KARACHI: The untimely death of Pakistan's legendary qawwal, Amjad Sabri, left a huge void in the music industry. Nearly three years later, his absence is still acutely felt by those who knew him and by the thousands who were mesmerised by his dynamic voice. In the week following Sabri's assassination in 2016, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari had announced that the Sindh government would establish the 'Shaheed Amjad Sabri Sufi Music and Qawwali Institute' to pay tribute to the late legend. In 2019, the project remains in the doldrums due to the non-availability of space.
The provincial culture department wanted possession of a heritage building on Deen Muhamad Wafai Road, near Karachi Press Club for the institute. However, as that building is in the use of the Sindh wildlife department, the project remains stagnant.
Sabri was assassinated in a targeted killing incident in Karachi on June 22, 2016. Following Bilawal's directives, the Sindh government had made an allocation of Rs70 million in the annual budget of the fiscal year of 2016-17 for the establishment of the institute. A three-member committee was also formed to complete the task. The committee comprised members of the Sindh Cabinet at the time, Nisar Khuhro, Sharmila Faqoori and Dr Qayoom Soomro. The allocated funds were not utilised in the past two years due to the non-availability of the required space.
The building in question is a beautiful structure which was constructed in 1824 and is known as the 'Old Freemasons Hall' or 'Hope Lodge'. The building, situated besides the offices of the Wildlife Conservator, was declared a heritage site by the department of antiquities which also carried out repair work in 2008 for its conservation.
The wildlife department has set-up a wildlife museum and a wildlife library in the building. Officials from the culture department had identified this building for the project and formally sent a summary to the Chief Minister's House to obtain its possession. The CM House forwarded the summary to the wildlife department seeking their opinion.
Not on our turf
Speaking to The Express Tribune, Conservator of the Wildlife Department Javed Maher said that the wildlife museum has a collection of over 100 years. The library as well houses over a million books, he said. It was for this reason that the department had opposed the culture department's proposal for the establishment of the Qawwali institute, he added.
Qawwali fights to be heard in Pakistan after Amjad Sabri's death
As per Maher, the CM House had forwarded the summary to the wildlife department but the officers at the time had opposed the proposal. Maher said that he was not in the office at the time but the proposal was opposed due to the significance of the museum and library which already exist in the building.
Additionally, he said, keeping in view the historical importance of the wildlife museum and library, former Supreme Court judge Justice (R) Sarmad Jalal Osmany had also directed the provincial government authorities to not disturb the wildlife museum and library.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 26th, 2019.
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