Amidst a city inundated by millions of houses, scores of fly overs and sprawling mosques, stands a tower in seclusion of singular beauty adding incomparable splendor to not only this city but to the whole country. People call it Minar-e-Pakistan.
In late nineteen nineties, the first time I visited Lahore the highlight of that visit was my trip to the top of the Minar-e-Pakistan in a lift which almost suffocated me to death as it was thronged with tourists. But once atop Minar-e-Pakistan, I was left in awe by the view of Lahore which Minar-e-Pakistan presented.
“Who designed this awe inspiring tower?”
A question immediately started irking me and soon I had the answer. I was told that the design of Minar-e-Pakistan was a brain child of an elusive architect “Nasreddin Murat Khan”. A name I had never heard before. Oddly, his name wasn’t present even on the stone near the base of Minar e Pakistan at which is engraved the history of this emblem of national unity.
Nasreddin Murat, a Russian of Pakistani descent, lived a dynamic life. After attaining degrees in architecture and civil engineering from University of Leningrad, Murat Khan held various positions in his hometown, Daghestan which is a predominantly Muslim region.
Like thousands of others, he also couldn’t escape persecution from Josef Stalin and was arrested but later in 1940 he was reinstated as Chief Engineer & Chief Architect of the Pijatigorsk branch of the North Caucasian Project Trust. His roller coaster of a life took him to Munich as a refugee after he fled from Daghestan for fear of his life. Ultimately he and his family finally arrived in Pakistan in 1947 and this is where his new life began.
He helped set up Wah Ordnance Factory which went on to become the backbone of Pakistan’s ordnance and ammunition capabilities. Later he joined MES and Pakistan Works Department in different capacities. He started his personal business related to architecture in late 1950s.
Field Marshall Ayub Khan entrusted him with the duty of designing a national monument in Lahore’s Iqbal Park and after a year of diligence three designs were presented, one of which stands tall in Lahore.
It is said that Ayub Khan placed a fountain pen upright on his desk and said to Murat Khan:
Build me a monument like this.
Nasreddin Murat Khan gave a decade of his life to this wonderful monument and didn’t take a penny in exchange of his services. He used to visit the construction site of Minar-e-Pakistan frequently to make sure that everything was going according to the schedule and to inspect the quality of the material used. Just months before the completion of Minar e Pakistan he resigned from the committee overseeing the construction of Minar e Pakistan owing to his differences with the DC.
Just like many other resilient Pakistanis who have done invaluable work for this country, Mr.Nasreddin has been forgotten and very few people are aware of his services towards this country. An architect and engineer of the highest quality rendered a decade of his life to this country and in exchange we didn’t even let his name be engraved on the stone at the base of his very own creation. Ironic at least and criminal negligence at worst.
By Bilal Anjum