Elsewhere online
July 23, 2015

Philanthropy Helps Moderate Islam Thrive in Pakistani Town

A remote town in mountainous northeastern Pakistan has withstood Islamist extremism, environmental degradation, and other ills plaguing the country with a large dose of support from one of the world's largest charitable organizations, The Washington Post writes.

Most of the population of Karimabad in the Himalayan Hunza Valley are members of the moderate Ismaili sect whose spiritual leader is Prince Karim Al Husseini, the wealthy philanthropist better known as Aga Khan IV.

The Aga Khan Development Network, with operates in more than 30 countries with an annual budget exceeding $600 million, has worked with other groups to open schools, pave roads, and build sanitation and health facilities for the valley's 65,000 residents, while successfully encouraging farmers to diversify crops and to send daughters as well as sons to school.

Some locals raise concerns that the town has become too dependent on philanthropy and vulnerable to sudden reductions in aid in a country where the government has threatened to crack down on foreign charities. But Iqbal Walji, president of the Aga Khan Council for Pakistan, said economic and educational empowerment in the region "prevents easy manipulation of communities and allows them to be resilient against external forces."