A Project of
SAHE-logo-high brown cqe-logo final

Humshehri: Thinking Pakistan's History

Thinking Pakistan's History


Urdu Version

The largest city in Pakistan, Karachi started as an obscure fishing village. It contains numerous monuments and magnificent buildings—relics of its golden era and a tribute to the people who made it their home.


Karachi is located on the southern coast of Pakistan, overlooking the Arabian Sea. Spreading over 3,530 km2 in area and containing a population of approximately 23.5 million (as of April 2013), it is the largest city in Pakistan and the 2nd most populous city in the world. Karachi is the center of banking, industry and trade within Pakistan and contains two of the largest and busiest ports in the region.

Karachi map
Karachi location
(Google Maps)


Modern day Karachi and its surrounding areas are said to be the ancient region Krokala, where the navy of Alexander the Great rested for a day before moving on to Macedonia in 326 BC. The next mention of Karachi appears in 1558 AD in a Turkish work on navigation, which lists Kaurashi as a safe harbor against whirlpools located in, what was then known as, the Gulf of Jaked. Lieutenant John Porter of the East India Company writes that he visited Crochey Town in 1774 while on an expedition to explore the coast between the Indus and the Persian Gulf. He describes a small town fortified by a mud wall and defended by two very old cannons. From him we also learn that this town belonged to the Baloch who gave it to a prince of the Kalhora dynasty in exchange for other land between 1768-72. Karachi had two main gateways: Kharra Darwaaza (Brackish Gate) and Mitha Darwaaza (Sweet Gate) and they correspond to modern day localities of Kharadar and Mithadar.

The Talpurs succeeded the Kalhoras and with them the British concluded an agreement to establish a factory at Thatta, thus allowing them a foothold in Sindh. On February 1, 1839 the British captured the town of Karachi while anchored off Manora Island. The British had plans of deposing the Afghan King and intended to use the Indus to carry out their plans. Their agreement with the Talpurs gave them authority from Karachi to the Bolan Pass and free use of the Indus. The Talpurs rebelled, but were thoroughly defeated at Meeanee and Dubba under the command of Sir Charles Napier. In September of 1843, British rule was completely established in Sindh.

The British succeeded in turning Karachi from a small fishing village into a bustling city with a thriving port. They built large railway tracts connecting Sindh with the rest of the subcontinent, created a cheap and efficient system of bringing fresh water to Karachi’s inhabitants, developed public building and markets, and encouraged trade and enterprise.

With the creation of Pakistan in 1947, Karachi became its first capital until the completion of Islamabad. It absorbed much of the large migration of Muslims into Pakistan, leading to unrest and ethnic tensions between the local Sindhis and the Muhajirs. Today, Karachi still accounts for a large share of Pakistan’s GDP.

Mohatta Palace

Mohatta Palace
Mohatta Palace
(Shahid A. Siddiqi)

The Mohatta Palace was built in 1927 by Shivratan Mohatta, a prosperous merchant from Marwar, who had settled in pre-partition Karachi. Constructed in the tradition of Rajasthani palaces, the building is made of pink Jodhpur stone and a local yellow stone from Gizri. It was used as a summer retreat by rulers of the Indian states at the time. Upon the creation of Pakistan, the palace was requisitioned for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In 1964, Fatima Ali Jinnah moved to the Mohatta Palace and used it as her campaign headquarters against President Ayub Khan. In 1995, it was purchased by the Government of Sindh and converted into a museum.

D.J. Government Science College

D. J
D. J. Govt. Science College of Karachi
(Wikimedia Commons)

D.J. Government Science College was opened January 1887 by Lord Reay, the Governor of Bombay. It was then known as Sindh Arts College and was located in a bungalow in the old Thattaee compound. It was later renamed D.J. Science College for Diwan Dayaram Jethmal, a retired district and sessions judge and a chief promoter of the college. The present day building was completed and formally occupied by 1892. Many of the students in the initial years came from Hyderabad which was known as the home of the country’s intelligentsia.

Find out more

Books & Articles

Baillie, Alexander F. Kurrachee: Past, Present, and Future. Karachi: Oxford UP, 1997.

Feldman, Herbert. Karachi through a Hundred Years; the Centenary History of the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry, 1860-1960. Karachi: Oxford UP, 1970.

Haroon, Hameed, and Mariam Ali Baig. Karachi under the Raj, 1843-1947. Karachi: Pakistan Herald Publications, 2004.

Vincent, William, Samuel Horsley, and William Wales. The Commerce and Navigation of the Ancients in the Indian Ocean. London: Printed for T. Cadell and W. Davies, 1807. Internet Archive. American Libraries.

“Mohatta Palace.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 28 Sept. 2013.


Karachi Metropolitan Cooperation: About Karachi.