IN the gallery of life’s greatest influences, for me the portrait of Munawar Apa -- Munawar Humayun Khan -- holds a place of prominence.

The tale of her life is written not just in her accomplishments, but in the profound impact she had on those she touched. Today, it is with a heavy heart and fond memories that I remember this extraordinary soul, a mentor, a friend, a beacon of inspiration, and a trailblazer of transformative change.

I first encountered Munawar Apa in 2001, when she graced my home with her presence, accompanied by another stalwart of the development sector, Shoaib Sultan Khan. They were grappling with a nationwide issue, a challenge that only minds as keen as theirs could perceive. Communities were thriving, they were more prosperous and self-sufficient than ever, but the abundance created a new issue. Each household was so well-sustained that there was no need for intra-community commerce. Resources, despite being plenty, were left unused or wasted.

Munawar Apa invited me on a remarkable journey, leading me through rural expanses of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. This journey laid bare to me her charisma, intellect, competence, and her well-intentioned spirit that was determined to uplift others. Together, we orchestrated the Enterprise Activist Programme, nurturing individuals from the community to become leaders, enabling collective buying and selling with external markets. One initiative led to another, and under Munawar Apa’s leadership, we transformed multiple districts in KP. Today, our community-led change-makers have dramatically improved their lives and the lives of countless others.

Munawar Humayun Khan, who breathed her last recently, had remained associated with Agha Khan Rural Support Programme for a long time. She was grace personified. Her unwavering steadiness and strength were a source of reassurance, her resolve and courage an inspiration.

She was the epitome of kindness and treated everyone with respect, regardless of their standing. She balanced her life between dignitaries and rural communities, dedicating herself to the service and well-being of all. Her life was a testament to the pursuit of excellence, never compromising on her principles, always reaching out for the stars while staying grounded in her roots.

A wife to an esteemed diplomat, civil servant, intellectual and author, she retained her fierce independence and carved her own niche, becoming a recognised social development actor. Her passionate commitment to this role is legendary.

Munawar Apa’s purposeful existence, her freedom, and her utter devotion to her family were the embodiment of her indomitable spirit.

In the grandeur of her life’s tapestry, each thread narrates a tale of her fortitude, her compassion, and her relentless pursuit of making the world a better place. A world that was made so much richer by her presence, and a world that feels a profound void in her absence.

As I navigate forward, I will dedicate all my champion of change or change-maker programmes to Munawar Apa. Her memory will continue to inspire, her legacy will endure, and the ripple effect of her monumental efforts will continue to transform lives for years to come.

Munawar Apa, your journey may have ended, but your spirit lives on, etched in our hearts, reflected in the changes you championed. As we remember you today and always, we celebrate not just your remarkable life but the even more remarkable difference you made in ours.

Published in Dawn, August 8th, 2023

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