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ISLAMABAD: When he learned about his nomination for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, Pakistani philanthropist Dr. Amjad Saqib said he had never been motivated by awards but hoped the news could present a good image of his country.

The founder of Pakistan’s largest interest-free microfinance organization Akhuwat, Saqib is among 251 individuals and 92 organizations announced last month as candidates for the annual prize that comes with a medal, a diploma, 10 million Swedish crowns ($1 million) and immediate global attention.

The peace prize is one of five separate prizes funded by Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel that, according to his will of 1895, are awarded to those who “have conferred the greatest benefit to Mankind.” The other four awards are in the fields of physics, chemistry, medicine and literature.

The Pakistani candidate already enjoys worldwide recognition for his work in social mobilization and poverty alleviation. In 2021, he received the Ramon Magsaysay Award, popularly known as Asia’s Nobel Prize.

“I am doing all this work for Allah, so I am not very excited about awards,” Saqib told Arab News in a recent interview.

“But it is good news in the sense that this nomination will present a good image of Pakistan to the rest of the world.”

Saqib left his job in Pakistan’s civil service to establish Akhuwat in 2001. Since its inception, the organization has opened 800 branches across Pakistan, enabling hundreds of thousands of people to become self-reliant.

“We created this interest-free loan fund in which wealthy people would contribute and the institution (Akhuwat) would distribute it to needy people without any interest so that they can start a small business,” he said, adding that the first loan was given to a lady who purchased two sewing machines to start her business.

As of now, the charity has provided more than $870 million in 5 million interest-free loans, while retaining a recovery rate of 99.9 percent. Operational costs are covered by donations that come mostly from Pakistani citizens.

“Forty-two percent of our beneficiaries are women,” Saqib said.

“Akhuwat gives loans without any quota or discrimination to people who have skills, ideas and the will to work.”

Saqib believes the creation of businesses provides long-term dividends as it opens opportunities. 

His approach to education is similar.

The organization runs several colleges providing residential facilities for students who cannot afford quality education. They can pay for tuition 10 years later, when they have the means to do so. 

Work is underway to merge the colleges into Akhuwat University.

“Akhuwat University is an education project in which Akhuwat pays all the expenses of education like fees, boarding, food, clothes and other such things,” Saqib said.

“A few colleges of the university are already functioning, and around 1,500 students are getting an education.”