Karachi's iconic Frere Hall, telling the story of a city, awaits former glory

This photo shows a view of Pakistan's iconic building Frere Hall in Karachi, (Photo courtesy: @JalalQazi)
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Updated 24 July 2022

Karachi's iconic Frere Hall, telling the story of a city, awaits former glory

  • Built in 1865, Frere Hall was the largest building in Sindh at the time
  • Current conservation works are focused only on the building’s fittings

KARACHI: Set in a 19th-century garden, Frere Hall is one of the most iconic buildings in Karachi, but despite being a background of many TikTok videos, its accessibility remains limited as little has been done to keep it in shape.

Designed by Henry St, Clair Wilkins, a British army officer who served the East India Company, Frere Hall was completed in 1865 as a town hall. It is situated at the junction of Karachi’s Saddar and Clifton areas and is named after Sir Henry Bartle Edward Frere, an administrator in Pakistan’s southern Sindh province in the 1850s. 

The first structure in south Pakistan built in the Indo Gothic style of British colonial architects, it is not only a majestic monument, but was also home to the city’s first library. 

“It was the largest building in Sindh to be built until that time and it cost Rs 180,000. Before that the buildings that were made were not that expensive,” Yasmeen Lari, one of Pakistan’s most renowned architects, told Arab News.

“No cost was spared, it is very well built. It has got some beautiful stones of different kinds, it has got a lot of different kinds of imagery, beautiful windows which is very gothic, a very steep sloping roof which gives it a very distinctive kind of architectural character. The building had a very imposing presence.”

Frere Hall was built by local craftsmen, but it was an “imperial building,”

Frere Hall and statue of Queen Victoria in Jinnah Garden, Karachi, Pakistan, 1952. (Photo courtesy: @vintagepakistan/Facebook)

“The British used the architecture to also express how they wanted to govern the empire. So, when they really wanted to take over various areas and wanted to show their mind, they used the classical style,” Lari said. “It was only for the British at that time, no local or native was allowed to even enter.”

But now that colonial powers are long gone, little has been done to keep the site accessible for everyone. It has also significantly decayed over the past few decades.

Journalist and social activist Afia Salam recalled how she had visited Frere Hall in the 1960s.

“From my childhood, I know of Frere Hall as one of the most recognizable and important landmarks of Karachi. As a child, I used to visit it with my parents and siblings, like any Karachiite, to play around in the gardens as well as see the exhibits in the hall,” she told Arab News. “At that time, it was an exhibition hall, a gallery, then over the years, changed different hands. There was a time when it became very dilapidated.”

Columnist and rights activist Akhtar Baloch has been visiting Frere Hall for a book market that is held there every Sunday.

“A lot of students come to visit now as well as families, particularly on the weekend,” he said. “Unfortunately, there are no facilities for the public. There aren’t any male or female washrooms nor is drinking water available for visitors.” 

Local authorities say they are doing their best to make the historical site as accessible to the public as possible.

People are sitting outside Pakistan's iconic building located in Karachi, (Photo courtesy: @Sangrisaeed)

“In the last one year, ever since Murtaza Wahab sahab became the administrator (of Karachi), there have been a lot of changes,” Junaid Ullah, director general of parks at the Karachi Municipal Corporation, told Arab News.

“It has become one of the best parks in the city. Fountain that was built in 1890 have been reactivated while other facilities have also been added. Children who cannot afford to pay for parks in bigger areas come here, make photos and TikTok videos and enjoy their time.”

Major restoration works, however, are still to take place.

Some conservation is planned under the Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation grant which was by the US Consulate General in Karachi to the Sindh Exploration and Adventure Society (SEAS) in October las year.

Dr. Asma Ibrahim, director of the Museum, Archives and Art Gallery Department of the State Bank of Pakistan, who is involved in the conservation project with SEAS president Dr. Kaleemullah Lashari, told Arab News that restoration works under the grant are focused on the Frere Hall’s fittings such as windows, doors, stairs.

But the “issues existing in the building may not be resolved in a single phase.”

“It shall present the Frere Hall to general public, city masters, and government to utilize it for the public activities in all its glory, and make every stake holder realize how much this landmark matters in the lives of the citizens,” she said.

“It shall help in attracting long-term intervention plan.”

Fast bowler Haris Rauf ruled out of PSL after dislocating shoulder

Updated 23 sec ago

Fast bowler Haris Rauf ruled out of PSL after dislocating shoulder

  • Haris Rauf fell awkwardly on his shoulder during Karachi-Lahore match on Saturday
  • Doctors have advised Rauf to rest for 4-6 weeks to recover from injury, says Lahore Qalandars 

LAHORE: Fast bowler Haris Rauf has been ruled out of the remainder of the Pakistan Super League after dislocating his shoulder during two-time defending champion Lahore Qalandars’ two-wicket loss against Karachi Kings on Saturday.

The franchise said in a statement on Sunday that doctors have advised Rauf to rest for 4-6 weeks to recover from the injury after undergoing scans.

Rauf fell awkwardly on his shoulder in the last over while holding onto a stunning catch of Hasan Ali during Karachi’s thrilling run-chase as Lahore lost its fourth successive game in Pakistan’s premier domestic Twenty20 event.

Rauf struggled in the first three games but bounced back against Karachi with economical figures of 1-22 off his four overs.

“We are deeply saddened by Haris Rauf’s injury,” Lahore captain Shaheen Shah Afridi said. “It was painful to see him missing out … and his absence will be felt.”

Rauf’s injury is the second major bowling setback for Lahore after its premier spinner Rashid Khan of Afghanistan was ruled out before the tournament due to a back injury.

Pakistan approves mergers of leading Saudi company with stakes in its steel sector

Updated 12 min 26 sec ago

Pakistan approves mergers of leading Saudi company with stakes in its steel sector

  • M/s Saudi Iron and Steel Company (Hadeed) deals in spot sales in Pakistan’s steel market, exports to South Asian country
  • Three mergers are not anticipated to raise competition concerns in the relevant market, says competition commission

ISLAMABAD: The Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP) this week approved three mergers concerning a leading Saudi company that has a significant presence in Pakistan’s steel market, the regulatory body said. 

Based in the kingdom, M/s/ Saudi Iron and Steel Company (Hadeed) produces a range of steel products and deals in spot sales in Pakistan’s steel market. Hadeed also exports to the South Asian country through international traders.

The CCP said in its press release on Saturday that the Public Investment Fund (PIF), Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, sent a pre-merger application to CCP to acquire 100 percent shareholding of Hadeed from M/s. Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (“SABIC”).

“PIF has entered into a share purchase agreement with SABIC, under which SABIC agrees to sell its entire share capital of Hadeed to PIF,” the CCP said. 

The second merger involved Hadeed acquiring 100 percent shareholding of Al Rajhi Steel Industries Company from M/s. Mohammad Bin Abdulaziz Al Rajhi & Sons Investment. 

Al Rajhi Steel, established in 1978, is a subsidiary of Al Rajhi Invest and is known for its steel manufacturing capabilities in Saudi Arabia. This involved a share exchange agreement between Hadeed and Al Rajhi Invest.

In the third stage, the CCP said PIF intends to dispose off its 44.5 percent shareholding in Hadeed to M/s. Mohammad Bin Abdulaziz Al Rajhi & Sons Investment, the CCP. It added that the move was intended to share control over Hadeed and Al Rajhi Steel to improve their respective production capabilities and increase their operational efficiency.

“These transactions, as per the information available, are not anticipated to raise any competition concerns in the relevant market,” the CCP said. 

It said Pakistan’s steel sector is “one of the most important industries in the country” and with investments, can raise the country’s GDP to bring benefits to both the economy and investors.

Pakistan inaugurates ‘pivotal’ polio campaign to immunize over 45.8 million children

Updated 25 February 2024

Pakistan inaugurates ‘pivotal’ polio campaign to immunize over 45.8 million children

  • Polio volunteers to immunize children under five years old from Feb. 26 to March 3, says national health ministry 
  • Many believe in the conspiracy theory that polio vaccines are part of a Western ploy to sterilize Pakistan’s population

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s federal health secretary Iftikhar Shallwani on Sunday inaugurated a nationwide campaign against polio that aims to immunize over 45.8 million children against the disease, the national health ministry said. 

Pakistan is one of only two countries in the world where polio is endemic. The disease affects the nervous system of children and ultimately leads to paralysis.

The South Asian country’s efforts to contain polio have often been met with opposition, especially in the country’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, where militants have carried out attacks against vaccinators and the security teams guarding them. 

Many believe in the conspiracy theory that polio vaccines are part of a plot by Western outsiders to sterilize Pakistan’s population. 

Shallwani inaugurated the campaign, which is set to launch nationwide on Monday, by administering polio drops to children. 

“This pivotal campaign, scheduled from Feb 26 to Mar 3, aims to immunize over 45.8 million children under the age of 5 across the country,” the Ministry of National Health Services wrote on X platform. 

Shallwani said polio is a “terrible” disease that can cause paralysis in children.

“Unfortunately, it continues to be a threat to our children because some people refuse to vaccinate children based on misconceptions and false information about the vaccine,” he said. 

He said volunteers will deliver the vaccine to people’s doorsteps from next week, requesting parents to cooperate with them. 

“I implore you to recognize the threat posed by the poliovirus to your children and ensure that you open your doors to facilitate their vaccination,” the health official said. 

Pakistani masses’ doubts regarding polio campaigns were exacerbated in 2011 when the US Central Intelligence Agency set up a fake hepatitis vaccination program to gather intelligence on former Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden. 

Undefeated Quetta lock horns with Multan Sultans in PSL 9 clash today

Updated 7 min 29 sec ago

Undefeated Quetta lock horns with Multan Sultans in PSL 9 clash today

  • Multan Sultans lost their first match of the tournament to Peshawar Zalmi this week 
  • Despite the loss, the Sultans top the Pakistan Super League points table due to strong run rate

ISLAMABAD: The undefeated Quetta Gladiators will be put to the test today, Sunday, when they face table-toppers Multan Sultans in match number 11 of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) 2024 set to take place in Multan. 

The Sultans sit pretty at the top of the table with six points from four matches. However, they lost to former champions Peshawar Zalmi on Friday by five wickets at their home ground in Multan. 

Under new skipper Rilee Rossouw, however, the Gladiators have won all three matches of theirs. 

“I am aware of the conditions on Multan hence I don’t encounter any difficulties playing there,” Rossouw said. “Every match is a new contest, we will implement our plan to win it.”

The Gladiators have the same number of points as the Gladiators, six, from three matches. However, they are placed at number two on the table due to a net run rate of +0.686. The Sultans have a run rate of +0.812 from their four matches. 

The match between the two sides is expected to begin at 2:00 p.m.

Playing XIs (probable):

Multan Sultans: Mohammad Rizwan (c & wk), Dawid Malan, Reeza Hendricks, Yasir Khan, Iftikhar Ahmed, Khushdil Shah, David Willey, Usama Mir, Abbas Afridi, Mohammad Ali, Shahnawaz Dahani

Quetta Gladiators: Saud Shakeel, Jason Roy, Rilee Rossouw (c), Sarfaraz Ahmed (wk), Khawaja Nafay, Shefane Rutherford, Akeal Hosein, Abrar Ahmed, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Wasim, Mohammad Hasnain

Pakistan’s Sindh Assembly elects speaker from majority party 

Updated 37 min 24 sec ago

Pakistan’s Sindh Assembly elects speaker from majority party 

  • Pakistan Peoples Party’s Syed Owais Qadir Shah secures 111 votes to win speaker’s election 
  • Election for the post of Sindh chief minister is scheduled to be held on Monday

KARACHI: Elections for the coveted posts of speaker and deputy speaker of Pakistan’s Sindh Assembly will be held today, Sunday, state-run media said, a day after newly elected members of the assembly were sworn in. 

Saturday’s oath-taking ceremony was marred by protests in Karachi staged by supporters of various political parties who allege that the Feb. 8 elections were heavily rigged. 

Supporters of the Jamaat-e-Islami, Grand Democratic Alliance, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI) and other nationalist parties gathered near the provincial assembly in Karachi’s southern zone to protest alleged manipulation of Feb. 8 election, which was marred by a mobile network outage and delays in release of constituency results.

The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), which bagged the highest number of seats in Sindh, has nominated Murad Ali Shah, former Sindh chief minister, for the top provincial office once again. The party has also nominated Syed Owais Shah for the role of speaker, and Anthony Naveed for the post of deputy speaker of the Sindh provincial assembly.

“Elections of speaker and deputy speaker of Sindh Assembly will be held on Sunday,” the state-run Radio Pakistan said in a report. “On the other hand, the election of Sindh Chief Minister will be held tomorrow (Monday).”

The PPP bagged 84 seats in the southern Pakistani province, followed by the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) which secured 28 seats, while 14 seats were won by independent candidates. The JI and the GDA won two seats each.

While the inaugural Sindh Assembly session was in progress, several Pakistani parties on Saturday announced they would observe February 27 as a “Black Day” in response to Sindh police firing tear gas at their supporters protesting suspected rigging in the general elections earlier this month.

In view of the protest calls, the Sindh caretaker government on Friday imposed a ban under Section 144 on public assembly, gatherings, protests, processions, and demonstrations in Karachi’s South zone, where the provincial legislature is located, for a period of 30 days, according to the provincial home department.

Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) empowers the administration to issue orders in public interest and place a ban on any activity for a specific period of time.