Founded after partition in 1948 by Taj Din, a man who sold shawls in Indian Kashmir, Nirala Sweets was the fastest growing confectionery Pakistan had ever seen. It was a success from the moment Taj Din opened his first shop, a tiny breakfast place on Fleming Road.
Soon, Nirala Sweets was a household name; it became synonymous with festivity and goodwill, and immortalised as a symbol for how happiness was meant to be celebrated as a Pakistani.
This empire’s rise to the top was swift and incredible. But it disintegrated just as quickly as it blossomed.
Why did Nirala Sweets disappear? Was it doomed from the start?
Taj Din with his son, Farooq Ahmad, had taken the brand to unprecedented heights. His son travelled the world and, inspired by the bakeries in Paris, attempted to guide Nirala Sweets down a similar path. In 1994, however, it was Farooq’s son Faisal who really upped the ante. He attacked the project with vigour, managing to modernise the brand’s image so that the nation’s fading interest in mithai could be rejuvenated.
But Faisal’s enthusiasm became his downfall. He wasn’t satisfied with just the expansion and modernisation of Nirala Sweets. With his heart set on building a huge, costly dairy factory, Faisal gambled all his assets to obtain a bank loan to do so: mortgaging all of his personal property. Reportedly, Nirala Sweets had begun periodically borrowing – at very high interest rates – from the Bank of Punjab to finance its dairy project. But as the project failed, it became clear Nirala Sweets would not be able to pay back the money.
The manager of Nirala Sweets, Shahbaz Ahmed, says “hundreds of kanals” – including many of Nirala’s shops – had been put at stake and were ultimately lost.
Around the same time, Faisal Farooq also became entangled in a case involving a young boy’s death in a car accident. He spent some time in jail before he was able to reach a settlement with the boy’s family. Finally, in 2014 the Nirala Empire came to an end as a major factory was sealed due to nonpayment of taxes. Faisal Farooq was then placed on the Exit Control List.
This isn’t an uncommon story: a foolhardy, overconfident successor to a business empire who wants to prove his mettle but only ends up ruining the entire legacy. Fortunes are lost and made; life goes on. But Nirala Sweets was rewriting history. It was everywhere, on everyone’s lips. It had reached the Middle East. Unfortunately, one man’s actions changed everything.
Nirala Sweets could have been saved. But then again, in a country as young, dynamic, and unpredictable as Pakistan, there is no telling if the tradition and nostalgia this confectionery was built on would have been enough to sustain its legacy forever.