The Nobel Peace Prize for Maulana and Bilquis Edhi

Published: May 1, 2015
The writer is a columnist, a former major of the Pakistan Army and served as press secretary to Benazir Bhutto

The writer is a columnist, a former major of the Pakistan Army and served as press secretary to Benazir Bhutto

One heard of Maulana Edhi and his wife, Begum Bilquis, many years ago, and of how these good people went about Karachi’s streets collecting abandoned babies and adults, so ill that they were barely alive, and brought them to their clinic and cared for them. They also collected unclaimed bodies from the streets where they fell, and from morgues: the men were bathed and put into burial shrouds by the good Maulana, and the women by the Begum, and then given dignified and proper burials.

The Edhi Foundation runs shelters for abused women; unwanted children; drug addicts; the mentally challenged; the homeless and the destitute in need of food and shelter. Even animals, deserted by their owners: ill and hungry and beaten so severely they can hardly walk are taken in to Edhi’s animal shelters. Indeed, he has been known to pick up dead animals off the streets and bury them with his own hands.

While there are hundreds of stories about Edhi and his wife, and dozens of interviews with them in the foreign press in which the Maulana has been called a saint; a hero; one of the greatest philanthropists ever, I know of one first-hand, for it was told to me by my cousin; my nearest neighbour in Wah Village; and my course-mate from the Pakistan Military Academy, the now late Major Farooq Ali Khan (RIP, buddy).

Farooq’s house is opposite mine on the road leading to our village from the GT Road, and on the hill behind it there is a cave which we used to ‘explore’ as young boys when the main pastime for our age was to be out and about running up and down that hill, fishing in the once pristine Dhamra River — now a flowing sewer like most of Punjab’s rivers — for Mahseer. There were no PlayStations and video games or what have you, then.

I digress. It so happened that one day, 20 years ago, Farooq’s cow-herd was grazing his cattle at about 2pm on a winter’s afternoon when he heard a whimpering sound from the cave. He looked in and found a grimy seven or eight-year-old boy wearing only a shirt and lying in his own excreta. The man quickly saw the boy was mentally challenged and reported the news to Farooq, who being the toughest of all of us — ‘horse’ we used to call him (there were four of us cousins in the same course: 36th PMA) — ran up the hill and with the help of his servant brought the boy down to the house where Farooq’s wife bathed and dressed him in whatever clothes could be found that fit him.

What were they to do now? The boy was incommunicado, so Farooq telephoned around to ask what he should do with the poor little chap, quite obviously taken to the cave by his unfortunate and desperately poor family and left there to his fate. Another cousin, a medical doctor, came over and after giving the boy a quick check-up told Farooq that there was a new Edhi Centre which had recently opened in Taxila, about 10 kilometres from Wah. Farooq telephoned the Centre and was told to bring the boy right over.

So off they went, these two, and a servant holding the boy in the backseat. They handed him over to the staff at the Edhi Centre and also made a donation — of their own accord: they were not asked to make one, please note. Farooq was given a note stating that he had brought the boy over at such and such a time; told he wasn’t to worry, and that the little chap would immediately be sent to Karachi where they had the necessary facilities to look after him.

At 12-noon, the next day, Farooq received a telephone call from the Edhi Centre at Karachi thanking him for rescuing the little boy and advising him that he had arrived in Karachi. He was again told not to worry! The boy was obviously accompanied by a staff member on the air journey.

As an aside, while the formalities were taking place in Taxila, Farooq found that every other day the reading of the electric meter; the kilometres the ambulances had driven, and other such returns had to be transmitted to Maulana Sahib’s headquarters in Karachi. With such control, is it little wonder that the Edhi Foundation has grown so huge that they now have over 2,000 ambulances on 24/7 duty even in small towns of our country?

This, dear reader, is Edhi and his great organisation. An organisation which never takes money from the government, because as the Maulana himself says, the people of Pakistan give him so much he does not need to ask for more. This is Edhi, the so-called uneducated person who cannot, they say, even write his own name. What utter brilliance is his; what utter humanity is his! And his wife’s!

And they have not been honoured with the Nobel Peace Prize, after all they have done for humanity, and peace, not only all over Pakistan, but all across the world, even in the United States at the time of Hurricane Katrina? What could be more unfair, more iniquitous and more unjust? Whilst governments and national assemblies of individual states and other recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize (among a few select others) only can nominate persons for this prize (as PM Yousaf Raza Gilani did), is it not time that we ordinary Pakistanis started a movement to convince our parliament; government; our superior judiciary to all join in the chorus: ‘The Peace Prize for Maulana and Begum Edhi’?

I would recommend that Malala Yousufzai be the first, as a laureate herself, to nominate them. Why not Kailash Satyarthi, too, for he knows the value of goodness himself. While the Maulana and Begum have received tens of awards and prizes, including the Magsaysay Award, and the Maulana the Lenin Peace Prize, and the Nishan-e-Pakistan, our highest civil award, it is a complete travesty that they have not yet received the Nobel Peace Prize!

Is there no justice in the world?

Published in The Express Tribune, May 1st,  2015.

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Reader Comments (25)

  • ahmed wani
    May 1, 2015 - 12:53AM

    edhi was secular unlike many pakistanis….and moreover nobel is not halalRecommend

  • soothla
    May 1, 2015 - 12:54AM

    Dear Sir
    We must praise God and the parents of Maulana Edhi and Begum Bilquis.
    Also , every Pakistani child should enjoy experiences like : “there is a cave which we used to ‘explore’ as young boys when the main pastime for our age was to be out and about running up and down that hill, fishing in the once pristine Dhamra River” . It is their right.
    Thank you Express Tribune and Kamran Shafi.Recommend

  • Rex Minor
    May 1, 2015 - 4:51AM

    What has the actions of Edhi to do with a peace award?

    Rex MinorRecommend

  • AVMPolpot
    May 1, 2015 - 7:15AM

    Some time ago there was a dacoity at Sir Edhi’s residence..
    Hv the thieves been caught and the moneys recovered?Recommend

  • AVMPolpot
    May 1, 2015 - 7:16AM

    What Pakistani awards hv been awarded to Sir Edhi?
    Just asking.Recommend

  • Anon
    May 1, 2015 - 10:32AM

    When will Pakistanis get it into their heads that the Nobel Peace Prize is a highly political award, usually given to further some agenda… just look at the list of recipients and it becomes obvious.

    Frankly, I would rather that Edhi didnt get the Nobel Peace Prize. He’s bigger than this award and doesnt really need it…Recommend

  • TooTrue
    May 1, 2015 - 10:38AM

    Why is he referred to as a Maulana? I thought he’s a secular man?Recommend

  • khan420
    May 1, 2015 - 10:56AM

    @Anon: Fully agree with you. While Malala was patronized for being shot by Taliban, Edhi’s work is not interesting to the west. They are interested in something which is shocking, and brings out darker side of our society. Recommend

  • Author
    May 1, 2015 - 11:39AM

    @AVMPolpot: The Nishan-i-Pakistan, the country’s highest Civilian award! See Para 12 Line 5 above!!Recommend

  • raider
    May 1, 2015 - 12:25PM

    @Rex Minor:
    what has the actions of Obama to do with a peace award Recommend

  • Sonny Punk
    May 1, 2015 - 12:45PM

    @Rex Minor: if Obama can get it (and what has he done for peace ??) why not Edhi ?
    You gotta problem with that ?Recommend

  • Rex Minor
    May 1, 2015 - 1:03PM


    Good thinking, the Major from the army where he received his training to kill, should study the criteria considered for Nobel Prize award. If charity work was esteemed so much, the House of Saud would have been in possession of several Nobel prize awards.

    Rex Minor Recommend

  • Jatin
    May 1, 2015 - 1:57PM

    Why begging for Nobel…Recommend

  • Gul
    May 1, 2015 - 3:19PM

    Not only Edhis but Dr Adeeb Rizvi also ver well deserve Nobel prize. Recommend

  • wonderer
    May 1, 2015 - 3:35PM


    The following sentence at the end is completely unnecessary and uncalled for:

    Is there no justice in the world?

    Remember, even Mahatma Gandhi never received a Nobel for Peace.Recommend

  • Fazal Dad
    May 1, 2015 - 4:56PM

    Please don’t respond to AVM Polpot’s nonsensical and cynical comments. He is the one whose stomach is aching from the day Pakistan was created. The pain and trauma has not smoothened away and is now creating psychological upheavals. What should one make of one who goes by the name Polpot. Hope this Air Vice Marshal Knows and understands the crimes committed by Pol Pot regime. Well this is the level of thinking of Indian General Staff. Some make it too far, don’t they?Recommend

  • Shahbaz Asif Tahir
    May 1, 2015 - 5:33PM

    May Allah Subhana reward and protect Edhi, and his wife.
    How ever Malala deserves nothing. She is an anti Muslim, anti Pakistan agent,
    used by the enemies of Islam and Pakistan.Recommend

  • Rex Minor
    May 1, 2015 - 7:09PM

    @Sonny Punk:
    Mr Obama is a pathological proven imposter and the Norwigean Nobel Prize Committee made a fool of themselvesd like millions others, sincerely hoping that George W policies will be reversed and peace will return? Mr Edhi should be given honourable titles in the country including that of a ‘Doctor’.

    Rex Minor Recommend

  • shahid
    May 1, 2015 - 7:57PM

    I would recommend that Malala Yousufzai be the first, as a laureate herself, to nominate them.

    Unfortunately award of Noble Peace prize is based primarily on political considerations. Merit is a secondary issue. Otherwise how can Henry Kissinger, Anwar Sadaat and Menachem Begin get it but not Edhi. Edhi has been recommended by many in the past but to no avail.Recommend

  • Fazal Dad
    May 1, 2015 - 8:03PM

    @Shahbaz Asif Tahir: and Rex Minor
    You are nothing but sick. Go and seek some professional help. Recommend

  • Yasser Ali Khan
    May 2, 2015 - 2:49AM

    Dear Followers
    Being son of Major (retired) Farooq Ali Khan, I must like to confirm this event being true, genuine, or valid as shared by my uncle Kamran Shafi as I was also the witness and part of it. Irony was that my father first reported this matter to Wah Police Station where they after giving several absurd and deviating logics requested us heinously to abandon the boy out of their jurisdiction area. This lead my father to report police’s offensive behaviour to the higher authorities later.
    Fazal Dad sb, Rex Minor does not know Maulana Abdul Sattar Edhi’s stature. Edhi sb is extremely respectful person for us so naturally we see Rex’s actions little unsophisticated, discourteous and rude towards our hero.
    Mr. Rex Minor, I believe the Major from the army receive his training to defend and that’s what my father did by saving that boy. Edhi’s is a living legend where his life and efforts are greater than Obama, Malala or any other sham achievers. Indeed he’s bigger than this award and doesn’t really need it. I must request you to go through internet, also the following link will let you to know his details.

  • pakistani
    May 2, 2015 - 8:47AM

    i 100% agree with you i had a debate we everyone i know because i believe Edhi shab deserves it MUCH more than malalaRecommend

  • Rex Minor
    May 2, 2015 - 12:29PM

    @Yasser Ali Khan:

    I am no more than a simple observer. Every one is entitled to have his or her hero because of his or her deeds. I have none though know of many who have sacrificed their wealth and persona for the benefit of people in your region and beyond for no other reason but to save the lives of many infants, children, women and old. I Sir am not the member of the Nobel Prize committee nor do I share their choice. Good luck for your hero.

    Rex Minor

    The media has enormous influence in the world; let the Express Tribune from the war torn region declare him as their choice for the 2015 peace award.Recommend

  • Parvez
    May 2, 2015 - 1:15PM

    Second attempt ; The sentiment behind this piece is understood. I may be wrong but I feel Edhi Sab is beyond such accolades. If it comes,,,,,,good, if not….good . Recommend

  • Shariq
    May 4, 2015 - 4:04AM

    Oh please stop crying. Why do you need a Nobel prize, what difference would it make? Do you need certificates from around the world to prove some thing? And keeping the history of how people treat Nobel prize winners in Pakistan I am glad that it hasn’t happened yet. Recommend

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