The Advisory Committee on Heritage, led by Sindh Chief Secretary Ghulam Ali Shah Pasha, will meet soon to review the reasons behind the erection of an illegal structure in the historic building of the Karachi Press Club (KPC). “A notice was served on the office-bearers of the Karachi Press Club, inquiring why a structure was built inside the heritage building without the permission of the Heritage Committee, but we have not received a reply as yet,” a senior official in the Department of Culture told The News on Wednesday. The committee comprises a renowned architect and town planner, Arif Hasan, CEO of the Dawn Group of Companies, Hameed Haroon, a professor of the Department of Architecture and Planning, NED University, Dr Anila Naeem, Secretary Antiquities Kaleemullah Lashari, Secretary Culture Alamuddin Bullo, Secretary Works Rasool Bux Phulpoto, and Chief Controller Karachi Building Control Authority Manzoor Qadir. “A meeting of the Advisory Committee to discuss the construction is likely to take place in a week or so,” the official said.
The News reported earlier that the beautiful facade of the 117-year-old heritage building of the Karachi Press Club (KPC) was defaced as office-bearers of the previous body erected a huge steel structure right in front of it. The CEO of Pakistan Steel, who supplied material for the structure, told The News that he was given the impression that it would be built over a car parking in the backyard of the club. The leadership of the club had previously built a structure, despite architects advising against it. It was apparently erected to accommodate the growing number of members. Construction is not allowed in a heritage building unless it is approved by the Heritage Committee. To build the huge steel structure that would hide the KPC’s beautiful faÁade, a majestic Neem tree was also chopped down. Previously too, a beautiful Christmas tree was cut and replaced by another for unknown reasons.
The late veteran journalist, Hamdan Amjad Ali, would fondly tell the story of how the sapling of the Christmas tree was brought by a journalist from the then East Pakistan and planted in the club. It grew very slowly, about an inch in a year, but had blossomed into a tall and beautiful tree. The KPC building not only has heritage value, but also served as the hub for political activity. The Pakistan Peoples Party’s founding chairman and former prime minister, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, initiated his campaign against military dictator General Ayub Khan from the KPC. General Mujeeb-ur-Rehman, the information minister of yet another military dictator, General Zia-ul Haq, termed the club an “enemy territory”.
Established in 1958 by a group of enthusiastic journalists in a Victorian-style bungalow on what was then Ingle Road and now Sarwar Shaheed Road, the Karachi Press Club played a vital role in the struggle for democracy and press freedom, in particular. The KPC became the hub of intense political activity during the regime of General Ziaul Haq, when a movement was launched for the restoration of daily Musawaat and daily Hurriyat, which were banned by the military government and hundreds of journalists were arrested across the country. Some journalists were even flogged after a summary trial in a military court. The KPC is housed in a double-storey building and is a majestic heritage monument. The ground floor comprises the main hall where press conferences and functions with large audiences are held. The upper floor houses a well-stocked library, a committee room and a TV lounge.