Nighat Akbar Shah- The Pioneer of Philanthropy in Chitral
.. by Islamuddin
Chitral owes much of its present development paradigm to charity funds channeled through NGOs. Ironically no well off Chitrali chose to take out a leaf from the book of charitable works and the teachings of Islam to start local charity and become role model for others to emulate. It is heartening to see that at long last this culture of self-centeredness has been changed by Nighat Akbar Shah, who has emerged as the biggest and brightest donor for social causes in Chitral. Her donation of dialysis machines and memo graphs for leading hospitals in Chitral will go a long way to reduce cases of breast cancer and kidney failures. She has done it in the best traditions of Islam which enjoins on believers to give with one hand that the other hand would not know. Despite my being her maternal uncle and mentor I only came to know of these donations through other sources. For this I am proud of her, her husband and siblings. This is something that I will take along with pride and gratitude.
For the past many years she has been a generous sponsor of poor students who would not have made it to quality educational institutions without her support. Many of these students have done well and are likely to make qualitative difference in the lives of their families and communities. This is the kind of charity that needs to be encouraged rather than the more popular individual handouts that leads to parasitic mindset. Social philanthropy and social investments have multiplying effects in terms of creating greatest good for the greatest number without hurting self respect of individuals that traditional philanthropy is more likely to cause. A leading community school in Garam Chashma has been able to establish two computer laboratories with funds made available by Nighat Akbar Shah. She wanted these labs to promote computer literacy among the boys and girls of her native area. She now wants to invest in startups and incubation technologies to help the young graduates to go into e-commerce and market Chitrali products. Through her charity and social investments she has repaid her debt to the soil where she was born and brought up. It is a measure of her love for her homeland that she recently funded a documentary film to create awareness about the rising cases of suicides in Chitral, especially among girls. She even sponsored the visit of a leading New Zealand psychologist to Chitral for this purpose.
Hopefully other well off Chitralis, at home or abroad, would also join the race to repay their debt to the soil that would take them proudly into its bosom for the eternal sleep. This debt is both intellectual and material and should be repaid by way of intellectual input or material largesse as the case may be. We should remember that investment in education benefits the society while helping someone stand on her/his own two feet benefits one individual. Therefore discretion may be used in choosing the best mode in a given situation. Nighat Akbar Shah has shown us the way and no one should lag behind. Self-respecting people are self reliant people and being self-respecting we must not look outwards for charity. Instead locals, whom Allah has blessed with wealth, must come forward to help their less fortunate compatriots through genuine concern, ownership and support. Education is the best springboard for this noble cause because it has multiplying effect capable of producing greatest good for the greatest number. May Allah Bless the noble souls like Nighat Akbar Shah (proud daughter of Chitral) and her family, who go out of the way to provide solace to those in need. .. Islamuddin, Gram Chashma Chitral, 06 May 2021