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It is 43 years since the passing away of Al-Haaj Muhammad Hashim Gazdar, a statesman, leader of the Pakistan Movement and a Karachi mayor.

Hashim Gazdar was born on February 1, 1893, in Jaiselmer, Rajasthan to the Seesodia Rajputana family, who in their search for livelihood gradually migrated to Karachi to find work as masons and stonecutters and became known as the Silawata (‘sil’ meaning stone) Community. But even before that his forefathers had been given the title of ‘Gazdar’, meaning architect, by the maharajas of India in recognition of their fine construction skills. Many of the buildings that they built from the golden stones of Rajasthan still stand in Pakistan and India.

Gazdar’s father, Faiz Muhammad Gazdar, was an engineer and following in his footsteps the son too went for civil engineering by passing his BE from the Civil Engineer College in Puna in 1916, after having done his matriculation from Sindh Madressahtul Islam in 1910 followed by a two-year stint at the DJ Science College, Karachi. He was the first Muslim from Sindh to get a degree in engineering.

Working as a civil engineer, Gazdar carried out a survey through the Cholistan desert in Bahawalpur in connection with the Sutlej river project for the irrigation of the Sutlej valley, which brought about the digging up of canals and the subsequent construction of the Sukkur barrage.

He remained an elected member of the Karachi Municipal Corporation (1934 to 1956) and was the city mayor (1941 to 1942) besides serving as the chairman of the finance committee for three years, the vice chairman of the Karachi Port Trust (KPT), a member of the Bombay (and Sindh) provisional assembly (1934 to 1936) as well as the Sindh Assembly (1937 to 1951).

Maintaining strong ties with the All India Muslim League right from 1938, his speech on the Pakistan resolution in the capacity of a delegate from Sindh during the League’s session in Delhi is of great importance. His part in the call for referendum in the then NWFP (now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) on the directions of the Quaid-i-Azam is also noteworthy. Sardar Abdul Rab Nishtar, Sir Abdullah Haroon, G.M. Syed, Sir Shah Nawaz Bhutto, Sheikh Abdul Majeed Sindhi and Pir Ali Mohammad Rashdi were his contemporaries.

After Partition, Gazdar also played an important role in the rehabilitation of refugees in Karachi. He was elected as the first deputy speaker of the first Constituent Committee of Pakistan and carried on in that capacity until 1954. In 1956 he was elected a member of the West Pakistan Assembly.

He also had the honour of representing Pakistan in many international conferences of repute such as the World Trade Conference held in Havana, Cuba, in 1947, the Inter-Parliamentary Conference held in Rome in 1948, the Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference in England, the New Zealand Conference, the Nairobi International Conference, etc.

The great statesman that he was, Gazdar was always desirous of better democracy in the country for which he was also jailed many times by President Ayub Khan. Still he never compromised on his principles and beliefs. He died of a heart attack in Karachi on February 19, 1968. — Anees Gazdar