November 17, 2018

Abdul Sattar Edhi, Muslim humanitarian who preserved Daniel Pearl’s remains, 88

Abdul Sattar Edhi, a Muslim humanitarian, died July 8 in Karachi, Pakistan, mourned by millions of Pakistanis and, in Los Angeles, by the family of slain journalist Daniel Pearl. Edhi was 88.

Pearl was the South Asia bureau chief for The Wall Street Journal who was kidnapped and decapitated by terrorists in 2002 while working in Pakistan.

When Pearl’s abandoned body parts were finally found, cut into 10 pieces, there was no one in the strife-ridden country to gather his remains and transport them to his family in Los Angeles.

It was Edhi who stepped in, according to Daniel’s father, UCLA professor Judea Pearl, and his sister Tamara Pearl.

“Mr. Edhi appointed himself the custodian of Daniel’s remains and brought them to the airport,” Tamara Pearl said.

“They came in three ambulances, one with the remains and the two others as decoys, protected by an armed convoy,” she added. “Before the coffin was transferred to the plane, Mr. Edhi attached a wreath with the words ‘For the peace and soul of Daniel Pearl.’ ”

Such concern and respect for a Jewish journalist was extraordinary in a country frequently torn by sectarian hostilities and terrorist strife, but a common act of decency
for Edhi.

Born a Muslim around 1928 in India, he fled to Pakistan after the 1947 partition of the subcontinent into two countries, and, horrified by the government’s indifference toward the country’s poor and sick, set himself up as a one-man welfare agency.

He raised his first funds while sitting cross-legged on a busy Karachi street, with pedestrians occasionally dropping rupee notes in his lap.

In 1951, he established the Edhi Foundation, which now runs hospitals, orphanages, mosques, legal aid offices, and centers for the abandoned and drug addicts, and employs 2,000 ambulances, which it dispatches to the sites of terrorist attacks.

Sometimes dubbed the “Father Teresa of Pakistan” and recognized as his country’s most respected figure, it was characteristic of Edhi that shortly before his death, he willed his two eyes, his body’s only viable organs, to the blind.

Edhi is survived by his wife and fellow humanitarian, Bilquis Bano, and four children. Edhi was an honorary board member of the Daniel Pearl Foundation.