Karachi, Pakistan » City Info » History

Karachi originally was a small fisherman village settled by the Baloch tribes from Balochistan and Makran. Their first settlement was near the delta of the Indus River which they named 'Kolachi’ village. The people of the original community yet inhabit the area on the small island of Abdullah Goth situated near Karachi Port. The well-known neighbourhood ‘Mai Kolachi’ of Karachi still reminds the original name of the city.

At the end of the 1700 century, the settlers of Kolachi village started trading across the sea with Muscat and the Persian Gulf region. Later, the village started to grow as a commercial hub and a port for trade. For the protection of this developing area, a small fort was constructed. This fort was handed over to the rulers of Sindh by the Khan of Kalat in 1795.

The British recognized the importance of the city as the trading post. So they captured the city and Sindh province in February 1843 under the command of Sir Charles Napier and the city was annexed as a district of the British Indian Empire. In 1846, it was home to around 9000 citizens. The city experienced a cholera epidemic in the same year and a Conservancy Board was established in the city to protect the people from this disease. This Conservancy Board was converted into a Municipal Commission in 1852 and it was again upgraded as Municipal Committee in 1853. This natural harbour started to flourish as a bustling port under British rule. On September 10, 1857, the 21st Native Infantry stationed in Karachi revolted against the British in its First Indian War for Independence, but the plan was busted by the British who regained control over the city very quickly.

In 1864, the first telegraphic message was sent by a direct telegraph connection between Karachi and London. In 1878, the city was connected by a railway line to the rest of India and consequently public building projects like Frere Hall (1865) and Empress Market (1890) were started in the city. Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan was born in the city in 1876 in a famous Ismaili Khoja family.

The Bombay District Municipal Act 1837 was extended to Sindh in 1878 and the urban area of Karachi was included in the city. The Municipality started to collect House Tax on Property owners, being the first municipality to collect the tax in the sub-continent. By the end of the 19th century, the city was home to around 105,000 people and it was a cosmopolitan city of Hindus and Muslim communities as well as Jews, Parsis, Iranians, Lebanese and Goan merchants. In 1900, due to the street congestion, India’s first tramway system was constructed in this bustling city. At that time Karachi was famous for its railway-tram network, churches, mosques, court-houses, markets, paved streets and a magnificent harbour.

Karachi City Municipal Act was propagated in 1933 and the Municipality of Karachi was given the status of Municipal Corporation. At the same time, the status of President and Vice President was replaced by Mayor and Dy. Mayor respectively. It consisted of 57 Councilors residing in Karachi, and who were from different communities of Muslims, Hindus and Parsis. In 1933, Mr Jamshed Naserwanji was elected as the first Mayor of the city who had earlier served as elected President for about 20 years. The city was declared as the capital of the newly formed Sindh province in 1936.

When Pakistan was declared as a separate country in 1947, Karachi was chosen as the Capital of Pakistan. During this period, the city offered shelter to a huge influx of migrants and refugees that came from the Indian province. In 1960, the capital of Pakistan was first moved to Rawalpindi and then to Islamabad. Still, Karachi never lost its importance as the economic centre of Pakistan. The Municipal Corporation of Karachi was upgraded to Metropolitan Corporation in 1976. Again on 14th August 2001, the City District Government of Karachi was reorganized in 18 Town Administrations and 178 Union Councils.

Still, Karachi is the role model city for Pakistan and it continues to grow with the current economic boom.