Abdul Sattar Edhi was deeply political

The founder of country’s largest welfare organisation, Abdul Sattar Edhi, died Friday at the age of 92, his son confirmed as tributes swiftly poured in for the humble man almost unanimously revered as a national hero.

There are a lot of people who will remember him as a humanitarian. There is no doubt that he was. But in a day and age where humanitarianism is associated with being apolitical, such terms can be misleading. Edhi was deeply political.

Renowned humanitarian Abdul Sattar Edhi passes away

To pick up tortured bodies off deserted streets and mountaintops in Balochistan, or Sindh, or elsewhere, when everyone else is too afraid to talk about the disappeared corpses, is political. To put cradles around Karachi so women who have birthed children out of wedlock can place the babies they cannot keep is deeply political. To give the poor dead whose bodies lie wasting under an open sky the dignity of a funeral is deeply political. To dedicate a life to the service of the poorest and most downtrodden is deeply political.

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There are few who know this, but Edhi was a life-long Muslim communist–Islam and communism were not contradictory terms in his book. He was a recipient of the Lenin Peace Prize, and those closest to him have told me that he regularly donated to the Communist Party – out of his own pocket – and hired former communist political workers out of jobs so they could continue doing their political work. After reading communist texts as a young boy, he said he felt a “hatred […] rising in […] [his] heart for a particular class of people who were the main causes of poverty in the world,” but he knew he could do nothing to “change or revolutionise the system,” at a time when no one spoke of systematic oppression. So he turned to fulfilling the needs of the oppressed, and spent his lifetime in their service.

Surkh Salam, Comrade Edhi. Rest in Power.

Article by Mahvish Ahmad

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