The central part of Karachi is evident of the historic colonial facade of British modernity and development in the subcontinent. If one rides to the area of Saddar which was once the centre of the city, he will find many glorious streets titled on the names of famous colonial English personalities. Saddar contains some most of the oldest sightseeing colonial infrastructures standing throughout. The place reminds us of the elegant society where once were libraries, clubs, halls and residencies of elite British, Hindus and Paris’s stood, amongst the many famous streets in Sadder is the “Clark’s street”. Clark’s street road begins from where the huge facade of St. Patrick’s church is and ends at the ‘Grand Empress Market’. In between these two beautiful historic heritages there are several houses, buildings and ruins of pre-partition architecture can be seen. Yellow and grey bricked walls made of the imported British stones. The houses were giant and spacious withfence gates, large windows, open balconies and half grilled doors which direct open into streets are the common architecture styles. Many houses are single color painted and are divided into portions where many families living on rent nowadays.
Karachi enjoyed an elite status under British raj due toits cultural diversity of the time, trade status, sea port and as a hub of small businesses. Parsis and Hindus were the communities residing here in majority. The city was surrounded by Saddar and its neighboring areas like old Clifton, Kharadar, Meetha Dar and Martin Quarters. Streets and road network were well-maintained and properly designed what we can still be found.
After independence all the cultural attention of the government bent towards Lahore. Lahore was considered as the cultural heritage hub of Pakistan while the Karachi was neglected in the heritage protection policies and programs which caused the demolishing of many of these buildings. During migration many Hindu and Parsi residents of Clarks street who were the real owners of these houses moved to the India and in contrary muslim migrants who came from India got settled in these houses which get neglected by their second owners.
Saddar was enjoying the more reputable status since 1960 until Karachi was the capital. These streets were the residencies of elites, government and army officials surrounded by clubs, casinos and hotels. Shops of the big brands of the time could be easily found there. Streets were washed twice a day. Cleanliness and development of roads was measured. Transportation was less. These streets had become a tourism hub. Many foreigners came there to shop the local goods.
But it was all until the capital was shifted to Islamabad. Nowadays a Clark’s street name has changed into Shahrah-e-Iraq, one of the busiest road in Karachi. Locality has now converted into a grand wholesale market. Many of the old houses have been demolished or replaced with the modern malls and restaurants. The connected streets are now famous for special goods like meat market, tea market, hardware and sanitary market. Bohri community shares the majority of these residencies. Ruins of many old houses are still stands there near CIA center. Heavy noise of school vans and bus horns echoes throughout the day. A catholic school, police station, garages and fruit market have turned this place into a metropolitan area. Stillif we turn our eyes up we see a gothic- parish church between the symmetry of the modern buildings, still reminding us the royalty of this place.
Nadeem* a 26 years old, owner of one of the heritage house at Clark’s street said
“My great-grandfather made this house on his own and even after so many decades it’s still standing strong.” Nadeem runs a garage on the ground floor of his house while his family resides at the first floor. People at Clark’s street are now afraid of the government’s encroachment policies so much that they refuse to talk or allow pictures be taken of their houses.
Author: Ahsan Abbasi