Pakistan’s “Mother Teresa” detained by U.S. immigration

January 30, 2008

Abdul Sattar Edhi holds baby recovered from human smuggling ring, 15 March 2002

(Update: Edhi returned to Karachi on Feb. 4.)

When U.S. immigration officers question an arriving Pakistani for eight hours and seize his passport, they presumably suspect some kind of link to Islamist terrorism. Abdul Sattar Edhi, 79, “has links” to some horrifying violence, so to speak, but it’s hard to imagine they’re the kind that immigration officers may have suspected when they detained him at New York’s Kennedy Airport on Jan. 9.

Edhi and his colleagues care for — and, when necessary, bury — the victims of violence in his native city Karachi. His private Edhi Welfare Trust foundation runs an extensive ambulance service, buries unclaimed bodies and maintains centres for orphans, the homeless, the addicted and the mentally ill. In a country where state-run welfare services are basic or non-existant, his charity work is so unusual and prominent that he is often called “Pakistan’s Mother Teresa”.

When a bomb blast in Karachi last October killed 139 supporters of opposition leader Benazir Bhutto (herself later assassinated), Edhi ambulances were among the first helpers to arrive at the scene. One report noted the trust collected 110 of the victims, and washed and wrapped them in shrouds according to Muslim custom at its morgue so relatives could claim them.

Edhi Trust workers carry coffin of Daniel Pearl, 7 Aug. 2002/Zahid HusseinWhen Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl’s body was found in Karachi months after he was murdered, it went first to the Edhi Trust morgue before being shipped home to the United States.

In late 2001, as U.S.-backed Afghan forces fought to overthrow the Taliban, the Edhi Trust sent ambulances from Pakistani border areas into Taliban strongholds in southern Afghanistan to bring out civilian casualties for treatment. The Trust also rushed workers and aid to northern Pakistan when a serious earthquake hit it in 2005. It has offices in several other countries, including the United States, and also rushed aid to the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Pakistan’s government and media are up in arms over the detention, which means Edhi, 78, is now stuck in New York until at least February 20.

During the interrogation, they wanted to know why I travelled to the U.S. so frequently,” Edhi told the BBC on Tuesday from New York. “I told them about the nature of my work, but they did not understand. They also wanted to know why I was not living in the U.S. in spite of having a green card. I am a man of emergencies, I need to be on the move, to be where the suffering is, but here I have been sitting idle for 20 days because I cannot travel without my passport.

When I was a correspondent in Pakistan in the mid-1980s, I once visited Edhi in his sparse Karachi office and asked him how he started making morning rounds in the rough-and-tumble city to pick up unclaimed dead bodies. “I thought they deserved a decent Muslim burial,” he told me simply.

2 comments

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Mr Edhi made a mistake when he criticised some Gulf States’ biggies for their ownership — slavery — of what are called Camel Kids, youngsters of 7,8,9 who are used as jockeys and treated abominably. The sheikhs didn’t like this, so they started a smear campaign, with their American backers. That’s one reason the fix in in with the US authorities. He is a great and good man, but this doesn’t suit a lot of people.

Posted by beecee | Report as abusive

It is surprising that so-called religious fanatics are allowed free access in european and us borders why decent and unbiased man llike Edhi has been detained.

Why not arrest right-wing mullah who are still running terrorists camps around Lahore, mention one them in Muridke
where Jamat Dawa established United Muslim Army to promote anti-us sentiments.

Why not Qazi who is one the one end targeting usa and on the other extending hand with Taliban but at the same time he is not prepared to head fanatics party on health reasons.

What about Maulana Sami ul Haq, the head of so-called madressa in Pakistan where students are taught under water training, what they are teaching under water, no one knows.

One thing is very certain, they have established world’s most advanced Computer Hacking System, wherever you post e-mail from pakistan, they will hack it.

Zardari should not cow down before Mullah, who constitute less than four percent of the total population but are eager to rule 96 percent of the total population to take country into stone age.

Islam is purely a progressive nation. Holy Prophet (PBUH) allowed jewish delegation to stay in his mosque to spend night. Will any Mullah belonging to Wahabi group ever allow member of Shia community to stay in their mosque for a night?, no and never.

Then why they boast of Kashmir and Islam. They are the real follower of Devil like Zia that need to be purged from the society to help it flourish Pakistan in modern and progressive lines.

Right-wing leaders should be posted on border area mountains between Pakistan and AFghanistan, give them a pack of “Niswar”, “Opium” and a handsome teenaged “boy”
to kill time in the most volatile part of the world.

Hussain Ibne Ali

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