Sunday May 19, 2024

Quaid-e-Azam House Museum: Placing the correct facts on record

By Liaquat H. Merchant
September 23, 2021
Quaid-e-Azam House Museum: Placing the correct facts on record

In view of the recent controversy which appeared in the print and electronic media with regard to the Quaid-e-Azam House Museum – Institute of Nation Building, I consider it necessary to place the correct facts on record in my capacity as administrator of the Estate of Quaid-e-Azam and senior vice chairman/ member of the Board of Management constituted under the Government of Sindh, Service, General Administration and Co-ordination Department notification dated 06.04.2021.

The chief justice of the Sindh High Court at Karachi by his order dated 05.02.1984 directed the administrators of the Estate of Quaid-e-Azam to sell and transfer Flag Staff House to the federal government of Pakistan for the purpose of setting up a museum-cum-library to commemorate the name of the Quaid-e-Azam after the restoration, maintenance and re-furbishing of the building in a manner which would be consistent with the same being reflected as a national monument. The chief justice further observed that the purpose of acquisition by the purchaser (Government of Pakistan), being laudable and consistent with preserving the memories of the Quaid-e-Azam, the building would not be utilised for any commercial purpose, but it would be preserved in national interest. The administrators were directed to act accordingly.

In February, 1985 a deed of conveyance/sale was signed by the administrators of the Estate of the Quaid-e-Azam comprising Syed Hashim Raza, Liaquat H. Merchant and Mohammad Hayat Junejo, while the federal government was represented by Masood Nabi Noor, secretary culture. Thus, the Government of Pakistan became the owner of Flag Staff House and it was decided to rename it as “Quaid-e-Azam House”.

The federal government restored the Flag Staff House, and maintained and re-furbished it for the purpose of its use in terms of the order of the high court dated 05.02.1984 and the deed of conveyance/sale dated 14.02.1985 executed by the administrators of the Estate of Quaid-e-Azam, which also laid down the conditions of sale and purposes for which the property would be utilised by the government, namely a museum-cum-library commensurate with the name of the Quaid-e-Azam.

An Advisory Committee was constituted by the federal government comprising government functionaries and other eminent citizens, including Begum Ghamar Ispahani, Mrs, Yasmeen Lari, Mr. Liaquat H. Merchant, Mr. Z.A. Nizami and other architects and engineers. The committee gave its recommendations and a summary of such recommendations is contained in the minutes of the committee.

After the passing of the 18th amendment, the ownership of the Quaid-e-Azam House devolved to the Sindh government, and in continuation of the earlier efforts made by the administrators of the Estate of Quaid-e-Azam for involvement of the private sector and constitution of a Board of Governors/management was raised once again with the chief minister of Sindh, following which meeting were held and an MOU was signed between the Government of Sindh and Mr. Liaquat H. Merchant, grand-nephew of the Quaid-e-Azam as well as administrator and president of The Jinnah Society, and Mr. Ikram Sehgal, chairman of the Karachi Council on Foreign Relations, following which a Sindh government notification dated 06.04.2021 was issued by which a Board of Management for the Quaid-e-Azam House Museum was constituted comprising government officials and the following civilians as members of the Board of Management, namely (i) Mr. Liaquat H. Merchant, Senior Vice Chairman of the Board, (ii) Mr. Ikram Sehgal, Vice Chairman of the Board, (iii) Commodore (R) Sadeed Malik, Member/ Secretary General, (iv) Mrs. Nadira Panjwani, (v) Mr. Shazad Dada, President UBL, (vi) President Arts Council Karachi, (vii) Syed Akeel Bilgrami, Architect, and (viii) Mr. Sultan Ali Allana, President HBL.

While the ownership and control of the Quaid-e-Azam House Museum continued to vest in the Government of Sindh, the management of the Quaid-e-Azam House with a particular reference to activities to be conducted there which would constitute “nation building” would be the responsibility of the Board of Management. Accordingly, the three functionaries specified in the Sindh government Notification constituted themselves into a Managing Committee and co-opted some prominent citizens as members.

The Managing Committee proposed to use the Annexe for holding small events such as talks by prominent leaders of civil society, display of films to groups of students on the Quaid-e-Azam and the Pakistan Movement as well as on speeches by Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah and use the premises for seminars and Audio-visual programmes for small groups upto 50.

The Quaid-e-Azam House Museum, being a heritage site, would not be altered in any manner and would not be used for any commercial purposes. However, subject to the heritage laws, rules and approval of the Heritage Commission, the rear portion of the property may be used for audio-visual and other similar activities involving students such as talks, seminars, debating, elocution, dramas by students and other educational and cultural purposes limited to the student community. The Managing Committee and the Board of Management as the overall controlling body propose to use the Quaid-e-Azam House Museum as an Institute of Nation Building with particular emphasis on the younger generation of Pakistanis. A majority of the population in Pakistan is under the age of 35-40 and they need to understand the reasons for the creation of Pakistan and what Pakistan was intended to achieve and this could only be done by a continuous propagation of the principles, ideals and vision of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, which will not only constitute a nation building exercise but also promote democracy, unity, faith and discipline and development of leadership at all levels in the role model of the Quaid-e-Azam with particular emphasis on public honour and private integrity.

The area behind the Quaid-e-Azam House Museum – Institute of Nation Building will not be used for any commercial purposes and use of this area will not adversely affect the main heritage site and its surrounding areas. The order of the high court and decisions of the Advisory Committee in 1984 will constitute guidelines for use of the property as a museum, library and audio-visual centre for the benefit of the younger generation of Pakistanis.

Liaquat H. Merchant is senior vice chairman of the Board of Management, Quaid-e-Azam House Museum (Flag Staff House), [Institute of Nation Building]