While the face of Karachi may have changed rapidly during the last few years, the bedrock of Karachi’s existence and growth lies in areas developed for migrants arriving from India in 1947. Millions arrived in Karachi after Partition, and the government of the time was faced with the task of rehabilitating them.
Historian and former Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) official M. A. Tatari told The News that successive governments purchased land for the purposes of rehabilitating the migrants. “Nazimabad, a population of Mohajirs, was established in the name of late prime minister and governor-general, Khawaja Nazimuddin, in 1952 to rehabilitate the public and government servants who migrated from India. This work was carried out by the Pakistan public works department,” he said.
“The migrants had to be given some land to make their houses. The land rate at the time was Rs3.50 per yard while a bag of cement cost Rs3 only. But many were apprehensive of coming to this area because of the wilderness. This place only had bushes and wild trees. No one was prepared to purchase land in Nazimabad,” he narrated.
Another story is that of modern-day Liaquatabad, an area many continue to refer to as Lalukhet. According to Tatari, the area came to be known as Lalukhet because it was once the agricultural land of a man named Lalu. The government of Pakistan had purchased this land from Lalu, but this became an area where people started haphazard and arbitrary construction, he said.
North Nazimabad was originally established in 1958, Tatari said, with Karachi Improvement Trust (KIT) starting that housing scheme. “Land was purchased from Masti Brohi Khan, and the official name given to the area was Taimooria. The public name, North Nazimabad, emerged because quite simply, the scheme was being built to the north of Nazimabad,” Tatari said.
However, Ayub Khan became Field Marshal and KIT was declared defunct. A new body, the Karachi Development Authority (KDA) was then created, which started its own housing schemes. The first one, KDA Scheme No. 1, was built at Karsaz, but the second one, is what developed into modern-day North Nazimabad. “Both housing schemes were prepared by a Greek architect named Mr Polo,” he said.
“Just adjacent to Lasbella Bridge was the official house, or consulate, of Nawab Lasbella. The area was called Lasbella because of the Nawab from much before Partition. The bridge existed at that time as well, and was known as Lasbella Bridge,” he continued.
Talking about Federal Capital Area (F ‘C’ Area), Tatari narrated that former prime minister Mohammed Ali Bogra had initiated the housing scheme for low-paid government employees. At the time, Karachi was capital of the country, but there was a shortage of houses for government servants. Houses were then made of ‘G’ and ‘F’ types in 1958, and some government employees retired and settled there.
Tatari said that Federal ‘B’ Area was also initiated by Bogra, and a 120-square-yard housing scheme was launched. The official name of the scheme was Mansoora, KDA scheme No 16, and citizens could acquire a plot for Rs5,000.
According to the retired bureaucrat, Federal ‘A’ Area included the modern-day areas of Jacob Lane, Jet Lane and Bazerta Lane. All these areas were barracks of small army officers which had been constructed in 1888, but the Army later handed this area to civilians.
When asked who proposed the site of the mausoleum of Quaid-e-Azam Mohammed Ali Jinnah, Tatari said that former Karachi chief commissioner Syed Hashim Raza had proposed the location as it was on a higher plane. The land was then occupied by Kutcha hutments, and these people were allotted alternate space in Korangi and Landhi.
When asked why the government of Pakistan had to purchase land from Lalu and Brohi agriculturists, Tatari said that when Pakistan was created, these two were in possession of large tracts of land that were identified for the rehabilitation of the migrants.
Tatari said that Drigh Colony was established by late prime minister Liaquat Ali Khan, and after cordial relations were developed with late Saudi king, Shah Faisal, Drigh Colony was renamed as Shah Faisal Colony.
He said that Lawrence Road, now Nishtar Road, was where the houses of different Nawabs were situated. Nawab of Bhawalpur, Nawab of Khairpur and other Nawabs all had their homes and offices on the road.
Talking about Pir Elahi Bux Colony, Tatari said that that land for the colony was donated to Mohajirs by a major agriculturist. A private contractor, Mr Hasan, was then awarded the task to make houses. “In those days, and I’m talking about 1948-49, Hasan made 150-square-yard houses at a cost of Rs1800. These houses had bedroom and wash rooms, but no roofs,” he said.
Tatari said that Firdous Colony was made by a former MLA from Bihar, who made a cooperative society with the help of friends. He purchased land from the government in 1948, and the land was sold at a rate of Rs3.50 per square yard.
Usmanai Colony was established by those who migrated from Muradabad (India). One of the official Hakims of the Pakistan government, Hakim Syed Zakir, is credited with conceiving Usmania Colony, while 99 per cent of the residents of Muradabad were provided land and houses in this colony. Tatari said that those who built the society were affluent people, as they were adept at making utensils.
Rizvia Colony was made by a school teacher of Sindh Madressah, Maulana Aneesul Hasnain, along with Advocate Qazalbash in 1948. Their concept, maintained Tatari, was to provide plots exclusively to Shias, and not to people of other sects.
Tatari said that Gurumandir was known because of a Hindu temple situated near Islamia College, a structure that still exists. He said that many Hindus came to worship here, and thus, the place became famous as Guru ka Mandir. The road adjacent to Islamia College was named as Pandit Lal Nehru Road back then, but this was changed to Jigar Muradabadi Road when the municipality came into existence.
The retired bureaucrat revealed that there was a substantial population of Hindus, Parsis and Ismiailis who lived in the area now known as Patel Para. “Whenever any Hindu died and had unclaimed property, the Patels would automatically become the custodians of that property. At that time, Patels in that area were in a majority, and thus this area became Patel Para,” he said.
To another question about Soldier Bazaar, he said that it was an area inhabited by small Army officers during the British era. These soldiers would shop in the area, and thus, the vicinity became famous as Soldier Bazaar.