Radio Pakistan, Karachi
PRESERVING historical buildings and heritage sites has never been the strong point of successive governments. Often, it is state institutions themselves that take over historical edifices and use them for purposes other than what they were originally designed for. Take the example of the old Broadcasting House, as Radio Pakistan’s building on Karachi’s bustling M.A. Jinnah Rd, is known.
A stately structure standing in the heart of the city, surrounded by grime and noise, this grand old building has witnessed history, quite literally, as the Karachi home of Radio Pakistan. In an age before 24/7 news channels and instant social media updates, this was the nerve centre of news, information and entertainment in the city.
Many a famed broadcaster, artist and intellectual was nurtured within its walls, and flourished in his or her respective field. But today, a very different tenant occupies Broadcasting House: the Pakistan Rangers, Sindh. Radio Pakistan’s main operations had shifted to the new Broadcasting House located adjacent to the city’s Civic Centre in 2007.
Today, only a few departments still operate out of the old building. However, during Muharram last year, the Rangers moved in as they needed space to manage security. As highlighted in a write-up in this paper, this was supposed to be a temporary arrangement. Yet, the Rangers seem to have taken a liking to their new environs, reportedly occupying rooms and moving in furniture. The force has also taken over other heritage buildings in Karachi, including the Jinnah Courts and Mitha Ram Hostel.
There is plenty of real estate in the metropolis that the Rangers can occupy to establish offices or barracks; heritage buildings should be vacated and put to better use. For example, in the old Broadcasting House’s case, it can be turned into a museum dedicated to the nation’s broadcasting history. It is unfortunate that an edifice that once buzzed with news broadcasts and the hum of melodies today echoes with the thud of jackboots. Radio Pakistan’s old building should be restored to its former glory.