Bilquis Bano Edhi - The Mother of Pakistan
Modern Day

Kaan Ya Makaan, Fee Hadir Al-Zamaan…
There was a Place, in Current Times…

Called Karachi where a girl was born on August 14th, 1947 to a small happy family. Her parents, Usman and Rabia, named her Belquis and raised her lovingly. When she was ten, her father, a bicycle salesman, passed away. To support her young children, Rabia went to work as a teacher at a private school, then later became a midwife. While her mother worked bringing new lives safely into the world, Belquis stayed at home and took care of her little brothers.

Some years later, Belquis unhappily sat for her eighth grade exams. She didn't like school, what she really wanted to do was to study to become a nurse. She knew that the nearby free dispensary offered training in basic medical care and midwifery. So one day, Belquis simply went and signed up.

During her training, Belquis was one of the few Muslim girls there because, at the time, nursing was not considered a suitable profession for a Muslim woman. Nevertheless Belquis was determined to become a nurse so she studied diligently, was passionate about her work and quickly became a first rank nurse.

After her graduation, the owner of the free dispensary, Abdul Sattar Edhi, asked the hardworking young nurse if she would stay on and become one of the dispensary's permanent nurses. Without hesitation, Belquis agreed and she showed such flair for both nursing and organizing that she soon became the head nurse.

As they worked side by side, Belquis and Abdul Sattar recognized a kindred spirit in each other. In his younger years, Abdul Sattar had proposed to several women but they had all turned him down. Abdul Sattar clearly had no interest in accumulating wealth and his prospective brides viewed this with disfavor. Belquis however, did not seem to mind that he did not have his own house and that all he owned in the world was the free dispensary he ran and the battered van he used for his free ambulance service. That's why when Abdul Sattar proposed to Belquis, she happily agreed and the two were married in April, 1966.

Right after their wedding ceremony, Belquis and Abdul Sattar returned to the dispensary and discovered a twelve year old girl with head wounds, surrounded by her frantic family, waiting for them. Belquis and her new husband immediately sprang into action treating the girl's wounds, supervising blood transfusions and comforting the girl's worried relatives. Fortunately, the girl recovered from her wounds and neither Abdul Sattar nor Belquis ever regretted how they spent their first day as a married couple.

Because of her husband's limited resources, and the couples' determination to use all of their money to take care of the poor, Belquis and Abdul Sattar ended up living on the roof of the dispensary for the first few years of their marriage. After the birth of their children, Bilquis moved the family to her mother's house and divided her time between her duties as a nurse and philanthropist, and her duties as a mother.

One of the ideas Abdul Sattar had thought up, and implemented in 1952, was the jhoolas project, a series of cradles available throughout Pakistan where parents could abandon their unwanted children. Above the cradles in Urdu and English are the words, "Do not kill, leave the baby to live in the cradle."

Most of the babies abandoned in these cradles are girls, some of the babies are disabled and a few are healthy boys. Over the years, thousands of babies have been rescued by the Edhi Foundation, under the supervision of Bilquis who cares for the orphans herself and interviews any prospective adoptive parents.

Bilquis has very strict standards when evaluating the parents who wish to adopt any of the Edhi Foundation's orphans. She meets with them personally and interviews them to make sure they meet the Foundation's criteria:

  1. They must own their own home.
  2. Should not move from one house to another too often.
  3. Should earn a reasonable yearly salary.
  4. Should be childless after a ten or twelve year marriage.
  5. The prospective mother should be younger than fifty.
  6. The prospective parents should not have any drug or alcohol problems.

Bilquis also makes each adopting couple sign a binding contract stating that in case of the couple's separation, the Edhi Centre would reclaim the orphan or the child would stay with the mother.

The children who are not adopted are educated with an emphasis on self-reliance so that they become strong, independent adults. The boys are taught trades and the girls are prepared to be homemakers. When the time comes, Bilquis arranges marriages for them like any caring Pakistani mother would, and the Foundation raises the traditional dowries for the girls. Quite a few of the orphans, once grown, stay on and go to work for the Foundation while others leave but they donate whatever time and money they can, never forgetting the kind people who saved their lives and raised them with such care.

With all of the love and attention Bilquis gives the thousands of children rescued by the Edhi Foundation, it is easy to see why she is often called "The Mother of Pakistan." The original free dispensary, now the Edhi Centre, consists of the dispensary on the bottom floor, a two bedroom apartment where Abdul Sattar and Bilquis live, and the orphanage on the floor above. The disabled orphans and the ones who do not get adopted are raised by Bilquis and Abdul Sattar, who the children call Ammi (Mommy) and Abbu (Daddy).

Although Bilquis, along with her husband Abdul Sattar, has received many awards, including the 1986 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Public Service and the Lenin Peace Prize, she often comments that the greatest rewards she receives are the success stories of those helped by the Edhi Foundation. Over the years, she has been visited by many of her orphans who were happily adopted, is often stopped and thanked by people who received much needed aid from the Edhi Foundation, and heard back from abused women whom she sheltered, trained as nurses and helped start a new life.

All in all, it is no mystery why the slogan for the Foundation's unofficial website reads, "Making a difference and changing lives forever", that is exactly what Bilquis and Abdul Sattar Edhi do, every day.

*Written by © 2013. Care to read or leave Comments?

  1. Names, Translations and Aliases:
    • Abdul Sattar Edhi: عبدالستار ایدھی.
    • Bilquis Bano Edhi: بلقیس ایدھی.

  1. "About Us". Accessed 29 December 2012.
  2. "About Bilquis Edhi". Accessed 7 January 2013.
  3. "A Conversation with Bilquis Edhi". Accessed 7 January 2013.
  4. The Edhi Foundation. "Bilquis Bano Edhi". Profile. Accessed 5 January 2013.
  5. Wikipedia contributors. "Abdul Sattar Edhi". Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 27 December 2012.
  6. Wikipedia contributors. "Bilquis Edhi". Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 27 December 2012.
  7. "Bilquis Edhi - Pakistan". Accessed 6 January 2013.

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