KARACHI -  Ruth Pfao, Pakistan’s Mother Teresa and a humanitarian who spent her life serving the patients of leprosy for over 50 years, was laid to rest in Karachi with state honour on Saturday.  She came to Pakistan in her 20s in 1960 and died at a local hospital in Karachi on August 15 at the age of 87 after protracted illness. Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, while paying tribute to her, announced to hold a state funeral for her.

The funeral that was held at St Patrick’s Cathedral was attended by dignitaries from across the country, including President Mamnoon Hussain, Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa, the chiefs of armed forces, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah, German consul general, Dr Adeeb Rizvi, head of Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation, Karachi Mayor Waseem Akhter, MQM-Pakistan leader Farooq Sattar, Pakistan customs officials and several others.

It was due to her fight against leprosy that Pakistan was declared by the World Health Organisation as being able to control the disease.

Strict security arrangements were 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, was closed for traffic from Shahra-e-Quaideen to Regent Plaza. Vehicles coming from the airport were diverted to Shahra-e-Quaideen via Quaideen Bridge while those arriving from Korangi were diverted to Punjab Chowrangi.

Officials of the armed forces carried the casket containing Dr Ruth’s body to St Patrick’s Cathedral in Saddar in the highest military honour as 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 a half mast.

A 19-gun salute was offered during the funeral proceedings, with contingents of all the three armed forces of Pakistan present on the occasion.

One-minute silence was also observed by the participants of the state funeral to pay tribute to the lady for her efforts to deal with leprosy in the country.

Before the last rituals, the 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 look at the humanitarian whose lifelong struggle helped Pakistan defeat leprosy.

Dr Ruth Pfau came to Pakistan in 1960 and joined the mission to deal with leprosy in the country. She was so disappointed over the condition and facilities to deal with the disease in the leprosy centre near II Chundrigar Road that she decided to stay in Pakistan to help the affected patients.

She quickly reorganized the rough-hewn dispensary into a proper hospital building – a full service leprosy treatment and rehabilitation center, free to patients.

In 1968, Dr Pfau persuaded the Pakistan government to undertake a national leprosy control programme in partnership with MALC and began setting up leprosy-control centres across the country. Today, Marie Adelaide Leprosy Centre is the hub of 157 leprosy control centres, with over 800 staff members.

In 1996, leprosy was controlled in Pakistan. The prevalence of the disease decreased to the extent that the World Health Organization declared the disease to be under control in Pakistan, one of the first countries in EMRO Region to achieve this goal.

She was granted Pakistani citizenship in 1988 and awarded numerous accolades for her services.

Sister Pfau was recognised in Pakistan and abroad as a distinguished human being and awarded many awards and medals. On 23 March 1989, Pfau received Hilal-e-Pakistan award presented by the then President Ghulam Ishaq Khan over her work for leprosy patients.

On August 14, 2010, on the occasion of Pakistan’s Independence Day, the then President Asif Ali Zardari awarded Pfau Nishan-e-Quaid-i-Azam for services. She was hailed as Pakistan’s Mother Teresa after her work towards helping people displaced by the 2010 floods in Pakistan. In 2015, Pfau was awarded Staufer Medal, the highest award of the German state of Baden-Württemberg.

She was also awarded Order of Merit award in Germany in 1969, Sitara-i-Quaid-i-Azam in 1969 and Hilal-e-Imtiaz in 1979.

Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah, in recognition of legendary Dr Ruth Pfau, has announced to name Civil Hospital Karachi after her name.

The chief minister, just after attending state funeral of Dr Ruth Pfau at Christian cemetery, directed Chief Secretary Rizwan Memon to issue a notification to name Civil Hospital as Dr Ruth Pfau Civil Hospital. “She had dedicated her entire life fighting leprosy in the country, particularly in Sindh, and founded a dedicated hospital in the city. It becomes our responsibility to name one of the largest hospitals, Civil Hospital Karachi, in her name,” he said.