Karachi in the Mirror of History

“Karachi” is the largest city in Pakistan. It is the twelfth largest city in the world. Formerly, it was the capital city of Pakistan. Karachi is considered the financial hub, a premier industrial city with an estimated GDP of $164 billion as of 2019. After giving a concise introduction I am going to show you Karachi in the Mirror of History. The city of Karachi in its ups and downs. From its boom to flood effect city. How Karachi travels in the eyes of history. So let’s discuss Karachi in the Mirror of History below:

Karachi: in the Mirror of History

Cities are not dead and lifeless, they breathe. They love their life here in whatever form it is and feel their pain and suffering. This is the reason why even city dwellers are proud of their cities and fall in love with them wherever they live in the world.

Karachi known as “Jhumar” of Sindh has a glorious past. Karachi is among the most affected cities as a result of partition. Many cities in the subcontinent were repopulated after being destroyed, but this could not happen with Karachi.

Whoever came here, this city embraced nurtured, and enriched him, but this city was deprived of the love and desire of its people. It’s a painful story that I don’t want to bore you with. Recently, Dr. Jafar Ahmed presented a research book on Arif Hassan.

The title of this book written in English is “Karachi Before British Conquest” which has a deep meaning in it. A common impression has been created that before independence, Karachi was just a small fishing village.

Arif Hasan has highlighted the fact that Karachi’s past was wonderful through great research. Before describing the contents of his book, it is necessary to give a brief introduction to Arif Hassan so that the readers can understand that this kind of research work can only be done by people like him.

Arif Hasan is an architect and planner, functionalist, teacher, researcher, and author of many books, research papers, and separate articles on urban development issues.

He was Special Advisor to the Orangi Pilot Project, Research and Training Institute from 1983 to 2016 and has been the inventor of technology and expansion phases of its sanitation (sewerage) and housing development program.

He is the founding head of Urban Resource Center Karachi, and a founding member of the Asian Coalition for Housing Rights, Bangkok, these projects and their hundreds of results are being implemented in many cities around the world and have gained international recognition.

Arif Hasan has also taught in Pakistani and European universities and has given lectures all over the world. He has been a member of several United Nations committees and his activism has led to the reformation of several projects and policies in favor of justice.

Arif Hasan has been a visiting lecturer at the International Institute for Environment and Development, UK, and is on the editorial board of several contemporary critical journals. He was a distinguished speaker at the UIA Congress in 1987 and a member of the String Committee and Jury of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture 1992-1998.

He has been honored with several national and international awards including the Hilal Imtiaz Award for his work and writings. He was a member of INTPAU, India Committee of Honor 2007. He is currently the supervisor of the research cell in the Department of Architecture and Planning at Daewoo University.

He is a member of the Government Heritage Committee and a member of the Board of Sindh Infrastructure Development Committee and the Sindh Solid Waste Management Board.

Arif Hasan has selected 9 topics in his highly researched book. Apart from this, historical photographs and maps are also included in the book. Thus, every chapter of the said book is related to reading, but the chapters related to the British occupation of Karachi and the wonderful social and cultural life of this city centuries ago are of special importance.

Explaining these important and rare details of how the British captured Karachi, Arif Hassan writes:

Karachi was armed in 1839 as a result of British decisions to occupy the main cities of Sindh and station their troops at strategic locations. In view of these decisions, in 1839, under the leadership of Rear Admiral Sir Frederick Maitland, several warships headed to Karachi.

These ships were bringing the reserve force that was to be stationed in the city. On seeing the Rear-Admiral’s ship Wellesley, the Balochi troops stationed at the fort of Manora opened fire to welcome him, this was a Muslim custom. Wellesley, however, mistook this for resistance and destroyed the western part of Manora’s fort by shelling it.

The shelling caused a thick cloud of smoke to engulf the city, turning “daylight into the night” and making it difficult for citizens to breathe. The officers of the Talpur government in Karachi requested the Hindu merchants to mediate a truce with the British on their behalf as they did not have the strength to fight them.

Meanwhile, the British troops could come in and it was decided to set up their camps in the open ground between the city and Rambagh.

According to the British investigation regarding the shelling of the Manora fort, it has been found that when the shelling started, the Balochi soldiers in the fort stood helpless. They did not expect this and were surprised. There they were only 16 in number and had no other weapons except their swords.

They had no ammunition except one shell without gunpowder which they had fired to welcome Wellesley and they had only 6 rounds of gunpowder stored in an earthen pot.

On February 3, 1839, the terms of the settlement were signed. Signed by Hasan bin Bacha Khan, Subedar of Manora Fort on behalf of his military commander, Sina Khan on behalf of the administration of the Talpur Government at Karachi, and Sir Frederick Lewis Maitland, Commander-in-Chief of Her Majesty’s Naval Forces in the East Indies.

Naumal wrote in his autobiography that the next day I received a letter from Karachi that several British ships in the port shelled the fort of Manora so fiercely that within three hours the western wing of the fort was leveled and the cannons were destroyed.

The black clouds of smoke from the edge of the city enveloped the cities and turned the light into darkness. In these circumstances, the officers of the Karachi Talpur government, including Baloch Nawab Khair Muhammad of the Nizamani tribe, Hajiullah Rakha Bugir, along with junior officers, came in front of my elder brother Seth Pritam Das and told them that the smoke had made it difficult for people to breathe and that they are not capable of fighting the British. Therefore, steps should be taken to stop shelling from the cannon.

Under the terms of the instrument of surrender, the British were in control of Manora and in addition had the right to station troops in Karachi. However, the civil administration of the city would remain in Talpur’s hands. Immediately after establishing the military camp, the Sadar Bazar Quarter is administratively called the Sadar Quarter. Prepared for British garrison service.

The British soldiers forced the Mirs to withhold excise duties from all goods sold in the bazaar to encourage traders to open shops in the Sadar Bazar. Although the Talpur government was forced to bow to British pressure for high revenue, it successfully discouraged the natives from trading or doing business in Sadar.

However, a few Hindu businessmen helped the British by building shops and houses in their personal capacity in Sadar. But it was only after the annexation of Sindh to Britain in 1843 that Sadar became a viable trading area.

After the defeat in the first Anglo-Afghan War, the reputation of the British was severely damaged. He realized that the British government would have to take “drastic measures” to get rid of this stigma. This meant negotiating new treaties with the rulers of Sindh and asking for more concessions and trade concessions, thus wresting from them the remaining rulership.

For the protection and expansion of trade, the British realized that complete military authority over Sindh was necessary and for this, they handed over Karachi, Sukkur, Bakhar, and Rohri to the British rulers of Sindh and for the expansion of these cities and the establishment of cantonments. Provide space.

During the preparation of these proposals, General Sir Charles Napier was made the commander of British troops in Karachi in 1842. He firmly believed that the annexation of Sindh was the only solution to secure the northern frontier of the British Empire.

He accused the Amirs of violating previous agreements with Britain. There was a serious rift among the Amirs of Sindh. They resisted the new conditions imposed on them which culminated in British military operations and the annexation of Sindh.

During the military clash between the Amirs of Sindh and the British, the Balochi tribes around Karachi planned to burn down the camps established in Karachi and capture the city. However, some merchants of Karachi who had pledged allegiance to the British thwarted this attempt.

An eyewitness reports that during this fierce conflict, all shops and gates were closed and the city was evacuated. In the meantime, the Hindu traders had arranged that if the situation in the city became violent, they would leave there on their boats.

The British troops took down the Talpur flag installed on the Chawri (Municipal building) and hoisted the Union Jack and seized all the goods, papers, and account statements and put them in a room, and sealed it. The same action was taken at both Kharadar and Methadar gates.

Advertisements were pasted on the walls of the chawri (town hall) and both the gates of the city announcing that Karachi had come under British rule and this was announced by beating drums in various streets and in the vicinity of the city.

Troops were posted at various points under the supervision of the European sergeant of the camp and the officers of the Talpur government were transferred to the British camp and imprisoned.

Naumal writes that we again went towards the city. Mir’s officers were leading, followed by myself and Captain Priddy with the artillery soldiers. When we reached the Mithadar gate, Captain Priddy ordered four or five soldiers sitting on the high platform to come down.

They were immediately disarmed and replaced by British regimental soldiers. Then we left for Chawri where the flag of Talpur was flying. According to Captain Priddy’s instructions, five or seven red and walled flags respectively were taken down and immediately replaced by the Union Jack.

All the belongings of the Chawri (Town Hall) papers and some account books were locked and sealed in a room and I was requested to take custody of the place. We explored the entire central market and reached the Kharadar Gate at the far end of the city, repeating the same process as at the first gate.

We returned to Chawri where documents were drawn up declaring Karachi a British colony and I was made its ruler. Copies of the announcement were pasted on the walls and both doors of the chawri (town hall). His purpose was to let the whole city know about it.

Most of the authors writing on the incident of the capture of Karachi and the annexation of Sindh believe that the important role in facilitating the British was played by the Hindu merchants of the city. There are two good reasons for this.

One of the most important Hindu families, Naumal Hotchand, descended from Bhujomal, the founder of Karachi, had a complaint against Talpur that his father had been treated defamatory by the Amirs. And secondly, because of the adventurous and opportunistic nature of the Hindu traders, they were able to profit immensely from the British trade and revenue policies compared to the Mirs.

However, with the annexation of Sindh, the fiercest arm of Hindu traders, the Lohani community, migrated. Because of the accession to Great Britain, the British came and took over the administrative, political, and economic affairs related to trade and business in the region.

One important aspect of this was to legalize the British rupee by introducing it for transactions, which was a loss in the exchange business. At the same time, the hopes of using the Indus River as a trade corridor could not be realized because the Indus River was not suitable for navigation throughout the year.

Arif Hasan has presented such information about the situation of Karachi almost two centuries ago that surprises the reader because this impression was established in the minds through a deliberate strategy. Karachi had no special importance socially, economically, or culturally.

Arif Hasan takes us back two hundred years to reveal a picture of the city of Karachi that defies the assumptions and stories we are taught, told, and told. In this context he writes:

In the 1830s, Karachi had a Hindu majority. There were about 9 thousand Hindus in the population of 14 thousand. Out of which 38 percent were Mahajans and Khatris belonging to traders or economic sector. 4 percent belonged to the caste of Brahmins and fakirs. Before the arrival of the British in Karachi, the group of Hindu traders was the most powerful. Most of whom were Lohana caste.

The revenue of the port was mostly derived from the taxes collected from the Hindu traders and hence the Ferman Rua provided all kinds of help to expand their business. This increased his political importance.

This is indicated by the fact that in 1794 the terms of the surrender of Karachi to the Talpur army were settled through the mediation of Dhrianmal and the keys of the city gates were entrusted to the same Talpuri commander. Along with this, the customs duty was waived off for high-value investors. So that they invest more.

Muslims constituted 36 percent of the population and consisted of Balochs, Mahans, Jokhis, and Bhats and a small number of Khojas and Memens and were the only community of Muslims involved in trade and commerce. Among the Baloch, tribal chiefs were their protectors.

Mahanes were fishermen and their boats were hired to transport goods and people. The Jokhyos who mostly inhabited the Karthar hills were employed to guard the Kothris or caravans at the fort of Manora and the Jats were herders and part of the urban labor and consisted of retailers, turkhans, qilis, dyers, carters. were There was regular trade between hill tribes like the Jokhyos and urban traders who exchanged grain and animals with each other.

The diet of Karachi’s people and fishermen consisted of fish with dates and rice, while the diet of the hill tribes consisted of milk, curd, and butter.

Hindus were taught in Sindhi language in three or four schools of Brahmins in Karachi of that period. The student had to take a small amount of rice and some wood for fuel as a gift to his teacher every day, while the parents paid one or two rupees every month.

“Calculation and reading and letter writing” were part of the curriculum along with the basic teaching of Persian. The official language of the court was Persian. Meanwhile, the maulvis held congregations in the mosques and the teaching was in Persian.

A gift was traditionally presented to a student on completion of his education. Hindu girls received no education at all, but a few Muslim women were taught to read the Qur’an. It is important to point out here that both Hindus and Muslims used to get their children married at a very young age. Provided they could afford it, which was often not possible for them.

The manufacture and sale of alcohol was permitted and it was distilled from rabies. Sometimes dates were added to it. Utensils and wood were provided by the government for making liquor. The brewing contract was given and the contractor was free to sell it to wholesalers who could sell to their customers.

Important people were given special permission “as a concession” to set up their own factory for brewing and this concession could be hereditary.

The city also had a gambling house and it was located in a government-owned building. Gambling was prohibited anywhere other than this casino and violations were severely punished. Every rupee won was taxed. The management of the casino was also given on contract.

Hart states that the treasurer of the contractor was ready to lend some money to the losers. He believed that if there was any difficulty in returning the money, the government officials would help him in the matter.

Burton mentions some aspects of communal life, dress and manners. He describes the practice of women fetching water from wells, a process involving much enjoyment and loud unceasing laughter. Bertone points out that, unlike elsewhere in India, women in Karachi, especially those of the Mahana caste, rarely wear veils and often taunt strangers when they see them.

Religious ceremonies were an integral part of social life held in and around temples and shrines. In 1938, there were 21 mosques and 13 dargahs in the vicinity of the city. Oil was supplied by the government only on Mondays otherwise no one got any government concessions.

Apart from this, there were 34 Hindu temples and Dharamshalas which were supported by the Hindu population. They were also not given any privileges by the government except Darya Lal Mandir at the port.

The prominent intellectual of the country, Mr. Naseer Memon, in one of his interesting writings, quoting Arif Hassan and some researchers, has described such facts about Karachi in the past that may be surprising to many of our readers.

Many kind people have the misconception that the people of Sindh did not know Islam before the formation of Pakistan. Similarly, many respected friends also have the misconception that Karachi was a deserted place before the formation of Pakistan, which was visited by people from outside, made livable. There is a lot of material about what Karachi was like before 1947, but I will refer to the writings of three respected researchers from Karachi.

The book “Understanding Karachi” by Arif Hassan, a renowned urban development expert, has been published by City Press. Referring to pre-1947 Karachi, the author states the following facts on pages 18-20: Between 1856 and 1872, the business volume of Karachi increased from 855,103 pounds to 5 million pounds, in the same years the Karachi Chamber of Commerce had been established, and in 1861 the foundation of the Sindh Railway had been laid, connecting Karachi with Kotri and thus connecting Karachi, the Punjab and the cotton and wheat growing regions of northern India. As a result of this development, Karachi’s population doubled between 1872 and 1901.

In 1885, trams were introduced in Karachi, Sindh Madrasa in 1885, DJ Sindh College in 1887, and Empress Market in 1889.

Karachi Port had developed to such an extent that in World War II, the British used it as a military base and for supplies to the Russian front. Bahram Sohrab Rustomji and Sohrab KH Katrak from Karachi wrote their joint work. Karachi During the British Era” published by Oxford has recorded the following facts about Karachi:

In 1799, Mr. Jonathan Crowe estimated the customs revenue from Karachi at 80 thousand rupees. Charles Mason wrote in 1830, referring to Brigadier Valiant of the Sindh Reserve Force, that the harbor of Karachi is excellent, in which fleets can sail safely throughout the year. In the 1850s, under Bartle Ferrier, Narayan Jagannath High School, Church Mission High School and Karachi Grammar School were established.

The Karachi Port Trust Bill came into force on 1st April 1887. Carlisle K. Accordingly, in 1837 the revenue from customs was more than 17 lakh rupees. In 1851, he was appointed as the first commissioner of the Karachi Municipal Council. In 1931, the All India Industrial and Commercial Exhibition was held in Karachi. On 13 April 1853, the Karachi Municipality came into existence.

When the British occupied Sindh in 1843, the annual trade volume at Karachi port was 12 lakh 21 thousand rupees, which increased to 55 crore rupees in 1940. In February 1936, the foundation stone of the building of the Indian Merchants Association was laid. had gone In 1866, the revenue income of the Karachi Municipality had reached 240,914 rupees. In 1862, a stamp office and a small cause court were established. The pond was built.

From these brief references it can be inferred that in 1947 Karachi was a developed city in the region. According to the 1941 census, the population of Karachi consisted of 713,900 people, of which 406,050 or 57 percent had Sindhi as their mother tongue.

The people who migrated to Karachi from India were lucky to live in the most developed city of the country in Sindh and the local population handed over their most beautiful city built by decades of hard work. The development of this city and province will be possible only with the unity and unity of all of us. Hope these facts will be helpful in understanding the background of Karachi.


This book is a must read for those who want to know the real facts and history. History does not forgive those nations who commit forgery with it. Kept ignorant of history. Due to which people have suffered from dangerous mental confusion and our society has become creatively barren. There is still time to explain the actual historical facts in the textbooks and make up for the mistakes of the past. It is to be hoped that Arif Hassan will continue his research efforts regarding Sindh and the process of acquainting people with the real facts will be faster.

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