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State Bank of Pakistan, Karachi

An important piece of information: the Bank of Calcutta was set up in the beginning of the 19th century. Subsequently, the Bank of Bombay and the Bank of Madras were also established. These were called presidency banks. In 1921, all three banks merged and became the Imperial Bank of India. The building under discussion was built in 1923 in Karachi. After partition of the subcontinent, the Imperial Bank of India building was converted into the State Bank of Pakistan.

The structure is, resorting to a cliche, impressive. The stone used in its making is clean. The podium is worth seeing. The columns used in the portico as well as those in the inside of the building are strong and imposing. The giant doors and nice looking windows are made of teak wood, and according to an official, Mr Farid, who works for the State Bank of Pakistan Museum the material used in the doors and windows is original and has not been replaced by any other kind of wood.

The building has served in a few capacities. It has been the Foreign Exchange section and then a library. Though the thought of converting the facility into a museum had previously been toyed with, in 2004 the idea of making it a Money Museum and an Art Gallery was finally approved. It is understandable that the officials concerned do not want to disclose too much about the venture for it has not been formally inaugurated.

Dr Asma Ibrahim is the director of the State Bank of Pakistan Museum and Art Gallery and is a known archaeologist. It is her personal interest in the structure that many on the premises believe has kept the piece of stonemasonry shipshape.

I. I. Chundrigar Road, McLeod Road if you like, has perhaps expanded as the business centre of the city. The worry is that you would not care if it has. Karachi has changed a lot. Gone are the days when buildings were made with a certain definite purpose.

[Source: Karachi Legacies of Empires by Peerzada Salman]

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