Over four decades ago, when her husband kicked her out of the house after the birth of their second daughter, Zohra Ismail, now 75, faced her greatest obstacles. Back at her parents’ home, she had four additional sisters and sick parents living day-to-day on the father’s little income.
Back then, a woman who left the house to earn a living was not only stigmatized, but employment possibilities were scarce. Zohra resisted her family’s insistence and accepted a nurse position at the newly-formed nonprofit organization Edhi, despite the fact that it was a beacon of hope.
She was promoted to chief nurse after persuading Abdul Sattar Edhi that she was the ideal candidate. Zohra baji, as she is known, is still the chief nurse there 44 years later, with a narrative of friendship and an affiliation with the Edhi pair engraved into her life.
The Edhis’ legacy extends beyond those who owe their lives and livelihoods to them. In the absence of state interest, it has also provided some relief to Karachi’s gruesome, terrorism-ridden history.
Hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis, and Karachiites in particular, owe the Edhi family an eternal debt of gratitude for rescuing and storing the bodies of countless individuals who died on roads and/or were victims of terrorism, as well as for sheltering women who were forced to abandon their families due to violence and domestic abuse, and children, especially girl children, whose families denied them parental care after bringing them into the world.
Without them, the gloomy reality of this metropolis would have been far darker.