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Sindh High Court wants Mohatta Palace turned into medical college

A trust to look after affairs of college, hospital,

SAMAA | - Posted: Oct 13, 2021 | Last Updated: 4 days ago
SAMAA |
Posted: Oct 13, 2021 | Last Updated: 4 days ago

The Sindh High Court ordered on Wednesday for Qasar-e-Fatima which is commonly know as Mohatta Palace to be turned into a medical college.

The court said that the college should include a hostel.

A plaque should be installed with the names of legal heirs on it, the court said. A trust should be established to look after the affairs of the medical college and the hospital, the court said.

All the parties have agreed to this. Some names have been suggested to run the trust, including Dr Abdul Bari of Indus Hospital, SIUT’s Dr Adib Rizvi, Justice (retd) Sarmad Jalal Osmany and Justice (retd) Fahim Siddiqui.

The court has ordered the authorities to contact these people and acquire their consent to include them on the trust.

The development came during the hearing of the case of the distribution of Quaid-e-Azam and Fatima Jinnah’s residence.

The court also asked for a record of all the activities and income generated from Qasar-e-Fatima in the last 30 years.

Who owns Mohatta Palace?

Mohatta Palace is a declared heritage site. The palace was built in the late 1920s, two decades before the partition of India. The palace was designed by Agha Ahmed Hussain, the first known Muslim architect of the sub-continent of the 24 architectural firms in the 20th century. It is built on an area of 18,500 sq. ft. and the front area is trimmed with beautiful windows, spandrels, stone brackets, balustrades with floral motifs, domes, and exquisite railings.

It was built for Shivratan Mohatta. According to Usman Damohi, a well-known Karachi historian, in his book Karachi Taareekh Kay Aaeenay Main:

“In 1927, Shivratan Mohatta, a successful Marwari entrepreneur, commissioned a palatial house in the affluent seaside neighbourhood of Clifton. The architect commissioned for the assignment was Ahmed Hussein Agha, one of the first Muslim architects of India. He came from Jaipur to take up the assignment.

“Working in a Mughal revival style with a combination of locally available yellow Gizri stone and pink stone from Jodhpur, he sought to recreate the Anglo-Mughal palaces of the Rajput princes.”

Mohatta’s wife was ill and doctors had advised that the refreshing sea breeze would cure her, according to Karachi: Legacies of Empires by Peerzada Salman.

After independence the site housed the offices for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and later as Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah residence and it came to by known as Qasr-e-Fatima.

After Fatima Jinnah passed away the building went to her sister Shireen Jinnah, who lived there. When she died, the property went to their trusts and they fought over it. This was in 1971. The building was sealed.

In 1993 or 1994, the Sindh government went to court, saying that it wanted to take care of the building which was falling apart. The Sindh High Court, led by Chief Justice Sabihuddin Ahmed, decided that it would be evaluated and sold the Sindh government. The property was valued at Rs68 million at the time. However, there was the question of where that money would come from.

The matter was brought up with Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto who spoke with Sindh Governor Mahmood Haroon. The secretary of culture at the time was Khwaja Shahid Hussain.

The trustees did not object and the property was turned into a museum under the Mohatta Palace Gallery Trust.

‘Mohatta Palace has no water, sewage connection’

Trustee Hamid Akhund told SAMAA Digital that they had not received the notice. “The building has no water connection, no sewage,” he said, referring to the reported court order that it should be turned into a hospital.

Trustee Hamid Akhund told SAMAA Digital that they had not received the notice. “The building has no water connection, no sewage,” he said, referring to the reported court order that it should be turned into a hospital.
Most of the original trustees are dead and their children are involved now.

Mohatta Palace’s building and plot is not suited to being turned into a hospital. The fear is that its plot, which is prime real estate, will be sold.

“We bought it from the court, we have the official receipts,” said Akhund, referring to the trust. “The building was handed over. No trustee ever said anything about why we made a museum.”

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