Dr Ruth laid to rest after highest level state funeral

A state funeral with full national honours was held in Karachi for Dr Ruth Pfau, a symbol of selflessness and devotion who passed away at the age of 87 earlier this month.

Pfau was a German-Pakistani doctor who dedicated her life to helping leprosy patients in Pakistan and is one of the founders of Marie Adelaide Leprosy Centre (MALC).

Armed forces personnel carried the casket containing Dr Pfau’s body into St Patrick’s Cathedral in Karachi’s Saddar area on Saturday. The coffin was draped in the Pakistani flag and covered with rose petals.

After her final rites were performed at the church, the coffin of ‘Pakistani Mother Teresa’ Dr Pfau was taken to Gora Qabaristan, Karachi’s oldest graveyard, where she was laid to rest.

The burial ceremony was attended by many state dignitaries including President Mamnoon Hussain, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah, Sindh Governor Muhammad Zubair, Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, Air Chief Marshal Sohail Aman and Deputy Chief of Naval Staff (Operations) Vice Admiral Zafar Mahmood Abbasi, who laid floral wreaths on her grave.

Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi had earlier announced a state funeral for Dr Pfau, saying: “The entire nation is indebted to Ruth Pfau for her selflessness and unmatched services for eradication of leprosy.”

This was the second state funeral to have taken place in Pakistan in past 29 years, with the last one accorded to late philanthropist Abdul Sattar Edhi last year.

Politicians, military officials, members of civil society and hundreds of supporters attended the service and paid tribute to Dr Pfau.

Martha Fernando, who worked with Pfau at MALC, said the physician’s death was a great loss to humanity.

“There is no one like her and there won’t be any replacement to her. We pray to God to send people like her again to this world so that they could continue serving people,” she said.

Dr Pfau, who was German by birth, had been sent to Pakistan in 1960 by the Daughters of the Heart of Mary, a congregation of nuns that she was a member of, for a medical service for students. After witnessing the plight of leprosy patients, she decided to settle here. She was granted Pakistani citizenship in 1988.

In 1979, she was awarded the Hilal-i-Imtiaz, the second highest civilian award of the country. In 1989, Dr Pfau was presented the Hilal-i-Pakistan for her services.

Due to Dr Pfau’s efforts, Pakistan was declared a leprosy-free country in 1996 by the World Health Organization.

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