The Lahore Gymkhana


    Reviving heritage


    From 1959 till 1962 Justice Yaqoob Ali Khan, 1962-63 Syed Fida Hussain, and for eleven years onwards 1963 Nawab Muzaffar Ali Qazalbash again remained the chairman of this club


    Have you ever been to the Lahore Gymkhana? If we peep into the history of this club, it is considered one of the oldest Golf Clubs in Pakistan. Historians say that it was founded in the late years of the 19th century; sometime after the 1857 war of independence. The Lahore Gymkhana was founded as “The Lahore and Mian Mir Institute” in 1878 in the Lawrence Gardens opposite the sprawling estate of the Governor House, the imperial symbol of power and authority of the Raj. The first organisational golf tournament played there was the Champion Medal (Roe Medal) which was held in January 1895. The building of the Institute comprised mainly the Lawrence and Montgomery Halls. These were used for social and intellectual recreation for the residents of Lahore. The Lawrence Hall, the building facing the Mall, was built in 1861-62 in memory of Sir John Laird Lawrence, the first Chief Commissioner (1853-57) and Viceroy of India (1863-69), while the Montgomery Hall facing the central avenue of the Bagh-e-Jinnah was built in 1866 to commemorate Robert Montgomery, second Lt Governor of the Punjab (1859-65) from contributions made by the native chiefs. These Halls were principal centers of festivities and social life for the elite of Lahore of the British era. Since then the Club has been known as an elite’s club in Lahore.

    On 23 March 1906 the “Lahore and Mian Mir Institute” was changed to the “Lahore Gymkhana”. The premises were taken over by the government of Punjab in 1972 and now house the Quaid-e-Azam Library. The elite club was moved to its present location at The Upper Mall, which was previously the Golf Club of Lahore Gymkhana and spread over an area of 117 acres of land leased from the Punjab government. The foundation stone of the present building was laid on 5 March 1968 by the then Chairman of Lahore Gymkhana Nawab Muzaffar Ali Qizilbash. The building was completed and occupied on 16 January 1972, the cost of which was borne by the members. The Lahore Gymkhana Cricket Ground, arguably the most beautiful in the country, is located in the Bagh-e-Jinnah on 73 kanals of land leased by the Punjab government.

    The second building at the backside of Lawrence Hall facing the central avenue of the sprawling Bagh-e-Jinnah, is Montgomery Hall. It was built in 1866 from contributions made by native chiefs. The conformity of style with the earlier building was ensured by Mr Gordon, chief engineer, who, in order to present a single unified whole linked the space between the two halls by a covered corridor. Montgomery Hall, 106’x46’ in size, constructed and refurbished at a cost of Rs108,000 and Rs66,000 respectively, was re-roofed and a splendid teak floor for drinking and dancing was laid in time for the visit of the Prince of Wales in 1876. These halls became the center of festivities for the rulers, particularly during the Christmas and winter months.

    Some historic references state that the golf membership till independence in 1947 was primarily for foreigners. It was only in the year 1949 the golf started becoming popular amongst the Pakistani members of the Gymkhana Club. During this period, considerable improvements were made to the golf course.

    You must be thinking that what Gymkhana means? It is an Indian term which originally referred to as a place of assembly. The meaning then altered to denote a place where skill-based contests were held. “Gymkhana” is an Anglo-Indian expression, which is derived from the Persian word “Jamat-khana”. Most gymkhanas have a Gymkhana Club associated with them, a term coined during British Raj for gentlemen’s club. In English-speaking countries outside the Indian subcontinent, a gymkhana is a multi-game equestrian competition held to display the training and talents of horses and their riders, particularly in speed events.

    At present the Gymkhana election gave a new prologue of this Club to the public at large. Till present the Club was associated with the elite. People from the bureaucracy, armed forces, business community, judiciary, landlords and politicians of Pakistan are the active members of the club. If we read the board inside Gymkhana it displays the names of past chairmen since the club was founded. From 1941-42 Justice JH Monro and Justice Blaker, 1942-44 Justice Blaker, 1944 till 1948 Justice Abel, Justice Modi and FW Baton were the chairmen. Even after independence in 1947, till 1950 Mr Baton and Mr Brail remained the chairmen of the Club. Nawab Muzaffar Ali Qazalbash was the first Pakistani who became the chairman of the Club in 1950 and remained there till 1953. In 1954 BAL Sheikh became the next chairman. He was succeeded by Nawab Qazalbash and he remained in the seat for the next four years (1958).

    From 1959 till 1962 Justice Yaqoob Ali Khan, 1962-63 Syed Fida Hussain, and for eleven years onwards 1963 Nawab Muzaffar Ali Qazalbash again remained the chairman of this club. This shows that Nawab Muzaffar Ali Qazalbash stayed the chairman of Lahore Gymkhana for the longest tenure. Then again in 1974 Syed Fida Hussain was elected as the chairman and from 1978-79 Lieutenant General Bakhtiar Rana served as the chairman. Sardar Ahmed Ali served as chairman from 1979 to 1981 and Khawaja Ahmed Tariq Raheem from 1981 to 82. From 1983-85 Syed Naseer Ahmed, 1986 Mian Nisar Ahmed, 1987-88 Pervez Masood, 1989-90 Farid ud Din Ahmed, 1991 Mian Nisar Ahmed, 1992-94 Ali Kazim, 1995 Pervez Masood, 1996 Mr. Hafeez Ullah Ishaq, 1997 Mian Misba Ur Rehman, 1998 Tasneem Noorani, 1999-2000 Pervez Masood, 2001-02 Farid ud Din Ahmed, 2003-04 Zia Ur Rehman, 2005-07 Salman Siddique, 2008 Mian Misba Ur Rehman, 2009 Tasneem Noorani, 2010-11 Mian Misba Ur Rehman, 2012 Zia Ur Rehman, 2013 Salman Siddique and in 2014 Mian Misba Ur Rehman were elected as chairman of the Gymkhana Club Lahore. Since 2014 Mian Misba Ur Rehman was carrying on with chairmanship and in the 2017 election Kamran Lashari became the chairman with a majority vote.

    The recent election of Lahore Gymkhana was given hype in the media this time. Previously this election was not publicised much but I guess this time the election became fiery because of the big names as contestants. After the chairmanship of several tenures Mian Misbah ur Rehman faced defeat from the Kamran Lashari Panel. I guess now we would be able to see some improvements in the management and affairs of Gymkhana as most of the members were disheartened because of the previous management. According to the members they demanded a change and freshness in Gymkhana as the environment was becoming stale and stagnant. Also the females and youth were uncomfortable in going to the activities as it did not sustain anymore as a family club. So now let’s hope that this piece of heritage is also restored to its original glory as Kamran Lashari is known for reviving heritage.