NationalVOLUME 17 ISSUE # 23

Bilquis Edhi: The protector of unwanted babies’ right to life

She paved the way for a new life for over 42,000 unwanted babies whose killing is taken as an accepted norm in our society, though covertly and secretively. She provided motherly jhulas (cradle) for protection of such babies about whom no one is even ready to talk about. She was Bilquis Bano Edhi, who passed away in Karachi last week, but the jhulas she placed at the Edhi Foundation centres across the country are still there, to provide the unwanted babies with the right to life.

An emotional appeal is found written on every jhula, for those bent upon killing these babies: “Don’t kill them, put them in jhula” (Qatal na kar, jhulay mein daal de). Goodwin writes that Bilquis Edhi’s cradles carried signs that read, “Do not kill the innocent baby. Do not make the first sin worse”.

Bilquis Edhi was declared the “Person of the Decade” by an international organisation, the Impact Hallmarks (IH) in 2021. She was declared the most impactful person of the first two decades of the 21st century, after she spent more than six decades of her life serving humanity. She had once told the writer during her visit to Edhi Home in the Gulberg area of Lahore, that the ‘jhula’ project was launched in Karachi initially, after a large number of infants were found killed, thrown in skips and left on garbage heaps, in the mega city. Later, the project was expanded across the country. “The sight of bodies of such infants, eaten by rats and dogs, always caused intense pain to me,” she had said. “N now they leave them alive. At least they don’t kill them,” she had added.

Most of the infants left in jhula include babies born out of wedlock. No one wants to own such infants, and their murder is mostly taken as an accepted norm in our society. However, Bilquis Edhi believed it to be against the fundamental teachings of humanity. She believed it an absolute sin, an outright dereliction and a far-reaching transgression. Incidents have been reported through the authentic accounts of history, that during the era of the Righteous Caliphate “the women’s cases, who had committed fornication, were brought to the court and it was asked to impose the penalty of execution. In case of any woman having pregnancy, the Caliph was bound to adjourn, suspend and postpone the penalty until the child was born. Having given birth to her baby, the woman found guilty was told to carry on upbringing her baby until the child could become capable of consuming food other than mother’s feed and distinguish good from bad.” The righteous caliphs considered it nothing less than a homicide, excerpts Prof Dr Qadhi Aurangzeb Al Hafi in his inquiry conspectus titled “Tracing Back the Roots of Bilquis Edhi’s Jhula Pursuit”. Prof Hafi substantiates Bilquis’s Jhula legacy as “a one person army’s war against the massively prevalent infanticide.” “The battlefield set forth by her in front of the far-flung and vast-pervasive infanticide, would bear the witness of reigns and eras on the face of incalculable lives of the innocent children”, reaffirms Prof Hafi, who has been honoured not only for being the confederate ally and co-recipient of the Bidecadal Merit Award with Ms. Bilquis Edhi, but also for the singular privilege of being considered and acquiesced by her as her third son; the conscripted one alongside her two biological sons — Faisal Edhi and Qutub Edhi.