Buried in the land of the unclaimed dead


Over 60 percent of the unidentified bodies at the Edhi morgue are buried after no heir turns up to claim them for up to 12 days, Nawaz, a drudge at the morgue, told Pakistan Today. “According to the Edhi Foundation’s rules, no unidentified bodies can be received without the involvement of the law enforcers,” Nawaz added. He narrated a lot of stories about heirless corpses coming in at the morgue. “A few days ago, when targeted killings were at peak, we were receiving up to 20 bodies daily, whereas only five to eight of them were being identified and taken away after their heirs provided proof of identification to the police,” he said.
On a visit to the morgue, it was observed that majority of the bodies were of younger people. The bodies of young men and women made the atmosphere of the morgue gloomier. Thinking that those unclaimed corpses were lying there waiting for their loved ones, evoked a heart-rending feeling inside. Nawaz said, “According to the foundation’s rules, we wait for the bodies’ heirs for about 10 to 12 days and then perform their final rites and bury them at the Edhi graveyard located at RCD Highway near Naval Colony.” “We take two to three pictures of the body from different angles and save them in our records with a code, which is also marked on the grave,” he added.
He said that the Edhi Foundation has complete record of all the unidentified bodies with photographs and numbers since the foundation came into being. “If anyone arrives to our morgue looking for their beloved, we ask them the date when the person had gone missing and show them all the photographs of the subsequent dates. If they find their beloved, we give them the graveyard’s address and code number so they could go find the grave,” Nawaz said. He added that if the heirs request the possession of the body so that they could bury it at their ancestral graveyard, the foundation also arranges for an extraction, but sometimes, people only want to offer prayer at the grave.
One and a half years ago, the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) provided the Edhi Foundation with a fingerprint detection system that would have easily found the heirs of any unidentified body within 30 to 45 minutes, he said. However, he added, the fingerprint detection system went out of order three months later and things went back to the way they were. Abdul Sattar Edhi’s personal secretary Anwer Kazmi said, “Yes, NADRA’s identification system helped us, but the Edhi Foundation is capable enough, so we don’t need them because we can manage on our own.”