KARACHI: In a bid to revive the long lost cultural activities of the port city, the Sindh government is looking to convert the area surrounding Governor House into a cultural and educational hub.
The Arts Council of Pakistan, Karachi, National Academy of Performing Arts (Napa), Faizi Rahimeen Art Gallery, National Museum, Hindu Gymkhana, Sindh Muslim Law College and DJ Sindh Government Science College will be among the institutions that will be part of the cultural and educational hubs.
A street festival inaugurated in 2003, Koocha-i-Saqafat used to be held outside the Arts Council premises where people from all walks of life would stroll through the street and enjoy the varied shades of Sindh, all in an attempt to reconnect people with the past and revive the cultural ties of the present. The festival slowly faded into obscurity.
With the formation of the cultural hub, Arts Council President Ahmed Shah is positive that the Koocha-i-Saqafat could be revived to its earlier glory. “In megacities around the world, there are main squares for cultural activities,” he said, adding that for this purpose MR Kiyani Road and Din Muhammad Wafai Road surrounding Arts Council and Napa could be turned into pedestrian zones where a space for cultural activities such as art exhibitions, concerts, craftsmanship and food streets could be created.
After every 500 metres, he said that parking plaza sites have been identified to tackle the parking issues. Two of these, he said, could be behind the Arts Council near National Museum side and the other one could be near DJ Science College.
For this purpose, the sewage and rain drains will also be repaired or maintained properly and all the wires from the streets will be removed. The bodies of every institution in the cultural hub, according to Shah, would remain independent. However, there could be collaborative programmes that could take place at the cultural hub.
The Sindh government’s planning and development department’s Khair Muhammad Khulwar, however, said that nothing has been finalised yet and they are currently exploring different ideas for the cultural hub while taking all the stakeholders on board.
He also added that the from Pakistan Chowk till Sharae Liaquat (Burnes Road) could also be turned into a pedestrian zone and this will be connected with the revival of the surrounding areas of Empress Market project, which is already underway.
How would this happen?
The project costs $100 million, including the preservation and improvement of the façade of all the heritage buildings near these places. Out of the $100 million, the Sindh government would contribute $20 million and the World Bank would contribute the rest, which would be returned to the bank phase-wise by the Sindh government, according to Khulwar.
However, an official of the Sindh government said the federal government’s executive committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) has to approve the PC-1 of the project as per the Constitution. As for World Bank projects, the federal government becomes the guarantor. The ECNEC, according to the official, has failed to take up the matter for the past several months and the Sindh government is afraid the World Bank will wind up the project if the delays continue.
The World Bank, according to Khulwar, is helping the Sindh government in designing and other technical aspects of the project as well, which has the time limit of four years. “The main idea of the project is to introduce the pedestrian culture in the city and minimise traffic congestion,” he said.