Creator of Minar-e-Pakistan
Minar-e-Pakistan is the commemorative symbol of the birth of the state of Pakistan. It is venerated throughout the country and has become a national icon.
It amply reflects the significance of the place where Muslims from all over the subcontinent assembled to demand for a separate homeland for them signifying the unifying spirit of Islam. It marks the place in Lahore where Muslims held a meeting in 1940 and passed the Pakistan Resolution that resulted in the establishment of Pakistan seven years later.
Lahore was the most appropriate place to hold this meeting as it was the bastion of Muslim presence in the subcontinent for a millennium after the Ghazni Sultans made it their regional headquarters.
Though Pakistanis revere this national monument yet many are unaware about the creator of such iconic construction. Minar-e-Pakistan was actually the brainchild of Russian-born Nasreddin Murat-Khan who was the architect and engineer of this excellent edifice.
True to his lofty spirit he did this monumental work free of charge as he was aware of the historical significance of this building. He was a singularly generous soul who dedicated the entire architectural design and engineering work of the Minar to Pakistan and gifted this monumental structure to the people of Pakistan.
This outstanding personality was born in in 1904 to a Turkic Kumyk-Muslim family in the town Buynaksk in the North Caucasus region of Dagestan located in the Russian Empire.
In 1930, he obtained his degree of civil engineering from the Institute of Architects, Town Planners and Civil Engineers at Leningrad State University. Deeply involved in a movement to free the Caucasus from the USSR, Nasreddin Murat-Khan was forced to flee Daghestan (now one of the Central Independent States then a part of the USSR) for fear of life.
Nasreddin escaped with the retreating German army some time in 1943 or early 1944 and landed in Berlin in 1944 and became another number in the refugee camps run by United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA). There he met Hamida Akmut, a Turkish girl of Pakistani and Austrian descent and they eventually married. He and his family became a displaced family in Munich which was then the UNRRA base camp for Americans. Hamida came from a mixed background having a Pakistani father and an Austrian-Hungarian mother though her nationality was Turkish.
Her father, Dr. Abdul Hafiz Malwada, completed his doctorate in Chemical Engineering from the University of Leipzig, Germany. He met his future wife, Anna Maria Nimmerrichter at a factory in Blumau and married in 1917.
Soon after he moved to Turkey and came to Pakistan in 1947 to help set up Wah Ordnance Factory.
While in camp, Nasreddin received his Foreigners Pass that allowed him to move around and work. He joined UNRRA as an engineer-architect.
In July 1947, Displaced Persons Assembly Centre, Mittenwald issued a letter releasing Nasreddin from the camp and also relieving him of his employment at the camp.
It was then that Nasreddin and his wife decided to move to the new state of Pakistan where Hamida’s father, Dr. Abdul Hafeez resided.
Nasreddin wrote a letter to Pakistan mission introducing himself and his family and seeking permission to move to Pakistan and consequently Nasreddin and his family moved to Pakistan in 1950.
Four years later, he was granted citizenship of Pakistan and he established his architecture firm and had a flourishing career during which he designed many private homes besides undertaking some significant projects including Qaddafi Stadium, Nishtar Medical College, Fortress Stadium and several WAPDA colonies. By this time he was recognised as the master of his field and he was assigned to do projects of significance and value.
The government in the meanwhile had decided to commemorate the historic site of Pakistan Resolution and to his crowning glory Nasreddin was chosen to design and construct this iconic edifice. The work on the project started in 1959 and ended in 1968 when the Minar was inaugurated.
In the beginning Nasreddin had submitted three designs of which one was chosen by President Ayub Khan for the monument. The spirit of Nasreddin to work pro bono was symptomatic of his lifelong desire to pay back his adopted homeland for accepting him as a citizen and allowing him to live and earn a living in this new country.
His outstanding contribution to the history of Pakistan was duly recognised and Nasreddin Murat-Khan was awarded Tamgha-e-Imtiaz by President of Pakistan in 1963. His unique contribution to the architectural heritage will always be remembered and will adorn Pakistan for all time to come.
The grateful Pakistani nation continuously pays respect to the legacy of the historical assemblage in Lahore that is manifestly exhibited in shape of Minar-e-Pakistan reminding the nation of the struggle that was successfully waged for attaining a homeland for Muslims.
This article originally appeared in The Weekender and has been reproduced with permission