By Dr. Sohail Ansari
Ismaili merchants made mercantile trips to Karachi in 16th and 17th centuries coming from Kutchh, Kathiawar, Muscat and Gwadar. Whereas they resided in the city, their families were still in their base towns and the community was not as established in Karachi.It was the famine in Kutcch that precipitated the migration from there into Sindh and Karachi. In 1820 a group of some 200 – 250 Ismailis, led by Lutf Ali Alleno, migrated to Karachi and settled in Kharadhar. This was the time when they evolved into an established and organised community of Karachi.
They built the first Jamaat Khana of Karachi which was located in the present Kaghzi Bazaar area and it was made of mud. The community acquired a plot of about 3000 sq. yards for the new Jamaat Khana located in Kharadar (between Harris Road and Imamwada Street). This was made possible under the leadership of Mukhi Ramzan Ismail. As a new Jamaat Khana was being built into five phases, the old Jamaat Khana of Kagzi Bazar moved transiently into a building at the junction of Kassim Street and Khalikdina Street for a few months before taking home in the new Jamaat Khana that came to be used on completion of its first phase in November 1882.Imam Aga Ali Shah passed away in 1885 in Poona. His coffin was transported from Bombay to Najaf for burial. In transit, the coffin was brought to Karachi and kept in that Jamatkhana. The Kharadar Jammat Khana had further development and extensions and in 1946 the Imam declared it as a Dharkhana. Unfortunately on 31st March 1963, an out-worn portion of the Jamaat Khana collapsed resulting in the death of three Ismailis. KDA declared the building as being dangerous and unsuitable for use. This led to immediate vacation of the Kharadar Jamaat Khana on 5th April. It shifted to the ground floor of the new Jamatkhana, which was yet under construction.
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