Employing a perspective on humanitarianism as a ‘morphing’ project of ‘doing good’, this article explores the historical process of drawing humanitarian institutions to northern Pakistan via Muslim networks. Focusing on local men who have practised a variety of forms of humanitarian engagement in past and present, it looks at the broader moral assemblages of which these humanitarians are part. The article thereby shows how these moral assemblages are marked by affect, local distinctions and translocal aspirations. Amidst co-existing humanitarian genealogies, I argue that it is the emotional impulse not only to care for others, but also to get the unlikely done and to build a material legacy that provides a legitimacy for humanitarian work that goes beyond the politics of compassion.