It was the British who developed Ziarat into a hill station and made it their summer headquarters. The Quaid-e-Azam Residency, built in 1892, was actually the old residence of the agent to the British Governor General. According to the travel writer, Salman Rashid, it was “initially meant to serve as a sanatorium. At 2450 metres above the sea and pleasantly located amid a forest where the air is even today richly scented by juniper, it could hardly have served a better purpose. The building was permitted to serve its original purpose for a few years only. Early in the 20th century, it was appropriated to become the summer residence of the Quetta-based agent of the governor general”.
The Residency was the first place I went to visit upon reaching Ziarat. Our group (I had gone with a group of colleagues from LEAD-Pakistan) had to climb uphill to reach the metal gates that led to the lush green lawns with graceful Chinar trees and flower gardens. The double story house was even more picturesque than it appears in photographs with its wide verandahs supported by timber pillars and wooden floors.
I was glad to see that the Quaid’s residency was still in such great shape – some said thanks to the centuries old Juniper wood that was used in its construction. The dry, cool air on the Juniper covered hillside was good for the Quaid as he spent this last days battling advanced tuberculosis of the lungs, and trying to hold onto life. I could just picture him sitting on the verandah, staring into the thick Juniper forest that surrounds the Residency, contemplating the future. He probably knew he was going well before his time…
The Ziarat Residency was indeed a magical building soaked in history – the estate had long been declared a national monument and heritage site and it was well preserved. Inside, we climbed up a creaking, wooden staircase and peered into Jinnah’s austere bedroom with its graceful desk and tidy bed. On the wall were black and white images of him with his colleagues from Balochistan – I took pictures of him conversing with Qazi Isa (the grandfather of a good friend who looks just like him), who helped organise the Muslim League in Balochistan.
The Quaid often visited Balochistan and Qazi Isa prepared for him a pamphlet entitled: “Balochistan: Case and Demand”, which was a blueprint for the package of reforms to be implemented under the guidance of the Quaid. According to the website ‘Story of Pakistan’, “the work on the ‘Case and Demand’ for Balochistan partially started after independence but was put into cold storage soon after the death of the Quaid in the wake of the volatile struggle for power, which ultimately led to a series of undemocratic rules”.
The Residency in Balochistan is where the Quaid spent the last two months of his life and it marked an important last chapter in his history, and indeed the first chapter of ours as a young nation (only one year old at the time). Today, Liaquat Ali Khan (who was our first Prime Minister) is widely regarded as Jinnah's right hand man, but the events that took place in Ziarat during Jinnah’s last days indicate that this may not be entirely true. While Jinnah was convalescing in Ziarat, only a few weeks before his death, Liaquat Ali Khan and Chaudhry Muhammed Ali arrived one day to see for themselves the state of his health (it was precarious).
Liaquat Ali Khan climbed up the wooden stairs of the Residency to see Jinnah alone for around 20 minutes. Later, when Miss Fatima Jinnah went up to her brother’s bedroom to check on him, she noted that he looked distressed and deep in thought. In Shakir Husain Shakir’s book “Mohtarma Jinnah: Hayat-o-Fikar”, he has devoted a whole chapter to excerpts from Fatima Jinnah’s “My Brother”. He recounts an insightful anecdote about Liaquat Ali Khan’s visit to Ziarat. The Quaid-i-Azam asked his sister to join him at the lunch table. “They are our guests (p. 63)”. Later on we learn that Fatima Jinnah had left the table, because Liaquat was laughing loudly and telling off-colour jokes (p. 148)”. She was offended because her brother was clearly ill and dying.