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February 17, 2020

Reading 'Shehron Main Shehr Karachi' is like getting first-hand information


February 17, 2020

In an effort to rediscover the glorious past of Karachi and its present situation, Prof Dr Nasreen Aslam Shah, the dean of the faculty of arts and social sciences at the University of Karachi, has authored a book titled ‘Shehron Main Shehr Karachi’.

The book discusses the city under around 450 topics on various themes which are then divided into subtopics. Prof Shah has discussed the history of Karachi, its cityscape, markets and educational institutes, renowned personalities, heritage buildings, parks and other important aspects of the provincial capital.

The volume, which contains over 500 pages, describes all these aspects of the city through covering each town of the city.

Some of the significant articles in the book include the development of Karachi during the British rule, the role played by the city in the independence movement, its development after partition, administrative structure of Karachi, its places of worship, libraries, famous cinemas and ports.

The author has also shed light on how the name of the city became Karachi. “My relation with the city of lights is as old as I am. My childhood passed in the streets of the city. I had many chances to go aboard and live a better life, but I opted to live here till the last breath,” Prof Shah writes.

“I tried to write about Karachi’s history, geography, demography, culture and problems,” she writes. “It was almost impossible for me to write each and everything that belongs to city in a single volume, but the book provides some basic insights. The book shows my affection for Karachi.”

National museum

She writes that in 1851, Edward Frere laid the foundation of the Victoria Museum. Initially, the museum was housed in a rented building. In 1870, the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation took over the museum and shifted it to a new building located near DJ Science college.

In 1970, the museum was shifted to another building inaugurated by then president Agha Muhammad Yahya Khan.

Fire temples

Discussing the places of worship of Zoroastrians in Karachi, Prof Shah writes that Parsis have been one of the oldest communities of Karachi who built two fire temples here.

The first fire temple was in Bohri Bazaar. It was inaugurated by the Seth Pirjee Jamshed. The two-storey building of temple was rebuilt in 1918. Likewise, another fire temple was built by Dosabhai Merwanji Wadia in Gari Khata in 1875. Later, Cowasji Jehangirji renovated the temple.

Karachi’s first jail

During the British era, for the first time, a jail was set up in the city on the premises of the city court in 1847.

When the crime rate increased, the Central Jail was built on its present location in 1899. The first jail of the city was shifted to the Central Jail after the completion of the latter’s construction in 1905.

The book mentions that when the Central Jail was constructed, there was no housing colony nearby but today the Central Jail is located in between busy markets and residential colonies. Prof Shah writes that in the surrounding areas of the jail, mobile phones do not work properly as the law enforcers have installed jammers to avoid security risk.

Problems of the city

In the chapter on ‘Problems of Karachi’, the author highlights that the population of the metropolis is increasing day by day. During the last many decades, people with multiple ethnic backgrounds have moved from other cities of Pakistan to Karachi. This is why, the number of shanty towns has increased in the city.

Similarly, the unmanaged transport system is one of the key problems of Karachi. A majority of the commuters use motorcycles and private cars while working-class use mini-buses which don’t provide standard services to the public. Lack of public toilets, cleanliness, and water supply are also among the issues that need to be resolved.

The book can be considered as a latest survey of Karachi. It would be helpful for those readers who want to get some basic and first-hand information about the city.