Khairpur’s ‘Taj Mahal’ in ownership dispute


The legend of Khairpur’s ruler Mir Ali Nawaz Naz and Lahore’s nightingale Iqbal Begum may yet be immortalised: the Sindh High Court (SHC) on Friday reserved judgment in a case filed by Iqbal Begum’s granddaughters to seek possession of property, including the heritage site of Dilshad Manzil – a palace Mir built in honour and love for his wife.
The love story of Mir Ali Nawaz Naz and Iqbal Begum, also known as Bali Begum, is legendry in Sindh. The Mirs (Talpurs) of Khairpur had sided with the British East India Company after Sindh fell to them in 1843. The state of Khairpur, spread over an area of about 6,000 square miles, was then ruled by Mir Ali Murad Khan. In return for his allegiance, Khan managed to get Khairpur’s sovereignty secured, with the crown recognising them in 1885.
In 1919, Mir Ali Nawaz Naz became the head of state. A year later, in 1920, he fell in love with Bali Begum, a renowned singer of Lahore. Naz himself was a poet, and had been taken in by her melody. Naz subsequently approached family members of Bali Begum with a proposal to marry her. Naz’s dream came true in 1922 as he managed to wed Bali Begum.
Soon after wedding Bali Begum, Naz ordered that a palace be constructed for Bali Begum. Thus came into existence Dilshad Manzil in 1929, Mir Ali Nawaz Naz’s Taj Mahal for his beloved Bali Begum. Naz’s interest in architecture prompted the use of red stone in the construction Dilshad Manzil. Naz also bestowed agricultural and residential land to his wife.
In 1947, this sole princely state in Sindh with predominantly Muslim population became part of the newly-created Pakistan. But till 1955, till the establishment of the One-Unit, this princely state continued to enjoy autonomy within Pakistan. During this period of self-sufficiency, the progress of the state, specially in the field of social services, was astounding: education up to Class X was free of cost, with 22 percent of the state’s revenue reserved on promoting education alone.
Khairpur was not far behind other areas in terms of economic development, with a modern textile mill, a tobacco factory, a vanaspati oil factory, and a soap factory all constructed in the state. Khairpur also had a cottage industry which produced good hand-made banarsi cloth. Because of the Mirs’ patronage and encouragement, Khairpur attracted many poets, scholars, physicians, and singers of the subcontinent – some of whom even chose to settle permanently in the state, making Khairpur a hub of cultural activities.
Bali Begum’s granddaughters, Samina Butt and Robina Butt, filed a constitutional petition in the SHC through their lawyer, Barrister Zamir Ahmed Ghumro, seeking ownership of Dilshad Manzil and other property. In their petition, they stated that the property gifted to their grandmother was now occupied by a private party and some government departments, despite the fact they were the real and legal heirs. Khairpur Revenue DDO had declared them as the owner of the property, the counsel argued.
While upper courts had decided the matter in their favour, the Board of Revenue instead of obeying court orders had sent the matter back to the Revenue EDO. They prayed to the court to issue orders to hand over Dilshad Manzil and other property to them.


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