Salman Rashid

Travel writer, Fellow of Royal Geographical Society

Last Port of Call, Ziarat Residency

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Constructed in 1892 almost entirely with centuries-old juniper timber, the Residency of Ziarat, as it is now known, was initially meant to serve as a sanatorium. At 2450 metres above the sea and pleasantly located amid a forest where the air is even today richly scented by juniper, it could hardly have served a better purpose.

The end of the 19th century heralded the back-to-India movement in buildings and vernacular architecture elements in Raj buildings became generally acceptable. Yet this building situated virtually at an inaccessible edge of the empire has clean-cut and undiluted European designing. Sitting on a raised stone masonry plinth, its gabled porch and veranda, running around three sides supported by timber pillars, could well belong anywhere in the English countryside.

The name of the architect and builder is now lost. But it seems most likely that it was another military engineer sent out to the far edge of the empire to oversee the construction of the new garrison at Quetta. The city in those days was a conglomerate of pitched roofs, gables, pediments, dormer windows, skylights and Greek pillars. There was virtually no example of vernacular architecture among the official buildings.

Indeed, the surviving images of pre-earthquake Quetta show that the builders strictly followed the template of European design. It seems as if the back-to-India architectural movement had either not reached the backwaters of the empire or military engineers entrusted with civil works strictly kept themselves aloof from it. From among such men who could only conceive of a pure European structure, an engineer was given the task of building the sanatorium.

It was perhaps this ‘Englishness’ that drew the attention of the administrators in the provincial headquarters to the Residency. The building was permitted to serve its original purpose for a few years only. Early in the 20th century, it was appropriated to become the summer residence of the Quetta-based agent of the governor general. This earned the old sanatorium the title of Residency and so it remains to this day.

When the building was in use as a sanatorium, six of the eight rooms – four downstairs and four up, all simple and unadorned – were for patients. The remaining two would be the dining and drawing room. This status was very likely retained when the building was used by the agent. That is how it was inherited by the newly independent Pakistan of Mohammad Ali Jinnah.

Within a year of the founding of his country, Jinnah, long suffering from tuberculosis of the lungs, was mortally ill with the disease and was moved from Karachi, the then capital, to Ziarat, ostensibly to recuperate in the clean, fragrant air. In reality, it was known that the leader was on the last leg of his journey through life. And so it was that 55 years after it first and only briefly accommodated tuberculosis patients, the sanatorium once again housed its last patient afflicted by the dreaded disease.

Not long after Jinnah’s demise, the Residency became a national monument and is listed as such to this day to be diligently maintained by the government.

Note: This story first appeared in Stones of Empire - Pakistan Petroleum Limited (PPL) book of days 2013

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posted by Salman Rashid @ 08:50,


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Deosai: Land of the Gaint - New

The Apricot Road to Yarkand

Jhelum: City of the Vitasta

Sea Monsters and the Sun God: Travels in Pakistan

Salt Range and Potohar Plateau

Prisoner on a Bus: Travel Through Pakistan

Between Two Burrs on the Map: Travels in Northern Pakistan

Gujranwala: The Glory That Was

Riders on the Wind

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