Salvaging Karachi’s Pride – An Open Letter to Imran Khan
By Menin Rodrigues
There are so many people who claim stake in the ownership of Karachi, it’s a good thing. With the proliferation of social media, the history of Karachi, through pictures and words, is spreading around cyberspace like never – there are multiple places where the background of this enigmatic city is highlighted in pictures and words, discussed and debated; it is generally correct but, in several places distorted. Karachi’s pride is being disintegrated.
So, here’s the challenge for you, my dear Prime Minister!
Since you are so passionate about your convictions and have been successful in the
achievement of your goals, personal, national and noble, it is the appropriate time,
Providentially, that you could salvage the pride of Karachi. It has nothing to do with politics, its demographic change, infrastructural development, governance or its future growth. It’s simply about its pride – its historical landmarks and structures. These must be preserved. There’s no point in reminiscing about the city’s glorious past if we cannot protect and conserve these beautiful buildings today. Studying these structures, there’s much to learn about design, architecture, engineering, craftsmanship and materials used, such as stone, marble and wood! The claim to fame of famous cities of the world borders on these lines. Education, Heritage and Preservation go hand in glove. Why cannot Karachi reclaim its place in history? Unfortunately, many old buildings have vanished for good, many on the verge of crumbling and several abused beyond recognition. The government of Pakistan and the government of Sindh
must take ownership of its heritage and salvage whatever is left of these edifices. It is our
collective responsibility, we owe this to our future generations. Our children and young adults today are clueless about Karachi’s rich background. History must be known in all its clarity and visible proof. I am sure you know what I am talking about.
This vulnerable sleepy fishing village of the East became the region’s coveted stronghold from the mid-19 th to the mid-20 th centuries, and a crowning glory for the British Empire. Though small in area and with not too many inhabitants, they left behind a well-planned city, a maze of beautiful municipal, business, commercial, educational, religious, social and residential structures including popular landmarks like the Frere Hall, Flag Staff House, High Court, KMC Head Office, Karachi Port Trust, Clifton Promenade, Press Club, Mereweather Tower, Empress Market, Jahangir Park to name a few. The city also had its own mass-transit a hundred years ago, the trams system. We are still struggling to get one off the ground. These hallowed heritage sites are a revered legacy of Karachi. Heroically, the CM saved the J-Park from complete destruction.
What have we done about preserving Karachi’s legacy, Sir? While very few of the prominent ones have survived, countless buildings and sites, with historical and heritage importance, are left abandoned to be pounced upon by unscrupulous developers, ready to be razed to the ground, any time! What will we tell our children about the city of their birth, their parents’ too?
My birthplace Karachi is fervently looking for a messiah to salvage its pride. The Heritage Foundation is playing its part but an independent Karachi Heritage Authority, a private-public sector institution, is the call.
Could this, Mr. Prime Minister, be your most precious gift to the people of Karachi?
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(The writer is a member of the Goan community of Karachi, one of the city’s original dwellers; he researches, collates information and archives the history of the city and the contributions of his community: http://www.goansofpakistan.org. He is also the Co-Founder and Contributing Editor of http://www.goodoldkarachi.com; He can be contacted at email@example.com)
Above opinion was published in DAWN.