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Remembering Dr Ruth Pfau-(II)

After her demise, the then President of Pakistan Mamnoon Hussain stated that “Dr. Pfau’s services to end leprosy in Pakistan can never be forgotten. She left her homeland and made Pakistan her new home to serve the humanity. Pakistani nation salutes Dr. Pfau and her great tradition to serve humanity shall continue”. The then Prime Minister, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said, “Dr. Ruth Pfau may have been born in Germany, but her heart was always in Pakistan. She came here at the dawn of a young nation looking to make lives better for those afflicted by disease and in doing so, found herself a home. We will remember her for her courage, her loyalty, her service to eradicate leprosy and most of all for her patriotism”.

The then Chief of Army Staff, General Qamar Bajwa, described Dr. Pfau as an “Ambassador of humanity” whereasthe then Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sohail Amaan named a medical college that was being built at a Karachi airbase at that time in her name. Karachi’s Civil Hospital  renamed Dr. Ruth Pfau Civil Hospital by the then Chief Minister of Sindh, Syed Murad Ali Shah, as an acknowledgment of “Selfless services of the late social servant”. After the founder of nation, Quaid-e-Azam and the legendary Abdul Sattar Edhi, Dr. Ruth Pfau is only the third civilian to have received a state funeral that she truly deserved. She also remains till date as the first non-Muslim and first woman to be honored with a state funeral. To record its homage for this exemplary individual, Pakistan Mint issued 50,000 commemorative coins worth Rs. 50/-each, whereas Pakistan Post issued a memorial postage stamp of Rs. 8/-.

In 2015, Dr. Pfau was conferred with Staufer Medal, the highest award of the German state of Baden-Württemberg whereas in 2019, Google honoured her with a Google Doodle of her treating a patient. She also was awarded Germany’s Order of Merit in 1969. Dr. Ruth Pfau wrote four books in German language about her work in Pakistan, including “To Light a Candle”, which has been translated into English. “Not all of us can prevent a war; but most of us can help ease sufferings, of the body and the soul”, said the legendary Dr. Ruth Pfau.

On August 10, 2017, Dr. Pfau bid goodbye to this materialistic world after suffering from respiratory problems. As her condition worsened, she was advised by doctors to be put on a ventilator, but she refused this life support as she wished for “living a natural life”. She commanded high respect from all, especially Muslims who remained the majority of her patients and were there in large numbers to say goodbye to her on her last journey.

I will always live with the unforgettable memories of the state funeral that was duly accorded to Dr. Pfau at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral under high security alert. Inspite of these security checks, I somehow sneaked my way to pay my last respects to this distinguished servant of mankind. I saw our national flag along with Vatican City’s flag, flying at half mast. Archbishop Joseph Coutts presided over the requiem with Pakistani flag draped over her coffin. I had felt a high level of grief and respect from everyone, present there as a 19-gun salute was offered by all 3 wings of our armed forces, as she was laid to rest at Gora Qabrustan cemetery with many a notable in attendance. All these ceremonies were broadcasted LIVE on the television.

I relieved her memories when as part of SSGC team I was invited to witness her personal modest residence, right in the heart of MALC that has been converted into a museum, showcasing her personal belongings, reflecting her love for the humanity.

Likes of Dr. Ruth Pfau are rare in this materialistic world, as she not only lived for the happiness of needy ones but also led a highly simple life, demanding no protocols and recognitions. In the 55 years of her distinctive services for the lesser privileged ones in Pakistan, Dr. Ruth Pfau not only touched countless hearts but continues to live in them. Our nation owes a lot to Dr. Pfau that needs to be repaid. If one has to pay truly deserving tribute to this ardent servant of humanity, then it is too simple: keep following her legacy, by loving fellow humans and by helping the needy ones. If you really love and respect Dr. Pfau, then do try to facilitate her creation that was too close to her heart, MALC, serving countless needy patients across the country. The show must go on through your generous contributions and MALC shall not be deprived of your kind attention.

No one stays here forever, but yes selfless legendary servants of humanity who have passed away, such as Abdul Sattar Edhi, Sister Gertrude Lemmens, Sister Ruth Lewis and Dr. Ruth Pfau, will certainly remain immortal through their kind deeds and history will always share their names in golden words with great respect.

Salman A. Siddiqui, "Remembering Dr Ruth Pfau-(II)," Business recorder. 2023-08-13.
Keywords: Political sciences , Health , Political issues , Medical college , National flag , Army Staff , Civil Hospital , Prime Minister , Dr. Pfau’s , Shahid Khaqan Abbasi , General Qamar Bajwa , Mamnoon Hussain , Quaid-e-Azam , Pakistan , MALC

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