Karachi’s history

10 Sep 2019


A STATEMENT in a news report (Sept 5) coming from the Director of Culture, Tourism and Antiquities Department makes all of us hang our heads in shame. He says: “Before the British Karachi was just coastal area with wild plantation.”

It has been proved beyond any shadow of doubt that the land on which Karachi stands today was lived in 4,000 years ago. An archaeological expedition which was financed by my modest organisation Bureau of Environmental Studies (now extinct) and led by the famous archaeologist, Dr S. M. Ashfaq resulted in the discovery of a 3,000 years old grave of a Phoenician. A pitcher that was unearthed is now in the Karachi museum and has been displayed as the ‘Object of the Month’.

Phoenicians who lived on the shores of Lebanon and Syria became carriers of sea cargoes. They charged for their services from those they carried goods and articles to.

It appears probable that there was some inlet or a creek which came all the way from Gulistan-i-Jauhar from where the Phoenicians loaded their boats with perfumes, silk and more items coming from Central Asia to take them to the Middle East and beyond.

Years after this discovery, an extremely worried Dr Ashfaque came to me to say that some builders were demolishing all graves of the Phoenicians. To the naked eye these graves appeared to be small heaps of unhewn rocks placed one atop the other.

There was nothing ornate about them. I wrote an article in Dawn ‘Graves are dying’. This didn’t stop the builders. They used the rocks in building the structures they were working on.

Earlier, Dr Rauf, the famous geographer, listed dozens of pre-historic graveyards. In an interview he told me that an ancient graveyard in Clifton has been destroyed through urbanisation.

Karachi city was built by the British upon land which in ancient times was lived upon by Phoenicians and other Asians in hundreds of tiny villages of 15 to 30 huts. We should make efforts to learn about the antiquity of Karachi.

Azmat Ansari

Published in Dawn, September 10th, 2019