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G.M. Sayed’s ancestral home in Karachi demolished

Updated July 08, 2019

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A VIEW of the demolished Hyder Manzil. — Fahim Siddiqi / White Star
A VIEW of the demolished Hyder Manzil. — Fahim Siddiqi / White Star

KARACHI: Three months ago, there was a rumour doing rounds in Karachi’s Nishtar Park. Jalal Mehmood Shah, a grandson of G. M. Sayed and leader of the Sindh United Party, was putting his ancestral home on the market. The fact that windows and doors were being pulled out seemed suspicious to other family members.

No one seemed to buy into it till one night in the last week of June bulldozers arrived at Hyder Manzil in the dead of the night to start breaking the place down. This led to an outrage on social media where many people were upset that a historical residence was not preserved.

Khawaja Naveed Amin, who lives in one of the last pre-partition homes next to Hyder Manzil, said that since the early 2000s, one by one all the old houses on their street were being bought by builders. Now, candy wrappers, bottle caps and rubble litter the entrance of the historic ­residence of Mr Sayed.

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“We are the only ones left here. There is an apartment complex at the end of the street and a school at the other end. My ancestors bought this house in the 1950s from the Khan of Lasbela. It was built around the same time as Hyder Manzil,” he told Dawn.

Built in 1932, Hyder Manzil was a place of political activity

According to the Sayed family, Hyder Manzil was built in 1932 by Mr Sayed, who at the time was a leading campaigner of the Pakistan movement in Sindh and one of the people responsible for passing the Pakistan resolution in 1943 in the Sindh Assembly. The resolution, many claim, was written at Mr Sayed’s residence.

The residence, according to family and neighbours, was always a place of political activity.

“My elders told me about the great men who frequented this place. My grandfather saw Sheikh Mujibur Rehman here in the 1960s. He used to say that a sea of people had gathered outside the house to catch a glimpse of the leaders,” said Mr Amin, adding that he had also seen many politicians including Jam Sadiq and the President of Pakistan, Arif Alvi, visiting Hyder Manzil.

“When I was 10 years old, I used to play the flute. G. M. Sayed once heard me practice. The next day he asked Master Ghulam Qadir, the man who used to read him the newspapers every day, to call me. When I went over he told me to sit down and play for him. I don’t know how this happened…I had asked Mr Shah once if he planned to rebuilt the house, he told me he would never do as he could still feel his ancestors at Hyder Manzil,” he added.

Mr Amin’s mother remembers G. M. Sayed and his family quite fondly. “They were good neighbours. My children used to go play with his grandchildren often. They were in the same school,” she told Dawn.

According to Mr Amin, Mr Shah’s family moved away a few years ago and the house was vacant.

The plaque which was once displayed on the entrance. — Fahim Siddiqi / White Star
The plaque which was once displayed on the entrance. — Fahim Siddiqi / White Star

Another grandson of Mr Sayed, Zain Shah (Jalal’s brother and a member of his political party), said that he was beside himself with sadness of the residence where he grew.

“Our house boy came and told me that they were taking down the doors and windows at Hyder Manzil so I approached my brother. He did confirm that the house was going to be sold. We asked him to put a hold on things for a year, but he did not listen,” he added.

Talking about the history and location of the bungalow, he said that the house was located in a diverse neighbourhood with Parsi, Catholic and Muslim colonies.

He said that after being elected as the vice president of the Karachi Local Board in 1929, his great grandfather Sayed shifted to the city in lieu of his political career, three years before Hyder Manzil was built in 1932, and lived in rented premises till the completion of the house.

“In the 1920s and 1930s the residential area was a new, posh locality where scores of his political contemporaries were also based. In the same lane were M. A. Khuhro two houses away, Mirza Kaleech Baig, the Allana family; just a few lanes ahead were the houses of Nabi Bux Bhutto (Mumtaz Bhutto’s father), Hatim Alvi and Jamshed Nusserwanji,” he said.

Politician Afrasiab Khattak told Dawn that had the pleasure of meeting G. M. Sayed more than once. “Although I never lived in Hyder Manzil, I strongly oppose the demolition of his house which has historical significance.

Talking to Dawn, Jalal Shah said that it was the need of the hour. “I have been living on rent for a decade or so. Everyone in my family has a house so I sold this to get one for my family too,” he said.

Mr Amin said that a lawyer had also filed a petition to ensure that what was left of the building would be preserved and declared a heritage site. He added that there was a hearing in this regard on Monday.

Published in Dawn, July 8th, 2019