KARACHI, May 13: Liaquat Merchant — grandnephew of Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah and the administrator of Quaid-i-Azam’s Estate — has expressed ‘serious’ reservations over the decision taken by Prime Minister Zafarullah Khan Jamali to rename the Flagstaff House as “Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah House”.

The federal government had decided in 1985 to change the name from Flagstaff House to “Quaid-i-Azam House Museum” and the property has since been known by this name.

Liaquat Merchant — who with Syed Hashmi Raza was party to Sindh High Court’s order in October 1984 as well as the sale deed of Flagstaff House, executed in favour of federal government — pointed out that the property did not belong to Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah.

While talking to PPI on Tuesday, he said: “Notwithstanding legal proceedings pertaining to (the) use of property by federal government and non-fulfilment of terms and conditions of order of High Court, the property should continue to be called “Quaid-i-Azam House” as this was (the) declared purpose (for the) acquisition of property by federal government from Estate of Quaid-e-Azam”.

He said the government had declared that the property would be preserved, kept in perpetuity and used in a manner befitting the dignity and status of Quaid-e-Azam.

The change of name was contrary to both the order of High Court and the sale deed, he stated. Mr Merchant said since 2003 was declared as Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah’s year, it would be appropriate if the Khatoon-i-Pakistan Girls School — founded by Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah in 1961 — was finally denationalized and handed over to her institution “Khatoon-i-Pakistan Education and Welfare Board” which is made up of her family members as well as philanthropists, educationists, and independent Board of Governors notified by Sindh government.

The Flagstaff House was purchased by Mr Jinnah from Katrak family before partition, prior to which it was used by the Brigade Commander of Karachi. Mr Jinnah did not ever live in Flagstaff House.

But after his demise in 1948, this property which formed part of his residuary estate vested in executors of his will and administrators of his estate who initially were Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah and Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan, said Mr Merchant.

He said Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah moved into Flagstaff House after the demise of Mr Jinnah in 1948 and lived there until 1964 when she moved to Mohatta Palace in Clifton. Flagstaff House was never a property of Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah and, in fact, in lieu of Mr Jinnah’s House at Mount Pleasant Bombay, which was bequeathed to her under Mr Jinnah’s will but later declared as evacuee property by Indian government, she was given Mohatta Palace by government of Pakistan where she lived until her demise in 1967.

He said in 1984, at the hearing of reference filed by administrators of the Estate of Quaid-i-Azam, the Chief Justice of Sindh High Court had permitted the sale of Flagstaff House to federal government at a price of Rs5 million, subject to the condition that it will restore the House to its original condition and maintain the same in perpetuity in memory of Quaid-i-Azam. The House was to be used as public library and museum and to house the personal belongings of Quaid-i-Azam.

Mr Merchant said since then the property has been restored to its original condition by the government, but objects laid down in the order of Chief Justice as well as sale deed with regard to its utilization were not implemented and the administrators filed a reference before the High Court seeking revocation of sale in favour of government.

He said very recently, the Chief Justice of Sindh High Court had directed the Official Assignee of Karachi to prepare a report. The Official Assignee in his report had observed that none of the three conditions mentioned in the High Court’s order and sale deed had been complied with from 1984 onwards and that the House contained only furniture, fixtures and fittings from which visitors could not learn anything about the Pakistan’s founder and great leader. — PPI

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