Veteran social worker Abdus Sattar Edhi, who was robbed at gunpoint at an office of his charity last week, received a box by mail yesterday with all his money and an apology note that said it was a misunderstanding.

A source close to the 86-year-old said the robbers had confused him with Malala Yousafzai, who was recently given a Nobel peace prize.

“We are ashamed of ourselves,” the gunmen said in the letter. “When we came back home and counted the money, it was way less than the approximately $600 million that we believed you had,” the robbers revealed. “We found out on Facebook later that day that Malala Yousafzai had robbed you of the honor. We want to convey our heartfelt condolences on this great injustice that you were subjected to.”

Edhi, who is among the most respected personalities in Pakistan, decided to forgive them. A spokesman downplayed reports that he was using his own team of suicide attackers to get to the robbers because he could not depend on the police.

While commenting on the development, a defence analyst said the robbers had made a strategic mistake. “Perhaps while they were at it, if they could somehow shoot Mr Edhi in a way that he would survive, Malala Yousafzai would lose her advantage,” he said, adding that the robbers could then make another more fruitful raid at his office next year, after he had received the Nobel peace prize.

“As soon as we found out what had happened, we went online and signed a petition that said you deserved the honor more than Malala Yousafzai. We hope our move will make a difference,” the robbers said in the letter, a copy of which is available with this scribe.

“I believe that he had it coming,” said a professor in criminology. Citing a number of mistakes that the 86-year-old Edhi had made, he said the revered welfare worker was extremely easy to rob. “First of all, who does he think he is, keeping more than a few thousand rupees in cash and valuables on him when he knows he lives in Karachi?” asked the expert, who closely monitors crime in Pakistan’s largest city. “I know he is a good person, but so is everyone else who gets robbed.”

“Do not take this personally,” the gunmen said in their apology. “We have nothing against you, and we admire you for all the work you are doing. We were only after your money. We salute your courage and bravery. You had so much money and were still unarmed.”

A key mistake Abdus Sattar Edhi made, according to our criminology expert, was that he had no weapons on him. “One primary reason he was targeted successfully was that he is among the very few bearded men in the city who does not have access to weapons of mass destruction,” the professor lamented. But it is not clear if that is the case.

“We must admit that the primary reason we went online to check who you are was because we could not believe a religious looking man did not have bombs on hand when he needed them,” the apology note read. “Again, we are extremely sorry if we hurt you in any way.”

Sources privy to the developments say their fears are not entirely unfounded. The social worker may have seen it coming, and had been training his own team of fidayeen attackers who had been told to go after the gunmen. The information could not be verified independently.

Not everyone is as sympathetic to the owner of Pakistan’s biggest charity as the people who robbed him. Some radical political activists believe that the money belonged to the people, and if the state is not capable of redistributing wealth, the money is for the poor to take.

“It is the responsibility of the government to make sure the money that belongs to the poor reaches the poor,” said a leftist political worker. “One thing has become clear,” he said. “Edhi had amassed a great amount of wealth, including cash, gold and silver. It is a law of nature that wealth does not stay concentrated in a few hands for too long. If Edhi does not have the resources or will to redistribute it promptly, people will come and take what is theirs.”

 The author has a degree in Poetics of Prophetic Discourse and works as a Senior Paradigm Officer.