KARACHI: Pakistan’s ‘Mother Teresa’ Dr Ruth Pfau, who dedicated a lifetime to fighting leprosy in the country, was laid to rest at Karachi’s Gora Qabristan with full state honours.
Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa attended the burial ceremony of Dr Ruth, after arriving in Karachi.
Among the dignitaries who attended the burial of Pakistan’s humanitarian hero were President Mamnoon Hussain, Air Chief Marshal Sohail Aman, IG Sindh, Corps Commander Karachi, DG Rangers and Governor Sindh Muhammad Zubair.
Chief Minister Sindh Syed Murad Ali Shah along with his cabinet was also present at the burial.
Dr Ruth’s state funeral was performed with national honours at St Patrick’s Cathedral.
Armed forces carried the casket containing Dr Ruth’s body to St Patrick’s Cathedral in Saddar in a gun convoy – the highest military honour at a funeral last accorded to humanitarian icon Abdul Sattar Edhi. The casket was draped in the national flag of Pakistan.
The flag of Vatican City was also hoisted at the cathedral Saturday morning, while the national flag of Pakistan remained at half mast.
A 19-gun salute was offered during the funeral proceedings, with contingents of all three Armed Forces of Pakistan present on the occasion.
German-Pakistani national Dr Ruth breathed her last after prolonged illness on August 10, 2017 at a private hospital in Karachi. She was 87.
Patients and workers of Marie Adelaide Leprosy Centre (MALC), founded by Dr Ruth to serve the leprosy patients in Pakistan, gathered around her body to take one last look at the humanitarian hero whose life-long struggle helped Pakistan defeat leprosy.
Reminiscing about Dr Ruth’s days at the centre, MALC staff member Maryam Yaqoob told media the German medic would greet patients with flowers and cake every morning.
Yaqoob, who was a patient before being treated and appointed as a staff member, said Dr Ruth was a beacon of hope and support for those who had been banished by their families.
She added Dr Ruth would celebrate her birthday as Patients Day every year, but this year she celebrated it as Family Day.
Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi had earlier announced a state funeral for Dr Ruth, stating: “The entire nation is indebted to Ruth Pfau for her selfless and unmatched services for the eradication of leprosy. We are proud of her exemplary services and she will remain in our hearts as a shining symbol in times ahead.”
She is only the second person to be accorded a state funeral in 29 years, with the last one offered for late philanthropist Abdul Sattar Edhi in 2016.
Dr Ruth visited Pakistan in the 1960s and ended up staying, adopting Pakistan as her new home as she dedicated her life to taking care of leprosy patients.
It was due to her endless struggle that Pakistan defeated the disease and became leprosy-free in 1996.
She was granted Pakistani citizenship in 1988 and received numerous accolades for her services, including the country’s top civilian awards Hilal-i-Imtiaz and Hilal-i-Pakistan.
‘Better to light a candle than curse the darkness’:
Presiding over the funeral mass at St Patrick’s Cathedral, the pastor paid glowing tribute to Dr Ruth and her selfless life spent serving the country’s poor.
“She lived and died a Pakistani. Wherever she went to treat people, she became one of them. She treated them all with love and compassion. She gave her life to others,” he said, recalling that she used to say, “I’m not treating a disease, I’m treating a person.”
“She brought a wonderful change in the society with her love and selflessness. She transformed people’s lives. She taught us all to take care of those who [could not care for themselves],” the pastor continued.
“It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness,” he recalled another one of her sayings.
The pastor urged people to take her work forward and to continue her mission of helping and serving others.
Dignitaries pay homage:
Chief Minister Sindh Syed Murad Ali Shah, Consul-General of the German Consulate and Dr Adeeb Rizvi, head of the Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation, were among the dignitaries who attended Dr Ruth’s state funeral.
Karachi mayor Waseem Akhtar, speaking to media, paid homage to Dr Ruth and her lifelong services to the underserved and underprivileged of the country.
Akhtar said Dr Ruth’s mission to serve humanity was exemplary, and urged the government of Pakistan to continue her mission by allocating budget to fund her cause to end leprosy and other diseases in the country.
MQM-Pakistan’s Farooq Sattar said Dr Ruth dedicated her life to battling leprosy in the country and termed her death a “great loss to humanity”.
Pakistan Customs also paid homage to Dr Ruth and laid a floral wreath on her grave.
Strict security arrangements are in place for Dr Ruth’s burial, with heavy contingents of security forces as well as aerial surveillance deployed for the occasion.
The city’s main artillery Shahrah-e-Faisal has been closed for traffic from Shahra-e-Quaideen to Regent Plaza.
Vehicles coming from the airport are being routed to Shahra-e-Quaideen via Quaideen bridge, while those arriving from Korangi are being diverted to Punjab chowrangi via Sunset.
With additional input from Zeeshan Shah and Tariq Abul Hasan in Karachi.
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