ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s most revered social worker has been given round-the-clock protection against an alleged Taleban threat, officials said yesterday.
Abdul Sattar Edhi, 85, runs the country’s largest charity, which operates hundreds of ambulances and shelters for women, children and the destitute.
Described as a “living saint” for his modest lifestyle and charitable crusade, Edhi has won international peace awards and is one of Pakistan’s most popular figures.
But for the first time he now has round-the-clock police protection in Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city of 18 million where he is based.
“There is a threat to him by Tehreek-e-Taleban Pakistan (TTP), which wants to kidnap him and use him to get their detained militants released in exchange,” a Pakistani security official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
Two armed policemen, who each work a 12-hour shift, have been going everywhere with Edhi since June 5, the official said.
Aslam Khan, a senior police official, said “a letter containing a hit-list has been intercepted, which includes Edhi and two police officials, including me,” he said.
Khan and Rao Anwar, the other police official on the alleged hit list, have both narrowly escaped bomb attacks in Karachi claimed by the TTP.
Khan’s house was flattened by a powerful bomb on Sept. 19, 2011, while he was sleeping. He escaped unhurt but eight people were killed.
Anwar was in an armored personnel carrier on April 5 when it was rammed by a motorcyclist laden with explosives, killing four people.
Edhi said he was carrying on regardless. “I have accepted the guards, but that won’t deter me from doing my job to serve my people,” he told AFP.
But Edhi’s son and deputy, Faisal, told AFP that the Taleban had visited his father’s office on June 6 to assure him that he was not a target.
“They told my father that they respect him and admire whatever he does, and won’t target him ever,” Faisal told AFP.
Kidnappings are routine in parts of Pakistan, including Karachi.
Hostage takers are often criminals looking for a ransom but they do sometimes pass their hostages on to Taleban and Al-Qaeda-linked groups, waging an insurgency in the country’s northwest.
In April, a British Muslim Red Cross worker was beheaded nearly four months after being kidnapped in the southwestern city of Quetta.