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Begging for Pakistan Needy

KARACHI Ė With a cropped white beard, a worn traditional Pakistani dress and the small basket filled with money, Abdul Sattar Edhi's appearance looks striking, but not for people in Pakistan, where Edhi is on a heroic begging mission to feed one million people across the country.

"I am begging to feed one million people who cannot afford meals," Edhi, the Pakistani famed philanthropists and social worker, told IslamOnline.net.

Edhi, founder of the Edhi Foundation, a non-profit social welfare organization which has been working to help Pakistani needy for the past five decades, has embarked on his begging mission on June 19.

He will travel across Pakistan to raise funds and donations to feed some one million hungry people all over the country.

Accompanied by his wife Bilquees, his son, Faisal, and his daughter, Kubra, Edhi began his journey from Baluchistan, the countryís poorest province.

The Edhi team already passed through Punjab, the richest and most populous province, the north western frontier province, which borders Afghanistan, and southern Sindh province.

All in all, they have covered a distance of 3000 kilometers so far.

As Edhi was sitting with the plastic basket before him, a veiled woman came and handed over a sum of $10,000 without revealing her identity.

"This is not the first incident," he affirmed.

Edhi says the cost for feeding one million people is about Rs 1bn ($ 15m).

But the man is very optimistic that he will hit his target.

He says he collected about Rs 15m ($216,000) in only one day in the southern port city of Karachi.

"I cannot explain in words the overwhelming response from the ordinary people," Edhi says.

"Pakistanis are the most generous people in the world."


Edhi says he began his mission knowing that there are so many people in Pakistan who can not even afford a descent meal.

"I totally understand that millions of Pakistanis are reeling from extreme poverty," he laments.

"While political parties are engaged in dragging each othersí legs, we decided to launch this begging mission to feed the poor people."

According to official statistics, the poverty rate is 28 per cent in the South Asian Muslim country of 170 million.

Independent estimates, however, put the number at 40 percent.

According to the World Bank and the UN Development Program (UNDP), nearly one-quarter of Pakistan's population is classified poor as of October 2006.

Amid the grinding poverty, soaring unemployment and political and economic instability, a growing number of Pakistanis commit suicide.

A government study last April found that 4 people commit suicide every day.

"We donít want any person to commit suicide just because he cannot feed himself and his family," Bilquees, Edhi's wife, told IOL.

"Itís hard for them to see their children crying for food, and milk, but still there is no justification for committing suicide," her husband agreed.

"I ask those people who cannot afford to have meals not to commit suicide.

"Come to our free meal centers along with your family and have food everyday."


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