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Karachi Chamber of Commerce, Karachi

In 1860, when Karachi began to burgeon into a commercially important town, the seeds of the Karachi Chamber of Commerce were sown with heavy European influence. It took quite some time before the Indian Merchants Association came into being, a trade body of local businessmen. And on July 8, 1934 the foundation stone of the Indian Merchants Association building was laid by none other than M. K. Gandhi, and Ahmed Hussain Agha was entrusted with the job of designing it.

Gandhi visited Karachi on a few occasions. His visit in 1934, was particularly noteworthy, because during the trip not only did he inaugurate an important work of stonemasonry but also spoke to the Karachi press.

Today the Indian Merchants Association is known as the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The structure, over a period of time, has experienced many changes. Although the front elevation or facade is in its original form (needs a bit of a cleaning up) its interior, for the most part, is not what it used to be in the olden days.

Shafique Baig, who works for the PR department at the Karachi Chamber of Commerce, says, “There are very few things that have not changed. One is the staircase; the wood used in it is unharmed, so too is the banister. Some of the rooms on the ground and first floor are the same. And yes, there is an arch where the shops are set up; in the past people would sit in its shade and indulge in casual chitchat. The rest of the inside of the building has been changed, modified with the passage of time.

Actually it was in 1958, during Ayub Khan’s rule that things began to alter. When Gen Zia was at the helm, we wanted certain things to improve, but the then government said we should make a hospital first, which we tried to construct in the north Karachi area.

[Source: Karachi Legacies of Empires by Peerzada Salman]

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