KARACHI: The Karachi Metropolitan Corporation is set to hand over the management and maintenance control of the iconic Frere Hall and surrounding gardens to an 18-member “Guardians Board” for a period of five years, said Mayor Wasim Akhtar on Friday.

A memorandum of understanding (MoU) in this regard was signed between the KMC and the Guardians Board. Speaking at a press conference, the mayor said that the MoU would take effect the day the City Council approved it. Mayor Akhtar and board’s chairman Shahid Feroz signed the MoU.

The board comprises noted personalities, including Amin Hashwani, Arshad Tayebaly, Asif Fancy, Durriya Kazi, Ghazi Salahuddin, Jameel Yusuf, Komal Pervez, Saleem Khan, Pervez Said, Shahid Abdullah, Tariq Huda, Yawar Jillani.

Five officials of the KMC and members of the City Council are also part of the 18-member board. The project area (working area) mentioned in the agreement comprises Frere Hall building including Sadequain Art Gallery and Liaquat Hall Library, surrounding Bagh-i-Jinnah and adjoining area.

The five-year agreement is extendable, with mutual consent, for another five-year period. However, the agreement could be cancelled by the KMC after giving a 30-day notice if violations were noticed.

Weddings, food festivals out

The agreement forbids holding of weddings or related functions and food festivals. But it allows organising events of a quality and quantity that is commensurate with the historic stature of Frere Hall to promote culture and heritage of the country.

The board would receive an annual grant from the KMC (roughly Rs10 million) and it could also generate funds and get donations to be utilised for the upkeep of the historic building and maintenance of the gardens. All accounts would be audited.

Around 40 KMC staffers posted there would remain functional and their salaries would be borne by the KMC.

Mayor Akhtar said that the civic agency would be utilising the expertise of the board members for better maintenance and protection of the historic Frere Hall — protected under the Sindh Cultural Heritage Preservation Act — to improve its condition.

Board chairman Shahid Feroz and member Jameel Yusuf said on the occasion that the historic and beautiful building had been constructed during the British era but unfortunately it had not been looked after later and its condition deteriorated. Pointing out the careless handling of priceless paintings of Sadequain displayed in the gallery inside Frere Hall, they regretted that these were left to be destroyed and many murals were even exposed to sun and were gathering dust.

Efforts would be made to protect the art and the historic building, they added.

Published in Dawn, April 7th, 2018