Managing Jinnah's Mausoleum
‘Army wasted money on marble import for Jinnah’s mazaar’
By Amar Guriro: Daily Times, April 4, 2008
KARACHI: Not only has the Musharraf-led government not included any of Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s heirs in the management of his mausoleum but the army has spent a lot of unnecessarily money on it instead of putting it to better use, said Liaquat Merchant, who is the grandson of Maryam Bai, a sister of the Quaid-e-Azam.
Merchant, whose last name comes from the fact that his father Habib Hussain was a businessman in Mumbai, was recently awarded the Sitara-e Imtiaz for his outstanding public services in education and health in Pakistan.
“Recently the Pakistan Army spent a heavy amount of Rs 500 million for the beautification of the Mazaar-e-Quaid and its engineering division imported marble which personally I believe was a waste of the public’s money,” he said in an exclusive interview with Daily Times Thursday. “The mazaar doesn’t need such beautification as it already has a lot of trees.”
Merchant objected to the beautification plan but said that the army neglected his input. “I wrote letters to the Pakistan Army that with such a beautification plan they are going to waste the public’s money and in return the Pakistan Army replied that it was not the public’s money it was investing [but money] from the army’s account,” he said. “The army does not own any money but it is actually the public’s money.” He suggested they could instead use the money to set up 100 hospitals or schools, which would be of far more use to the people.
Daily Times asked him to comment on the recent case of a gang rape at the mausoleum which is being investigated at present. “I feel really sorry that a girl was raped in the room located just beneath the main mazaar,” he replied. “The government could answer [why this happened] as no one else but it nominated the guards and [made] other arrangements. Personally, I don’t know a single name of the members of the board managing the mazaar.”
Merchant is an eminent lawyer in Karachi and his children have also taken up what could be called the “family” profession. As a young lawyer, Merchant first visited Karachi in 1964 and met Fatima Jinnah while she was living in Mohatta Palace. She insisted that he migrate from India.
He returned to India but moved to Karachi in December 1967 after getting married in October. “Karachi was a peaceful and clean city when I moved here and it was also much smaller than Mumbai,” he recalled. “I was confused in the first year of my migration and many times I thought I would go back, but later I started loving the city and decided to live here for the rest of my life.”
In January 1968, Merchant met Fakhruddin G Ebrahim (before he became a judge) whose style and personality impressed him. He worked with him till 1972 and then went his own way. Today he runs Liaquat Merchant Associates, one of the most respected law firms in the country, in addition to working as the administrator of Quaid-e-Azam’s estate established under the Aligarh Education Trust and tending to several other charities.