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Pakistan: British Heritage:

By Qasim Swati (United Kingdom)

Bordered by Iran to the southwest, China to the northeast, India to the east and Afghanistan to the west, Pakistan is a South Asian country that has once been a part of the British Empire during the British Colonial Period of the Indian subcontinent from 1858 to 1947.

As a result of being a British colony in the past, Pakistan is enriched with the British heritage in, almost, all aspects of life. Heritage is the collection or set of features belonging to the culture of a particular society, such as traditions, languages, or buildings that were created in the past and still have historical importance. This can also be recognised as the history, traditions, practices, etc., of a particular country, society, or company that exist from the past and continue to be important.

The British Rule in the Indo-Pak subcontinent has left a noticeable, deep and dominant mark on many features or characteristics of life in Pakistan, including culture, thinking, education, the political system, communications, public administration/bureaucracy, architecture and, more importantly, language. Even the British heritage in Pakistan has influenced the natural phenomena and the flora and fauna of the country, too, because it was the British Empire that introduced exotic or foreign plants in gardens, in certain areas of the British Raj, inherited by Pakistan later on, as a result of its creation in 1947 after the Partition of India.

Having developed from  a mixture of European, Indo-Islamic and other local elements, the British architecture in Pakistan was introduced by the British Government that is still very dominant and influential in the architectural structure of Pakistan and can easily be seen in museums, churches, bridges, schools, colleges, universities, courts, cantonments, railway stations, post offices, hospitals and such other buildings of the country.

Several European styles of architecture, like Neoclassical, Gothic and Baroque, were introduced in the Indian subcontinent during the British Raj (also known as Crown Rule in India). Some symbols, traces and examples of the British Colonial Architecture in Pakistan include King Edward Medical University, established in Lahore, Punjab, the present Pakistan, in 1860, by the Crown Rule in India, and named after King Edward VII; the University of the Punjab, Lahore, Punjab, formally founded by the British Government in 1882; the Lahore Museum, founded during the British Colonial Period in 1894; Islamia College University, Peshawar, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, founded in 1913, as a result of the efforts made by Sir George Olaf Roos – Keppel and Sir Sahibzada Abdul Qayyum Khan; the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation Building, Karachi, Sindh, established in 1927; the Mohatta Palace (a museum, situated in Karachi, Sindh), built in 1927, and being one of the most renowned landmarks of Karachi; the Quaid-e-Azam Library, Lahore, Punjab, founded in 1866 and completed in 1886, and comprised of Victorian era Lawrence Hall and Montgomery Hall; Merewether Clock Tower, founded in Karachi, Sindh, in 1884 and formally opened to the public in 1892 during the Victorian era of the British Empire; Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Karachi, Sindh, constructed in 1881, founded first as St. Patrick’s Church in 1845 and completed in 1881; Frere Hall (now serves as a library and an exhibition space), Karachi, Sindh, completed in 1865.

The Lady Reading Hospital in Peshawar is another unforgettable gift given by the British Empire to the people of Pakistan, which is the biggest hospital in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa of the country and was founded in 1927 and named after Alice Edith Isaacs, Marchioness of Reading or Dame Alice Reading (but commonly known as Lady Reading), who was the wife of Rufus Daniel Isaacs, 1st Marquess of Reading (or Lord Reading), the then Viceroy of India.

English language is widely used in commerce, the judicial and legal systems of the country, and is being taught at all levels of education in Pakistan. It is now the language of the government in the country as well. English was considered to be the language of power and an emblem, sign or symbol of elite status in society, in line with the British colonial policies, by using English in such domains of authority or power, as the officer corps of the armed forces, the civil service, entertainment and radio, famous newspapers, universities and the higher judiciary during the British Colonial Period, but the same policies have been adopted and kept going on by every Pakistani Government since 1947 to present.

Besides being a co-official language of Pakistan, English language continues to be the language with the most cultural capital of any other language used in the country and being the language of power, which is used in all spheres and features of life in Pakistan, including courts, schools, colleges, universities, hospitals, business activities, many signs of streets and shops, all government documents, civil service, armed forces, offices, sports, aviation, media and so on.

To conclude, the British heritage is reflected, found, represented and being visible in every aspect, dimension and facet of Pakistani society. Whether this is the education system of the country or its bureaucracy, the department of sports or the legal system, the military of the country or its political system, the trade, commerce and business or the mindset of its people, the architecture of the country or its language, the communications industry or media, the department of tourism or the healthcare sector, the police department and the law enforcement agencies or any other private and public sector of the country, the British heritage can be spotted, recognised, seen, perceived and found everywhere whenever we start contemplating or thinking about the structure of the Pakistani society.

Qasim Swati is a freelance journalist, writer and human rights activist, based in the UK, and can be reached at or












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