life simple and was a deeply content and profoundly patient person which earned him a reputation in the community, especially for settling conflicts and solving disputes. Abdul Sattar Edhi was born on December 28th, 1928 in Bantva, India. At that time, Bantva had a total population of 25,000 of which 70 % were Muslim Memons. Bantva was a prosperous town and the Memon community resembled an extended family. Thinking back, Abdul Sattar Edhi says about his father, Haji Abdul Shakoor who worked as a dry fruit commission agent in Bombay. Haji Abdul Shakoor was married three times. He had a son from the first wife, a son and a daughter from the second wife and two sons from the third wife. Abdul Sattar Edhi’s mother was his father’s third wife whom he married after the death of his second wife. Abdul Sattar Edhi’s mother was divorced and had a son and a daughter from her first marriage who were then raised by her sister after she got married to Haji Abdul Shakoor. Thinking of her, Edhi said of his mother that she was a very gentle, sensitive and quiet person. She never was at odds with anyone in her life. She was only saddened by the fact that her two children from her pervious marriage were not with her, although she never complained about it. She sent Edhi to school at the age of seven

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All rights reserved Dr. Nasir Afghan and Dr. Gerhard Apfelthaler © 2008

Gerhard Apfelthaler © 2008 . These poor people are mazloom – disadvantaged . One story. As one of his old friends from Bantva says. When she asked me about the two paisas I sometimes had to confess that I have eaten all the food from both the paisas. She would always distribute cashew nuts. whenever some of the meaner children made fun of handicapped or mentally challenged people.and that I would still have enough food myself to eat before I grow old. pistachios. According to Edhi: “My mother used to make me do physical labour. Huquq-ul-Ibaad – the rights of other human beings . According to Sattar Edhi. they know nothing of the world and yet they have to live as adults”. he emerged as a leader in school who liked to organize groups of boys of his age to play together. She was only satisfied and happy with him when Abdul Sattar Edhi did a good deed by helping the less fortunate. He would show us circus games and perform gymnastics. he had a very kind and sensitive heart. amongst the poorer families in her neighbourhood. Edhi’s mother would praise him for this by saying. She would ask young Edhi to distribute these packets to families who were less fortunate than they were. but had no money himself to buy it.who finished his formal education at the age of thirteen. At the same time. “You have given a voice to the one who did not have one. says Abdul Sattar Edhi. he has learned love and care from his mother. She told me to fear Allah as he never helps those who do not look after the mazloom around us. I was more interested in playing and serving others”. ginger and other food items that her husband used to send from Bombay. Also. Sattar would always be the first to fight with these kids in order to make them stop”. Page |3 All rights reserved Dr. She was of the view that there is no need to sit at home idly and that therefore everyone should work with their own hands to earn a living”. organize us to attack fruit the first priority in Islam. she would say that I have eaten poor people’s money. “Edhi was our leader. Edhi likes to share about his mother goes like this: “When I was in school my mother used to give me two paisas and ask me to buy food with one and eat it and then buy whatever I am eating for a poor boy watching me eat. She would then clean it so that I could take it back to the shop and earn extra money. Nasir Afghan and Dr. If an old lady needed help he would be the first one to run and bring her medicines. I had to bring raw cotton to our home. Then. Nevertheless. These people are as innocent as babies. “I never enjoyed school and never was interested in education. she would say”.

Edhi says: “I had very strong self confidence. Edhi says. he had great freedom in choosing what he wanted to do with his life. Edi says: “It was entirely my mother who planted the seed of social welfare and charitable work in me. Reflecting on this. Edhi remembers him. Edhi remained in Bantva until his family migrated to Pakistan in September 1947. “My father used to talk very little. Once. In the tone of fond memories. I knew that I had potential to be successful in my life and my selfconfidence helped me establish myself as a leader of others”. It makes you work better because appearance is a distraction.During the month of Ramadan4 Edhi’s mother together with other Memon ladies used to prepare food for distribution among the poor. but he always made a great 4 The annual 30 days period of religious fasting in Islam where eating is only permitted in the time between dusk and dawn. Page |4 All rights reserved Dr. His strong will and determination was supported by his strong physique. even in my childhood days. As his father worked away from home and his mother was very gentle. when I asked him why he does it he explained that it is simply the most effective way to curb pride and prevent arrogance. Edhi explained: “Every time my father came back home from one of his trips he shaved my head. In Bantva. Edhi’s mother was more concerned about Edhi’s development as a kind and caring human being than about his education. His friends were usually reluctant to compete with him in competitions because they knew that he would always win. 5 Roti is a flat. When his father once decided to send him to a boarding school in Rajkot. you develop humility and truth. and she did not want him to grow up away from home. Therefore. his mother did not allow it. Edhi’s self confidence and his desire to make a difference contributed greatly towards the further development of his personality. He was athletic and good looking. Sattar Edhi was known among his friends as Roti5. Nasir Afghan and Dr. himself. He was his mother’s favourite child. She always asked Edhi to bring the food to needy families in Bantva. circular-shaped bread. She never forced him to study when he had other noble interests to pursue. even when he was in school. She nurtured it and taught me how to control my desires for material things and do away with personal greed. When you don’t think about the ways you look. According to Edhi his father lead a simple life and based on his many travels and his open personality. people bake in clay ovens.” “I think it was the best lesson I was ever taught”. he had an abundance of experiences and wisdom. Gerhard Apfelthaler © 2008 .

To him. He usually saved one rupee and gave the rest to his mother. but shopkeepers hired young boys to go from house to house to sell clothes and other items. simplicity was the only tolerable way of life. A person of trust who. he had only eaten very little bread with some water. He never complained that he had to work as a simple shopkeeper in the cloth market or sell newspapers in order to make a living. Then I returned to him. Edhi fell in love with a young girl who was a neighbour’s daughter. serves as the keeper of valuables. blankets and other things. he didn’t even drink tea. Gerhard Apfelthaler © 2008 . “One afternoon. I returned home and told my mother about the beggar. The Urdu word Seth is used for wealthy businessmen or merchants. among other things. When we passed through the main bazaar. I became melancholic for days”. Despite the fact that life in Pakistan was very difficult at that time. medicines. we got into serious financial trouble. cleaned up his wound and dressed it. I was with a friend and we were going to a football match. Edhi fondly remembers. he never was dishonest in his business. When we migrated to Pakistan. 7 8 Page |5 All rights reserved Dr. It is from these days that Abdul Sattar Edhi narrates an interesting story which left a deep. She gave me food. From his savings he would later buy shares from the stock exchange. I gave him bread and medicine and brought him to the main Mosque. In those days Memon women did not go to the market to shop. spiritual impression on him. In Bantva. prayed five times a day. Edhi earned five Rupees a month. She smiled back at me and my whole day seemed like a present to me.a greenleaf with red colour ingredients. She used to come to Edhi’s place every day to collect water and Edhi looked forward to seeing her. My intuition told me that he was not a professional beggar. He was wounded and had fever. Next morning when I went to the Mosque to bring even more food. He was very religious. In fact. He would only eat in the morning and 6 Pan is a traditional. Nasir Afghan and Dr. herbal stimulant used in Pakistan . Haji Abdullah. he has a “great passion for saving and a reluctance to spend”. and soon became Amin8 of the group of sales boys with additional responsibilities. I told my friend to go to the match and that I would join him later. my father was a truly optimistic person and always had a positive attitudeAt the age of Thirteen. Edhi took his first job at a cloth market with a Seth7. “Once l saw her beautiful face. He had very high moral standards for himself.impression on me. When I heard that she was engaged to be married. I saw a beggar lying on the street. Throughout these times. According to Edhi himself. never smoked or like many others had an addiction to Pan6.

He also looked very wise. Start from the sunset. Confining ideas from the start can kill human potential. He seemed very different from other people in my town. According to Edhi “I used to remind myself of what my father said . but think of the highest. He spent hours alone dreaming about his desire to set up hospitals. or the Sandes magazine. Nasir Afghan and Dr. He explained to me how Jahez10 is a self Imposing system in society and how destructive it is to social harmony”. he knew how to grow little things to achieve big goals”. the poor and the sick.) 12 Market (transl. I learned about the struggle of the oppressed in Russia against the capitalists. When he would share his ideas with his friends they would call him a Shaikh Chilli11. pens. Edhi started his own business. matchboxes and other small items in the Bazaar12 of Bantva. I was also touched deeply by ‘Mother’ by Gorky”. and in the afternoon he read newspapers.) 10 Page |6 All rights reserved Dr. Young Edhi’s Self Discovery and Social Work After have left the job with the cloth merchant. hard work and saving. Therefore I would say to my friends that it is not in my control to choose where and when ideas come from”.that it is important to think beyond limitations. homes for the elderly. the Poverty of Philosophy and his other writings and I was fascinated by them. Based on his values of simplicity and sensitivity. books and magazines in order to educate himself. the Bombay Samachar. Dowry System (transl. Gerhard Apfelthaler © 2008 . humanity.) 11 Dreamer (transl. he sold pencils. He dreamed of opening factories where the poor could work and earn a living. I got Marx’s “Das Kapital”. He made me see the presence of Allah in humanitarianism and in the serving others. positive attitude and truthfulness. open minded and was very kind hearted and soft spoken. Edhi thought about his future and what he would do with himself. These readings introduced me to the ideas of Marx and Lenin. At the same time he had a very strong desire to travel around the world and see different countries and cities. Edhi further adds “everything became 9 The holy book of Islam. During mornings. but at the same time he was also a very practical person. He taught me how to read the Quran9 and explained its understanding of charity. According to an old friend “Edhi had dreams. “During that time I read publications such as the Muslim Gujarat Gazette.

5 % from his total annual income. In today’s Pakistan.the Seth pay little to the labourers. One of old associate of Mr Edhi said that “having read Marx and being a strong believer. both intellect and spirituality provided him with a good reason to believe in the higher cause he wanted to pursue. He never hesitated to criticize wealthy Muslims if they showed off their wealth instead of helping others. therefore labourers are always left in poverty”. Edhi said that he became very passionate about the revolution and was excited about the struggle for Pakistan. Abuzar Ghaffari was the person who demanded social reform during the third Muslim Khalifa”. hence depriving them of their most basic rights. Edhi did not only saw similarities between the past and the present. Abuzar Ghafafri was an extremely modest and humble person. therefore they are Zalim. He started to follow newspapers and books on Mahatma Gandhi and M Ali Jinnah. According to his son “Mr.much clearer to him when he read the epic story of Hazrat Imam Hussain”. Based on his readings. casts. and live like kings. Zalim divide people into different classes. etc. Gerhard Apfelthaler © 2008 . religions. 15 Zakaat is an Islamic concept of annual donations. 14 Zalim are individuals or groups of people suppressing others and denying them their basic rights and privileges which have been granted by society or religion. Edhi continues. Nasir Afghan and Dr. a companion of Prophet Muhammad. between Mazloom13 (Imam Hussain) and Zalim14 (Yazid). Edhi had also read about Ghaffar Khan’s Khudai Khidmatgar Party whose members were inspired by Mahatma Gandhi. Edhi explains: “From this epic story I have learned about the struggle between good and evil. I also learned that Sarmayadar are Zalim and poor people are Mazloom. they never pay Zakaat 15. Another personality that fascinated Edhi was Abuzar Ghafafri. Edhi realized that there will always be injustice in society and that therefore every society needs people who show compassion and care for others”. They travelled from village to village and door to door to solve people’s problems and help them in any way they could. there is not much difference . At the end of each year every Muslim is expected to donate 2. races. the oppressors”. Edhi explains why: “Abuzar Ghaffari had very strong faith. they evade taxes. The “Sarmayadar” retain major profits and share only very little with the labourers by paying them very low wages. he also found himself in the story of Zalim and Mazloom”. 13 Mazloom refres to under-privileged and deprived people. Page |7 All rights reserved Dr.

a dispensary is a combination of a pharmacy (profit or non-profit) and an ambulant care facility with a nurse or a doctor. tells Edhi. He wanted to learn about the mission of those extraordinary people and what drove them”. Karachi. he parked the cart next to the building he lived in and sold Pan. Nasir Afghan and Dr. Edhi was very happy. and Sattar Edhi started as a volunteer worker. What he was looking for in these books was a reference for his own life. Edhi himself cultivated them and now asked himself where he should plough the fields in Pakistan. He wanted me to move up from the bottom in the business. “My father held the view that I should learn how to earn money through hard work. Edhi recounts “I purchased pencils. because when someone is up he does not come down to learn”. Page |8 All rights reserved Dr. and at night he was at the dispensary.Edhi’s intellectual development was strongly influenced by his readings. he started selling news newspapers in the morning and delivering milk. half of which he gave to his mother and half of which he kept for himself. Gerhard Apfelthaler © 2008 . The seeds for social ideas and humanitarian work had already been planted in Edhi by his mother. his father started working as a commission agent in a cloth shop. After his work as an independent businessman. the Bantva Memon Dispensary16 was established. I arranged them in a tray and started my business venture in the Jodia bazaar in Karachi. Under this organization. Edhi’s first chance of organized social work came in 1949 when a charitable organization was established by Bantva Memons named as Bantva Memons Khidmat Committee in Mithadar. He never thought of himself as an educated or intellectual person. After Edhi family had moved to Karachi. and earned three hundred Rupees a month. During the day he worked as a commission agent in the cloth market. he accepted employment from a cloth merchant. his heroes. It was then that his father gave Edhi enough money to start his own business. Day and night. According to Edhi himself “he was able to develop links between the present realities and the lives of his role models. Next. After several months of saving Edhi rented a cart and started a Pan business on it. 16 In Pakistan. Edhi Said “this early business training helped me to learn how to use my time better and who my customers are and who the people are who waste my time”. matchboxes and towels from the wholesale market. He became ever more skilful and soon he mastered packing three pans in one minute.

As a result. listens and looks after everyone. religion. According to Edhi’s wife “Edhi’s life was made difficult by the community elders. his father’s words were: “The only way to fight back is to ignore them and the only way to win over them is to keep doing your work and prove it well”. According to an old associate of Edhi “during this major crisis Edhi was able to connect to his core values and beliefs. First. Nasir Afghan and Dr. the Bantva Memon Dispensary was charging fees for medicines from non-Memon patients while Memons received them for free. but they also started using their influence to stop him from working in the social sector”. when it comes to humanitarian work. disobeying their rules and criticized the managing committee. He was not only removed from the community. cast. From Edhi’s point of view this was unfair and unjust. According to Edhi. Hindus. or ethnicity. He realized that his ideas were in conflict with the approach of powerful. Edhi’s Mother’s Poor Health and Edhi’s Transformation Page |9 All rights reserved Dr. Allah gives. rich Seth. He decided to go against the prevalent belief system. we have no right to differentiate between the needy ourselves”. Edhi soon realized that it would be waste of energy and time to respond to their allegations and actions. The best strategy would be to focus on the real task which was equitable humanitarian work. therefore. Edhi’s father endorsed him by saying to him: “It is my experience that honest people should not take favours and enter into partnerships with those astray”. there was the fact that Memons divided themselves into small communities each of which would only be serving its own members. Blacks or Whites. Edhi never forgot this advice. but also doubtful if he should accept challenge the system. Edhi was asked to leave the dispensary”. He was of the view that all Memon groups should work together and serve poor people regardless of their race. In this the first major challenge presented itself to young Edhi’s ideas and beliefs. Edhi stills speak with conviction when he says: “I tried my best to explain to the elders that humanitarian work loses its value when we discriminate against poor people because they’re outsiders”. According to Edhi “Allah does not differentiate between Muslims. He was dissatisfied with the existing situation. he accepted the challenge rather than accepting the situation”. Gerhard Apfelthaler © 2008 . Second.According to Edhi’s wife “Edhi was deeply upset about a number of things related to dispensary.

He hired a doctor to work in the dispensary and soon people started to come in increasing numbers. When young women started to graduate and move on start their own Edhi was content – he had helped people to help others. The dispensary was never closed: Edhi used to sleep on the bench outside the dispensary and was always on his heels whenever someone needed help. According to an old subordinate of Edhi “after success of maternity home and midwife training project.In 1951 Edhi spent 2. he continued to work as a commission agent to earn income. they were granted a certificate and they could go and work anywhere or start their own maternity homes. His observations of poor women in the area convinced him that they needed help. From his experience at the dispensary came even more energy and creativity and so in 1952 he bought more rooms above the dispensary and opened a maternity home. in many other cases. According to Edhi’s wife Edhi was always looking for new ways to help poor and old people in need and he would learn new skills to implement the new idea”. he immediately also asked for their resignation after the official purpose was served so that they would not be able to create any problems or interfere with his plans for the organization. Gerhard Apfelthaler © 2008 . After the launch of maternity home Edhi in 1954 started midwife training courses with the help of an experienced doctor at the maternity home. In order to satisfy official regulations about membership. Many had suffered from childbirth or. After six months. community elders and Memon Seth increased their propaganda against Edhi.300 Rupees from his personal savings and bought a tiny shop of only in Mithadar. This was a major challenge both financially and concerning the nature of work. At the same time. Karachi and called it Memon Voluntary Corporation. Nasir Afghan and Dr. Nevertheless. P a g e | 10 All rights reserved Dr. The Corporation was to be a free dispensary for everyone in need. Young women were given three months training and were asked to work for three months in the maternity home in return. Edhi said “sometimes i was wondering how to cope with the opposition from my own community people”. he asked ten local boys to volunteer to join this organization. it was the newborn children who had health problems from the lack of medical infant care.

Seeing how Europe developed after a devastating World War II. they communicated and connected. he still had money from when his father had retired and had decided to distribute his wealth and property among his sons. it’s future and his own organization’s future. Then. However. He reacted immediately by changing the name of the dispensary to Madina Volunteer Corporation. The girl was beautiful and she happened to like Edhi. He took a bus to Iran. Several times he took her to a hospital in a Rickshaw as no ambulance service was available for common people in Karachi. he washed her cloths along with his own. then to France and other European countries. They enjoyed each other's company and shared food which she had brought with her. which he should try to control in the future”. He decided to completely stop working as a commission agent and continued to work only at the dispensary. It was not long before they talked about marriage and Edhi realized how after a long time he was experiencing love again. As much as Edhi likes to remember this episode. He realized how love helped him to bring out his kindness and sensibility”. he made it a policy and informed everyone at the dispensary that anyone who is not satisfied with his organization’s work would be returned their donation money. soon after Edhi’s return to Pakistan his mother developed a serious illness. Edhi said that “he thought about his first love in Bantva and treasured his travel companion’s beauty which made the journey all the more memorable for him. Edhi reflected a lot about Pakistan. He needed very little money for his own living and had enough from his savings.Later. they split and he continued to travel. Despite the fact that they both spoke little English. so that it would not be connected with the Memons anymore. he cleaned her room. Nasir Afghan and Dr. One day while he was at the P a g e | 11 All rights reserved Dr. Edhi himself fondly recalls an episode when he met a girl on a train in Turkey. In addition. When she would rest he went to the dispensary to continue his work there”. Edhi said “he also quickly sensed a weakness in himself that beautiful women could be a major distraction for him. Unfortunately. and he cooked food for her and for his brother. Gerhard Apfelthaler © 2008 . Karachi. When Edhi returned to Mithadar. in 1956/1957 he decided to follow one of his dreams and travel the world. and then travelled onwards to Turkey. According to Edhi “he took his mother for treatments. Not a single person ever claimed even one Rupee. new allegations were waiting for him that he had stolen money from the donation box of the dispensary and the maternity home for his personal travels.

she taught me the love for humanity. she remained committed to her moral standards. Edhi relieves the pain over the loss of his mother and stops speaking for a minute before he continues: “She taught me charity when I was a child. his mother fell at home where he found her on the floor much later. According to an old associate of Edhi “Edhi self transformation was for a social mission and not for himself. “She felt sad. The problems and difficulties I faced in my work were almost the same. I am fighting the struggle of Mazloom against Zalim.dispensary. People do change but mostly for themselves but Edhi changed for others”. “I used to joke with my mother that now she had turned into my child just like I was her child once”. I simply believe that humanitarian work is the ultimate purpose for me and I must do it”. But I always told her that she is my responsibility and I love her and will look after her and will never let anyone else do this job for me”. She taught me humanitarian values and how to appreciate other human beings. Her whole life was a struggle. P a g e | 12 All rights reserved Dr. When Edhi was later asked about how he managed the challenges he was facing from within his community he said: “I believed that Allah is with me in my work. Nasir Afghan and Dr. “Edhi Saab17 used an eye bandage to cover his eyes while taking her to the washroom and while cleaning her up”. and after her death I decided that my whole life should be dedicated to the service to humanity”. Edhi said that “his mother's life was a perfect example of personal sacrifices and of modesty. paralysed. he changed his life style for his mission. Saab is a polite and respectful way of addressing men. And she shared her illness with me by letting see her misery. Edhi said that “She gave birth to me and she was my most precious teacher. Edhi recalls. She was not a very religious person in the traditional sense and had only little knowledge of Islam but her faith provided her with some kind of a natural spiritual bounding with Allah”. Bilquise Edhi. Speaking about her. Gerhard Apfelthaler © 2008 . Even when she was critically ill. After this and for the next 18 months Edhi took even better care of her. and yet she remained positive and kind to others throughout her life. helpless and guilty as she thought of her as a burden to the family. According to Edhi's wife. usually the heads of families or business owners. Edhi further explained that “the 17 In Urdu. When Edhi’s mother died. her feelings of helplessness and lost dignity”. the female equivalent in Urdu is Begum Saab.

He even started a funeral service which picked up human bodies found in the sea. in gutters or at the 18 Bathroom slippers (transl. Gerhard Apfelthaler © 2008 . he could not be stopped doing his work by any person no matter how insurmountable the difficulties seemed. this simple life along with his humanitarian vision has made him the Sattar Edhi he is today”. Only when people insisted to pay for it they were told that they could come to the office and drop money in a box outside the dispensary. throughout challenging times. the elderly. Edhi’s wife adds to this. I have only three pairs of clothes. I decided that I will never give anybody reason to challenge my integrity or my lifestyle. Therefore. He did not charge for the ambulance service. It also provided him with the freedom to spend resources in the ways he wanted in order to start new initiatives and projects of which he thought that they were most urgent.examples like Imam Hussain and Abuzar Ghaffari provide me with spiritual energy. one Jinnah Cap and I sleep on the wooden bench in my dispensary. their stories give me strength and courage to face challenges both in my personal and in my professional life”. in rivers. Edhi wife said that Edhi strongly believes that his ideas and his social mission are related to the missions of his heroes. the special children. Nasir Afghan and Dr. Edhi said: "While facing major challenges from opponents. one pair of plastic Chappal18.) P a g e | 13 All rights reserved Dr. therefore it is better that organization be named after him. This was the first ambulance service for poor people and he called it the “Poor People's Van”. Edhi bought an old wagon with the donation from a friend and converted it into an ambulance. “Edhi Saab mother’s death was the most important event in his life. After the passing of his mother. He also changed the organization's name to Edhi Welfare Organization as he felt that since he is responsible for his own activities and decisions. One of old subordinate added that “the more his opponents criticized him the more committed he became to his mission and the more Edhi reduced his material needs. he never lost his positive attitude and confident outlook. Soon he was able to increase the reach of his services and because of the ambulance more and more people got to know about Edhi’s organization and services. the poor. She was the one who prepared him for humanitarian work and for serving the helpless. and even animals”. so that people can see my life completely”. And not only that. In the end. I have decided that I will never spend extra time or money on myself or my family.

she continues. Sometimes he would pick them up himself even when even the family members did not dare to touch them anymore. He would bring these bodies to Mithadar. However. It is through the example which he sets that everyone in the organization. He is disciplined and a very positive person. He never gets irritated even when things get very gloomy. He would not tolerate people who were slow or lazy. He never wastes time or energy in responding to allegations. An Insight into Edhi’s Personal Vision and Mission As Edhi established the dispensary. make quick decisions. since he is very demanding when it comes to work. because you are doing this work for Allah not for the people who are against us. wash them and provide a proper burial service. when is criticised or sometimes even when his life is threatened. just keep on doing your work and Allah will reward you. and he advises his friends and employees to do the same. and thus brought shame to his organization. since there was no other organization doing this and government system was almost absent.roadside. Gerhard Apfelthaler © 2008 . But since he himself is so committed and works so much people respect him so they continue to give their best”. According to Edhi “he kept searching for people who could take initiative. he gets very angry and even threatens that he will leave us. Hence Edhi foundation become a major service provider”.” P a g e | 14 All rights reserved Dr. “Hajee Saab”. explains: “When we make mistakes in our work. Nasir Afghan and Dr. He wanted the most excellent work from everyone. just like he had done for his mother. “is very committed to his work. Edhi Son said “employees are scared of him. funeral services and he needed ever more people to work with him. unethical or negative. According to an observer of Edhi foundation “the ambulance service and funeral services provided excellent opportunity for Edhi foundation to grow in all over Pakistan. followed by the maternity home. Bilquise Edhi. Edhi’s wife. He says. and then the ambulance services. and work hard. He simply stays focused. his demands never seem outrageous to anybody as he is demanding the same from himself”.

Edhi started buying cheap skins from shops which he would re-sell at higher prices to tanneries and manufacturers of leather goods. Very soon. Khairat21. 21 Khairat is an Islamic concept of charity in order to help less fortunate people in society. he adds. “I want to simply provide health services. He needed more funds but the contributions he was getting from the Charity Box in the dispensary were not enough. Religion teaches us to be fair and treat people with equality. Gerhard Apfelthaler © 2008 . with complete honesty and with his full capacity. Sadikat20. therefore there is good in failure and there is good in success. he said that he decided not to take donations from 19 20 The traditional New Year’s celebration at spring equinox. So he devised a new strategy for increasing his funding base. Interestingly. Edhi Saab just would never stop trying”. And. Explaining his mission Edhi continues. and background”. Serving the Mazloom is just like praying”. Edhi’s wife confirms the spiritual nature of his work: “Edhi Saab works very hard. Gradually. Edhi even collected money by begging on the streets. P a g e | 15 All rights reserved Dr. He started to collect skins of animals sacrificed on Eid 19 and sell them commercially. but Zalim is never fair and never does justice to people. they also started to receive all types of donations: Zakaat. Sadikat is an Islamic concept of donations by wealthy people in order to help less fortunate family members and friends. “I have observed that religion brings people together but Zalim (Seth) divide people for one reason only: so that they can continue to have cheap labour. Edhi trust in his own work was growing day by day. Why should ill persons not have medicines or an ambulance or a doctor available when they need it just because they are poor? Poor and Mazloom people have a right to these things like any other person of wealth or status”. Next. It was his business acumen that helped him to develop new strategies to provide his social mission with a constant flow of the necessary financial recourses. and donations in kind -people would drop anything they could afford. Just like a regular beggar as Edhi said “he wanted to educate the people of his nation to learn to give charity and to contribute to the social mission”. race. Nasir Afghan and Dr.According to Edhi himself his mission is “to serve humanity regardless of religion. All religions teach of service to mankind. To me this was not acceptable and I decided that I will fight for the Mazloom through my social and humanitarian work. especially Islam teaches its followers that Huquq-ul-Ibaad is your first responsibility but Zalim never fulfilled it. food and shelter to poor people when they need it. He strongly believes that results come from Allah.

She is always with him in every critical situation both inside and outside of Pakistan. Edhi went to Lahore Mall Road along with the student’s friends and decided that they would not leave before they had collected the whole amount. and after their wedding she continued to help Edhi in the overall work and development of the foundation. The Foundation’s Present Organization and Future Challenges In 1970 Edhi decided to take part in national parliamentary elections as as an independent candidate. Once he collected 1.0 million Rupees for his cancer treatment in the United Seth for his foundation. he changes the original idea radically and restarts with full energy. Gerhard Apfelthaler © 2008 . Nasir Afghan and Dr. because he felt that they wanted to interfere in the organization for their personal interests and that they wanted publicity for their charity in return. he would immediately start with small actions. which failed to draw enough votes. This donation was for a young student who was a cancer patient and needed 2. She also continues to look after the maternity home and the child adoption activities of the Edhi Foundation.2 million Rupees in Lahore in one day only. After friends of his had collected only 800. it was Edhi Saab who showed everyone what’s possible by helping personally and by encouraging everyone to do their work. But again. P a g e | 16 Another challenge the All rights reserved Dr. She first started working at Edhi’s maternity home as a helper. Endless streams of dead bodies were brought to his maternity home in Karachi for cleaning and burial.000 Rupees and were short of money. Energy also comes from the support of his wife to who he got married in 1966. collect feedback and try to improve his performance for better results. as the 1971 war between Pakistan and India provided him with enough work. after eight other girls refused marriage proposals from him because of his lifestyle and his work. According to Edhi when he starts a new project he never wastes time on thinking and planning. Edhi didn’t have time to ponder about the loss. he would reflect. Once completed. As soon as it becomes useless or ineffective. He continues an activity or a project only as long as it is working. His wife recalls that they were initially afraid not to be able to deal with the large numbers of bodies in their small maternity home. His honest intention was to push his reform agenda into national politics.

Another year went by and Edhi’s organization was now a well known organization all over Pakistan. Gerhard Apfelthaler © 2008 . for the first time. To date. he recalls one of his schoolteachers to say that “the death of Imam Hussain is not just a mere event in Muslim history. There were several trustees involved including Edhi’s brother. In the same year Edhi and his wife decided to go to Haji. the trustees started to take growing influence on the day to day operations of the organization. this was more than just a trip for Edhi. after 1979 Edhi converted the Trust into the P a g e | 17 All rights reserved Dr. “When I came back from the earthquake region in Northern Pakistan”. It was in the same year that Edhi’s father died. “my uncle called and informed me that my father had had a heart attack.organization faced was in 1972 when Northern Pakistan was struck by a major earthquake. a major loss for Edhi. I asked myself why we couldn’t have the same culture of sharing and belonging in our country. Before 1978 the organization had been registered as Abdul Sattar Edhi Trust under the Pakistan Trust Act of 1886. Then. Nasir Afghan and Dr. Thereby. Upon his return from Mekka Edhi decided to go Iran to visit the tomb of Imam Hussain and pay his respects to his spiritual master. it was another opportunity for personal growth. In 1978. an annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mekka. but by the time I reached his home he had already passed away”. They went in an ambulance of his. At one instance Edhi's younger brother even started a physical fight with Edhi. Again. while other trustees started legal proceedings against Edhi in which he prevailed in 1979. Edhi was able to set an example for other social and charity organizations to set up camps in the earthquake areas. Edhi’s organization had already been present in these areas and quickly Edhi developed a supply chain from Karachi to these areas. It is a universal reality which helps the weak and the deprived to take a stand and struggle against the powerful and unjust social forces”. Pakistan”. I hurried. Edhi instantly decided to take a team of doctors and volunteers to the region that was hardest hit. In 1973 there was a major flood in Pakistan which most severely affected the provinces of Sind and Baluchistan. there were even thoughts of suicide. Edhi's younger brother was leading a number of trustees in the attempt to remove Edhi from the Edhi Trust. He had never expected his biological brother to act against him in the described manner. During the whole period Sattar Edhi was extremely stressed and. Edhi: “Seeing rich and poor. white and black living and eating from the same food. Edhi recalls.

It was a very successful project. Plus. the organization knows how much each ambulance costs per month. Islamabad. Faisalabad. he had some outside experience and training in ambulance operations. Gerhard Apfelthaler © 2008 . Previously there was nothing except a copy of the national identity card. Edhi decided that he will never again have trustees and people other than his own family members in the organization. Based on his expertise he started to develop processes and systems in the ambulance operations area immediately after he joined. technology driven and quality oriented. Lahore. the experience also opened new growth possibilities for Edhi's social mission. especially in large cities such as Karachi. According to Faisal Edhi “the external environment and dynamics within the ambulance service area is becoming more and more competitive. for the first time. Recently the Foundation also started to keep records of the staff. his wife as well as his two sons and two daughters. Faisal Edhi. Therefore. including himself. develop operational systems.” He believes that the quality of well trained staff and the quality of the equipment used are becoming important factors for any emergency operator.” Furthermore. we had no record system for our ambulance. the younger son of Mr Edhi joined organization in 1996 and since then implemented several projects. There are seven members in the foundation. we started ambulance log books which allowed us to monitor travel time and distance for ambulances. If there are abnormalities they can now be identified and corrective actions can be taken. Before he joined the organization in Karachi as a volunteer. In addition. Peshawar etc. develop well trained professional staff and buy costly equipment. But now records of all staff 22 See exhibit 4 for some examples. and almost 50 % of the revenues were lost from ambulance operations. He said: “For instance. Now. the described conflict had transformed the Edhi Foundation from a welfare trust into an international humanitarian organization.income-tax exempt Abdul Sattar Edhi Foundation. Hence it was a big challenge for Edhi foundation to transform the organization structure. all Edhi centres were connected through wireless communication systems which helped in coordinating emergency activities. Nasir Afghan and Dr. On the positive side. an inventory management and motor parts purchasing systems were implemented. The foundation provided him with a bigger platform to extend his humanitarian ideas and services not only in Pakistan but also internationally22. P a g e | 18 All rights reserved Dr.

Faisalabad or Sialkot. One challenge which Abdul Sattar Edhi clearly recognizes himself is the lack of well educated and professional people coming to his organization. according to Faisal Edhi. Faisal Edhi further said “God forbid. Despite all new professionalization of the organization. Besides keeping the flow of donations constant. if something happened to Edhi Saab. it still relies heavily on honorary volunteers. different sets of competencies and skills to manage them. Therefore. P a g e | 19 All rights reserved Dr. no matter how large or small. only women are coming”. He further added that “my main role will be to make sure that foundation is financially sustainable in the future”. the centers are run by “honorary in-charges”. such as Gujranwala. background. the next generation of family members will have to develop different systems and approaches at the top level of the organization in order to manage those challenges”. it has many different operations and these different operations require different sets of roles and responsibilities. but the organization is headed by an elected volunteer. but also breeds a new generation of managers. According to Edhi “educated young men are not coming to welfare work. Gerhard Apfelthaler © 2008 . Edhi further said that “I am a very authoritarian type person and I managed this organization through centralized decision-making. my mother Bilquise Edhi would be the next person in line to lead this social mission of Edhi Saab”. He attributes that to the fact that women generally are more compassionate and caring than men. especially the management mindset towards future directions and vision. other future external challenges may include terrorist attacks from nationalist and terrorist groups. In some cities. Most of these honorary incharges are successful business persons. Nasir Afghan and Dr. Faisal Edhi considers it most important that the Edhi foundation transforms itself. I decide each and every financial issue. But in the future this may not work for the organization. Since the Edhi Foundation is becoming an ever larger and more complex organization. training. Faisal Edhi says: “it is like in a municipal organization where the workers and staff consist of paid civil servants.such members on education. Also. These honorary incharges are purely selected on the basis of their unbiased views towards social and humanitarian work and their level of financial stability. age. Also. prior experience and more are kept. new layers in the organization were added which not only helped to improve performance and bypass inefficiencies. the mayor”.

com P a g e | 20 All rights reserved Dr. Sattar Edhi Foundation. 2. Karachi. Pakistan. A. Abbas. the financial budgeting or the planning function. the lack of competent and professional human resources. Abdul Sattar Edhi’s 25 years Services. Karachi. He further said “he wants them to follow truth. Abdul Sattar Edhi Trust (Eds. Rifat. 3. hard work. Abdul Sattar Edhi. discipline. According to Edhi himself “the future challenge would be how much his children have the passion for humanitarian work”. (2006). Durrani. the lack of integrated operating systems in the organization. simplicity and non conflicting attitude towards opposition”. T. Edhi Foundation Website www. Abdul Sattar Edhi – A Mirror – to the Blind An Autobiography. Karachi. Pakistan. (1996). Nasir Afghan and Dr. Bibliography 1. Pakistan. and certainly the need for passion for humanitarian work”.edhifoundation. Jung Publisher. honesty. 4. Gerhard Apfelthaler © 2008 .) (1976).One outside observer of the organization’s history and it’s development sees many challenges .

Gerhard Apfelthaler © 2008 .Exhibit 1: EDHI OFFICES AND CENTERS National Offices • • • • • • • • • • • • • 23 • EDHI HEAD OFFICE ZONAL OFFICE KARACHI ZONAL OFICE QUETTA ZONAL OFFICE MULTAN ZONAL OFFICE FAISALABAD ZONAL OFFICE LAHORE ZONAL OFFICE ISLAMABAD 4 Edhi Centers Islamabad 12 Edhi Centers in the province of NWFP 68 Edhi Centers in the province of Punjab 62 Edhi Centers in the province of Sindh 5 Edhi Centers in the province of Balochistan 2 Edhi Centers in the province of Azad Jammu and Kashmir 2 Edhi Centers in the province of Fata International Offices • • London. Nasir Afghan and Dr. Faisal Edhi during interview session P a g e | 21 All rights reserved Dr. Canada 23 Source: The date was provided by Mr.K Toronto. U.

Gerhard Apfelthaler © 2008 . 2 7 21 28 4 On Call On Call On Call 1 1 1 5 3 Disp. Karachi) Edhi Home For Children (Korangi) Edhi Home For Children (Village) Edhi Home For Elders (Village) Edhi Home For Children (Sohrab Goth) Edhi Home For Elders (Sohrab Goth) Edhi Home (Peshawar) Edhi Home (Quetta) Edhi Home (Islamabad) Edhi Home (Gilgit) Edhi Home (Lahore) Edhi Home (Gulberg. personal interview P a g e | 22 All rights reserved Dr. 2 Disp. 1 Disp. 1 Disp. Lahore) Edhi Home (Kala Shah Kaku Lahore) Edhi Home For Male (Multan) Edhi Home For Female (Multan) Bilquis Edhi Cancer Hospital Docto rs 4+4 1 On Call 2 On Call 2 2+1 3 Nurses Dispense r N19+Disp4 Nurses 2 Nurses7 Peons 24 4 2 12 4 Drive rs 10 2 1 35 5 47 Staf f 34 22 2 8 12 32 27 10 Patient s 300 300 200 2000 100 300 1500 40 500 20 20 150 50 60 200 50 15 Disp.Exhibit 2: EDHI HOMES24 Centre 01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 Edhi Home For Children (Mithadar) Edhi Home Female Child(New Clifton) Edhi Home (Qasba) Edhi Home For Women (N. 1 3 5 6 9 9 3 4 2 1 1 30 52 1 1 12 4 1 20 1 6 4 3 3 3 9 24 Source: Faisal Edhi. 1 Disp. 3 Disp. Nasir Afghan and Dr.

Government of Pakistan. Pakistan Civic Award 1995: Human Rights Award by Pakistan Human Rights Society. Italy 2005: Life Time Achievement Award by the World Memon Organisation (WMO). 1989: Government of Sind. Gerhard Apfelthaler © 2008 . 2000: Largest Voluntary Ambulance Organization of the World . The Social Worker of Sub-Continent 1992: Pakistan Civic Society. Nasir Afghan and Dr. Recognition of meritorious services to oppressed humanity during the eighties.Exhibit 3: ABDUL SATTAR EDHI’S AWARDS25 National awards • • • • • • • • 1989: Nishan-e-Imtiaz from Government of Pakistan 1989: Ministry of Health and Social Welfare. 1999: Shield of Honour by Pakistan Army (E & C) 1999: Silver Jubilee Shield by College of Physicians and Surgeons.Guinness Book of World Records 2000: Hamdan Award for volunteers in Humanitarian Medical Services 2000 UAE 2000: International Balzan Prize 2000 for Humanity. 45 Years Of Selfless Service. Faisal Edhi during interview session P a g e | 23 All rights reserved Dr. Peace and Brotherhood. Pakistan International awards • • • • • • • • • 1986: Ramon Magsaysay Award for Public Service 1988: Lenin Peace Prize 1992: Paul Harris Fellow Rotary International Foundation 2000: International Balzan Prize for Humanity. 2006: Honorary Doctorate by the Institute of Business Administration Karachi (IBA) 25 Source: The date was provided by Mr. Peace and Brotherhood. 1998: Khidmat Award by Pakistan Academy of Medical Sciences.

Supply of rice and edibles to Mogadishu in Somalia during 1993 in collaboration with the Pakistan Army.5 million. Relief supplies for Bosnian refugees in Pakistan and supply of relief goods and assistance in Croatian Camps during 1993-94.4. Nasir Afghan and Dr. clothing. Relief activities conducted in Croatian camps for Bosnian people durin 199394. Gerhard Apfelthaler © 2008 . during 1994.. Relief goods. Afghanistan.Exhibit 4: INTERNATIONAL SERVICES DETAILS26 • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • Aid to Afghan refugees Since 1978. etc. Efforts for the release of prisoners and detainees involved in minor immigration irregularities in Iraq and Romania during 1993-94. Rupees 0. Aid for the affected people and refugees of Persian Gulf War during 1991 in the form of blood. Aid during the earthquake in Cairo 1992. plasma. Evacuation and relief for plague victims in Saurat (India) during 1994. Financial and travel assistance to the stranded Pakistanis in Kuwait during the Persian Gulf War in 1992.5 million for flood relief in Bangladesh during 1986. edibles supplied to Afghan refugees in Jalalabad. Faisal Edhi during interview session P a g e | 24 All rights reserved Dr. Aid to earthquake victims of North-Western Iran during 1990. Rupees one million in aid to the drought and famine-stricken areas in Ethiopia during 1985. Relief aid to Kurd refugees. USSR during year 1989. medicines and surgical instruments. Provision of blood bags for Japanese earthquake victims during 1994. Continuous relief goods including tents. Continuous relief operations including provision of transportation facilities to Bosnian refugees during 1993-94. worth approximately Rs. Relief to the needy in the civil war in Lebanon during 1983. In addition an ambulance was also Provided. Aid to earthquake victims of Armenia. blankets and rations for refugees in Azad Kashmir. 26 Source: The date was provided by Mr.