Mirpur, Azad Kashmir

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Mirpur
میر پور
Mirpur
Chowk-shaheedan.jpg
Mirpur is located in Azad Kashmir
Mirpur
Mirpur
Coordinates: 33°9′4″N 73°44′10″E / 33.15111°N 73.73611°E / 33.15111; 73.73611Coordinates: 33°9′4″N 73°44′10″E / 33.15111°N 73.73611°E / 33.15111; 73.73611
Country Pakistan
Territory Azad Kashmir
District Mirpur District
Government
 • Administrator Gulam Rasool Awaami
Area
 • Total 1,010 km2 (390 sq mi)
Elevation 459 m (1,506 ft)
Population (2010)
 • Total 105,000
 • Density 375/km2 (970/sq mi)
Time zone PST (UTC+5)
Calling code 05827
Number of towns 3
Number of Union councils 21

Mirpur (Urdu, Mirpur Punjabi: مِيرپُور) is the capital of Mirpur district the largest cities of Pakistan administered Kashmir region. The city itself has gone through a process of modernization while most of the surrounding area remains agricultural. Mirpur is known for its grand buildings and large bungalow-houses primarily funded through its ex-pat community mainly which is resident in the United Kingdom, Europe and the North America. The main crop cultivated during spring is millet. However, there are places where other crops such as wheat, maize and vegetables are also grown. The production of electricity, through Mangla Dam makes this district somewhat unique in the entire region which provides energy needs for Azad Kashmir and Northern Punjab province much to the consternation of the locals which typically leads to unannounced energy blackouts.

A significant portion of the population is settled in England (UK) – mostly in West Yorkshire and the West Midlands. For this reason Mirpur is sometimes known as "Little England". Many products from the UK are found in this city.[1]

History[edit]

Bawli, Old Mirpur

The area that is now Mirpur has always been a crossroad for major invasions of the South Asia and has formed part of various empires over time including Achaemenid empire of Persia, an outlying region of the conquests of Alexander the Great, the Kingdom of Gandhara, the Mauryan empire, the Kushan empire, the Sultanate of Ghazni, the Delhi Sultanate and the Mughal empire amongst others.

The city of Mirpur itself was founded in around 1642 AD or 1052 AH by the Ghakhar chief Miran Shah Ghazi.

The Imperial Gazetteer of India Provincial Series Kashmir and Jammu (1909) provides this information about Mirpur history as "it is said to have been founded by Miran Shah Ghazi and Sultan Fateh Khan".

An alternate view is that the city was founded by Mira Shah Gazi and Gosain Bodhpuri, both regarded as saints. The word 'Mir' was taken from the name of the former while 'Pur’ from the latter.[2]

In 997 CE, Sultan Mahmud Ghaznavi, took over the Ghaznavid dynasty empire established by his father, Sultan Sebuktegin, In 1005 he conquered the Shahis in Kabul in 1005, and followed it by the conquests of Kashmir. The Delhi Sultanate and later Mughal Empire ruled the region. The Punjab region became predominantly Muslim due to missionary Sufi saints whose dargahs dot the landscape of Kashmir region.

The area that is now Mirpur has been historically associated with Pothohar. Though modern demarcation of Potohar devised by British excludes Mirpur by using Jhelum river as the eastern boundary. By the end of 18th century, Gakhar power in Pothohar had declined. Mirpur had become part of Chibb ruled state of Khari Khariyali with capital at Mangla Fort. With the rise of Sikh power in Punjab, Maharaja Ranjit Singh established his supremacy and set his eyes on the Chibh states of Bhimber and Khari Khariyali. In 1810, a force was sent against Raja Sultan Khan of Bhimber and was met with fierce resistance. However, in 1812 another Sikh army under prince Kharak Singh defeated Sultan Khan and the Bhimber state was annexed as Jagir of Kharak Singh. Around the same time, Ranjit Singh acquired Gujrat and invaded Khari Khariyali ruled by Raja Umar Khan. Raja Umar Khan made peace with Ranjit Singh. But before a settlement could be made, he died and the state and Mirpur became part of Ranjit Singh's territories.

In 1816, Ranjit Singh annexed Jammu state and in 1820 awarded Jammu to his commander Gulab Singh who hailed from Jammu and was under the service of Ranjit Singh for the past eight years. Between 1831–39 Ranjit Singh bestowed on Gulab Singh the royalty of the salt mines in northern Punjab, and the northern Punjab towns including Bhera, Jhelum, Rohtas, Mirpur and Gujrat. Gulab Singh kept on expanding his kingdom and in 1840 Baltistan was made subject to Jammu and Gilgit fell to a Sikh force from Kashmir in 1842. The state of Kashmir was annexed by Ranjit Singh in 1819. However the rebellion in Hazara in the beginning of 1846, compelled the country to be transferred to Raja Gulab Singh of Jammu as well.

Shrine of Meeran Shah

As an aftermath of the First Anglo-Sikh War and the Treaty of Lahore, The Treaty of Amritsar was signed between the British Government and Raja Gulab Singh of Jammu on March 16, 1846. This treaty transferred him all the hill states between Ravi and Indus. The transfer included Kashmir, Hazara and the southern hill states (including former Khari Khariyali). Thus sealing the fate of Mirpur with the new state of Jammu and Kashmir.[3]

Early Mirpur[edit]

Since Mirpur lies at the point where the Jhelum River breaks out of the heavily forested foothills of the Pir Panjal mountains into the plains of the largely treeless Punjab. It was an ideal spot for the construction of the boats used to carry goods down the five rivers of the Punjab to the Indus River and onto the seaports in the Indus delta. Traders have been operating from there across the Indian Ocean for over three thousand years. Most of the crew on the boats trading up and down the Punjab and Indus River system were drawn from Mirpur, as training as a boat-builder was a necessary prerequisite for becoming a boatman.

British rule[edit]

With the arrival of British rule however, the thriving river trade was decimated due to the construction of railway lines from Bombay and Karachi into the interior of the Punjab. Moving goods by rail was both cheaper and quicker, and hundreds of Mirpuri boatmen found themselves out of a job.

At the same time long-distance ocean trade was shifting from sail to steam. There was a huge demand for men who were prepared to work in the hot, dirty and dangerous stokeholds of the new coal-fired steamers. European seamen avoided such jobs whenever they possibly could. They preferred to work on deck. But in the 1870s Mirpuri ex-river boatmen were desperately searching for a new source of income. Although unfamiliar with stoking coal-fired boilers, they were prepared to learn and quickly gained a virtual monopoly of jobs as engine-room stokers on new steamships sailing out of Karachi and Bombay, a position they retained until coal-fired ships were finally phased out of service at the end of the Second World War. Many Mirpuris fought in world war 2 in Burma.

Indo-Pakistan War of 1947-48[edit]

On 14 August 1947, Mirpur was part of the princely state of Kashmir under the rule of Maharaja Hari Singh. A revolt against his rule erupted with the advent of Pakistan. This gained momentum by the invasion of Pushtun tribesmen from FATA. Most of Kashmir's state forces had barricaded themselves in Mirpur after having retreated from the surrounding posts in particular from Mangla Fort. On the outskirts of the city, the local rebels, being mainly retired army personnel from British and state's armies and defectors from the state's army, attacked the Maharaja's forces on 4 November 1947. Between 6 and 11 November, heavy battles between the former and Indian forces took place within the city. Mirpur city was captured by local rebels on 11 November and the rest of Mirpur district was captured by 25 November 1947. Pakistan Army helped at a later stage to restore law and order.

Post war[edit]

After World War II a new set of opportunities opened up. Britain's economy was just setting off on what proved to be a long post-war boom, and there was an acute short of labour in the foundries of the Midlands, and the textile mills of Yorkshire and Lancashire. Now it was the turn of ex-seamen to become industrial workers in Britain. So when the Mangla Dam was about to be constructed in 1960, the affectees of the dam who were going to be deprived of their agricultural land were afforded the opportunity to migrate to the United Kingdom and to join those of their kinsfolk who long before had established themselves in Britain.

As a result, Mirpur is one of the principal sources of migration from the State of Azad Kashmir to Europe, and especially to Britain, so much so that out of a million migrants from the state of Azad Kashmir and Pakistan, most of them i.e. 82% are Kashmiris. Although it is widely believed that the principal reason for this outflow was the construction of the Mangla Dam, which in no doubt is true, but the fact is that long before construction of dam, a sizable Kashmiri community existed in the UK.

Hindu and Sikh communities[edit]

Before the independence of Pakistan in 1947, the Mirpur District had majorities of Hindu and Sikh populations in the principal towns of principal towns of Mirpur, Kotli and Bhimber. Refugees from Jhelum in Western Punjab had taken refuge in Mirpur town, causing the non-Muslim population to increase to 20,000. Tribesmen and Pakistani military members moved into the town, seizing the city. Many Hindus or Sikhs escaped to the Indian occupied Kashmir. In January 1948, the ICRC rescued 1,600 of the survivors from Alibeg, who were resettled to Jammu and other areas of India.[4][5][6]

Mirpur City[edit]

Regency Hotel, Bank Square

Mirpur city is situated at 459 meters above sea-level and is linked with the main Peshawar-Lahore Grand Trunk road at Dina Tehsil. It is the headquarters of Mirpur District, which comprises two sub-divisions, Mirpur and Dadyal.[7] The building of the new city in late 1960s paved the way for New Mirpur situated on the bank of Mangla lake.

In fact the remains of the old city (old Mirpur) are underneath the waters of the Mangla Lake; during the colder months of March and April, the water level recedes to such an extent that one can travel on motorcycle on old Mirpur road which still exists. Holy Shrines of Syed Abdul Karim and Meeran Shah Ghazi become visible and so do the remnants of a Sikh Gurdwara as well as a Hindu Mandir possibly dedicated to the "Mangla Mata" (Mangla mother goddess). The remains of old houses, water wells, Graveyards reappear too. People from surrounding areas visit old Mirpur during these months to pay homage to their ancient land they lived on and pray on graveyards of their loved ones. Urs Mubarak of Meeran Shah and Syed Abdul Kareem are also arranged in these months in old Mirpur.

The remains of old Mirpur depict a silhouette of pre-independence city when many faiths co-existed side by side. However after division of the State of Jammu Kashmir, the non-Muslim community consisting of Hindus, Buddhists and Sikhs fled to Jammu. The New Mirpur city has been well planned with construction of modern designed buildings and ample roads serving each part of city. The affluence brought on by emigration mainly to the UK is reflected by the structure and grandiose of the residential houses. There are tell-tale signs of inward investment by the expatriate community living in the United Kingdom, Europe, North America and the Middle East. The city has a number of good hotels, restaurants, shopping malls and other urban facilities.

Industry[edit]

The Government of Azad Jammu & Kashmir has successfully endeavoured to develop Mirpur as an industrial place and promote private investment for establishing, foam, polypropylene, synthetic yarn, motorbikes and scooter, textile, vegetable Oil (Ghee), wood and sawmills, soap, cosmetics, marble, ready-made garments, matches and rosin, turpentine industrial units in the area. However, much of the infrastructure still needs improvement to obtain very high quality products.

As part of the relief/compensation package in the wake of Mangla Dam Raising Project, a new city is being developed along the south eastern outskirts of Mirpur. Civil works at huge scale are going on around the whole district, by the Pakistani & Chinese contractors for raising the dam. Four towns in the district have been planned besides the new city, to resettle the population affected by the project.

Education[edit]

The literacy rate in Mirpur is quite high. It is affected by the emigrating tendency in the youngsters to UK. English language is common in educational institutes. Previously the University of Azad Jammu & Kashmir was the only institution for higher studies but in the last decade there are significant changes in the educational infrastructure. The formation of Mirpur University of Science and Technology (MUST) and recently Akson College of Health Science(College of Pharmacy), Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto Shaheed Medical College are extraordinary achievements And Colleges And Schools too.

AJK Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education, Mirpur is responsible for the studies at lower levels. In addition to the state-run schools and colleges, Mirpur has a well-developed private sector providing the education to all sects of the society. Some of these include:

Sport[edit]

In terms of sports, Mirpur is very popular in Football, Cricket and Volleyball. Many of tournaments are also held throughout the year ans in the holy month of Ramazan night floodlight tournaments are also organized. Mirpur has a Cricket stadium "Quaid-e-Azam Stadium", which has been taken over by the Pakistan Cricket Board for renovation for International standard. There are also many registered sports clubs in mainly South Asia Cricket Club, Pilot Football Club,Youth Football Club and Kashmir National FC. Pilot FC is the current champion of the District Football Association Cup (DFA Cup). The district football team of Mirpur also take part in the All AJK Football Championship, this year the competitions was held in Mirpur at Government College Ground Mirpur, Mirpur won it by beating Rawalakot in the final.

Transport[edit]

CNG auto rickshaws are very popular mode of transport for short routes within the city. The city's transport system links it to a number of destinations in Azad Kashmir notably Bhimber, Jatlan, Chakswari, Dadyal, Kotli and Khoi Ratta and to major cities in Pakistan as well included services to Gujrat, Jhelum, Kharian, Gujranwala, Lahore and Rawalpindi. There is no railway station in Mirpur. The closest station is in Jhelum City, Punjab.

The promise of a rail extension to Mirpur was never fulfilled.

Islamabad Airport services the Mipur region and is approximately 100 miles away.

Mirpur airport[edit]

In response to the long time demand of the Kashmiri expatriate community, an international airport has finally been planned.[8]

Shopping[edit]

Known as the shopping capital of Azad Kashmir, Mirpur has a large and diverse shopping area, centred around Chowk Shaheed,Mian Mohammed Road and Allama Iqbal Road. There are many stores, plazas, shopping malls and markets in these thoroughfares, selling everything from hand made pottery to international brands, and there are many bargains to hand as haggling is common in smaller stores. The currently under construction Nosha Shopping Centre will be one of the largest shopping centres of the city when completed. Azad Mega Mart is the well known shopping plaza of the city and is a hotspot for people visiting Mirpur city.It is one of the main centre of shopping in the Mirpur city. Near the police lines, Puranni Hattian (Syed Naik Alam Shah Road) is famed for its high and top class varieties of ready made, designer replicas. Kotli road F/1 also well known for unstitched clothing brands for women such as MauSummery in Jarral plaza, Metro Shoes, The Mall, Mega Mart Select and Save,Haji Shareef Fabrics,Bareze, Khaddi, Rehan Suiting Centre . The variety is vast and can meet the needs of any shopper in town whether its for weddings, special occasions, or just normal casual wear.

Food[edit]

Mirpur is well known for its food centres and restaurants. Samosa and (Fish) are speciality. There is a popular burger stand on Kotli Road Mega Bite on Stadium Malik Juice Centre on Chowk Shaheed Road outside Rupyal Hotel, as well as excellent samosas and chaat on Syed Naik Alam Shah Road and Chowk Shaheed Road.In terms of restaurants, there is a huge variety of food areas from take aways (Azad Mega Mart Burger Stand) and high class restaurants like Nafees on Mian Mohammed Baksh Road.There is also Mini Mart, a Thai food restaurant in the city. It has patio in front of its entrance and a kids playpark as well!

Language and demographics[edit]

Mirpur Punjabi, Pahari, Punjabi, Pothohari dialect are the predominant languages of the city. Other languages spoken include Urdu and English.

According to the 1998 census Mirpur had a population of approximately over 100,000. This does not include those who emigrated to the United Kingdom, Middle East, Western Europe and North America. Mirpur's original population is mostly ethnic Potoharis. However since 1947, Kashmiri emigrated from the neighbouring Rajouri and Poonch districts of the Indian administered Jammu and Kashmir and Pathans as well as Afghan refugees also have become a part of the local population. A majority of Mirpuris living abroad reside in England.[9]

Culture[edit]

Mirpur (to the west and south) borders the Potohar plateau of Pakistan and the ethnicity, language and culture of both Potohar and the Mirpur district are virtually the same. People of Mirpur wear shalwar and Kameez along with shoes. In winter mostly people take Shaal on body.

Cultural events[edit]

Saif Ul Malook Festival[edit]

The Saif Ul Malook Festival takes place annually in April, usually in the city centre. It is an important event celebrating the anniversary of Baba Pir-e-Shah Ghazi Qalandar (Damrian Wali Sarkar) who was the spiritual guide/teacher of Mian Muhammad Bakhsh, the Sufi saint & Potwari poet famous for his poetic piece Saif ul Malook.

Rathoa Mehla[edit]

The Rathoa Mehla takes place annually in summer, in the Rathoa Town near the Dam front. It is an important event celebrating culture value peace and tolerance. Other notable events that take place in Rathoa vary from year to year and are mostly religious events.

Pahari Mushahira[edit]

Pahari Mushahira is a literary event in which poets from all over Azad Kashmir present their poems to general audience. Pahari Mushahira are celebrated regularly in Mirpur city as part of the campaign of Alami Pahari Adabi Sangat for the preservation and rehabilitation of the Pahari language and the Culture of Jammu and Kashmir.

Ethnic groups[edit]

  • Ansari – Most populated ethnic group of Mirpur. Lived especially in Central City, Dadyal and adjacent areas. Most families are lived in United Kingdom after The Dam Raising. also known as kaasbi...
  • Arain – A well known ethnic group of Mirpur. They play an important role in mirpur's business, mostly engaged in commercial businesses. Migrated to Mirpur from Punjab.
  • Awan – Especially in Sungot, Khari sharif, Andrah & Islamgarh.
  • Gakhar – They are a Persian tribe which reside mainly in Mirpur city, Dadyal and adjacent areas in sizeable numbers.
  • Gujjar – One of the three major ethnic groups in Mirpur. Most reside in Mirpur, Islam Gar, Dadyal and New Mirpur.
  • Jarral – Jarrals are found in sizeable numbers in New Mirpur.
  • Jatt – Represent biggest of the three majority ethnic groups of Mirpur. Most reside in the Jatt heartlands of Chaksawri, Dadyal, New city of Mirpur and the countryside surrounding Mirpur like ballah, bhurkey,sangot, konjari, chanba, kharak, muri, chitterpari. jatts sacrificed their lands for mangla dam and about 90 percent of mangla dam is on jatts lands ...
  • Kakazai - An important and active parte of Mirpur city's community, they are well known in the business and education sector. They often are called with the title of "Malik". Originally, they hail from Laghman Province of Afghanistan but they migrated to the region at the times of Mahmud of Ghazni.
  • Kashmiri – A sizeable minority clans in Mirpur are Butt, Lone, Mir and Dar. They are the descendants of Kashmiri pundits, who belonged to the priestly caste of Brahmins and migrated from Kashmir Valley, while Mirs and Khawajas are migrants from Arab.
  • Mughals – Mughals are scattered all over the Mirpur District. Notable for being highly active in the education sector.
  • Pashtun - Sizeable communities of Pashtun can be found due to recent migration.
  • Rajputs – Third of the three major ethnic groups in number, they play an active role in politics and bureaucracy. Rajputs are scattered all over the Mirpur District and are of many clans.
  • Sayyids – Though a minority group they are a very active people and occupy important positions in all sectors.
  • Sheikh – Most people who classify themselves as Sheikhs in Mirpur are descendants of Brahmin, Khatri or Rajput Hindus who converted to Islam. Most reside in Mirpur city.
  • Sudhan – A comparatively newly migrated tribe from Sudhnoti, Rawalkot and Bagh areas . They play an important role in Mirpur's business, mostly engaged in Administration and Government jobs.

Development[edit]

In recent times Mirpur city has seen many new developments. Some of the schemes approved and under construction include:

  • New Mirpur City
  • New Bong Escape Hydropower Project, Pakistan's first private Hydel power.
  • Rathoa Haryam Main road and Bridge
  • Mirpur Apartments and Guest Houses www.mirpurapartments.com +92-344-5591177
  • Export Promotion Zone
  • Jinnah Model Town
  • Mangla Dam upraising
  • Mirpur Dry Port
  • Mirpur Grand Rest House
  • Moori Industrial Zone
  • New Industrial Area
  • Police Lines Shopping Center
  • Quid-e-Azam Stadium
  • Sultan Town
  • Sector C/4,Sector F/4, Sector F/2, Sector F/1, Sector B/3
  • Valley Homes Mirpur

Tourism[edit]

Mangla Dam

The government of Azad Kashmir is paying special attention to tourism in AJK and Mirpur, building new theme parks, rest houses, hotels and renovating old forts to attract tourists to the region. Places of interest in Mirpur are:

Geography and climate[edit]

Mirpur is bounded on the north and east by Kotli District, on the west by Pothohar and on the south by Bhimber.

Mirpur is the breadbasket of Azad Jammu and Kashmir and has a climate similar to that of the neighbouring Potohar and Punjab region. The Town and district is primarily agriculturally based and is presently a tourist hotspot and a home from home for many emigrants, which can be seen by the vast amounts of villas and mansions built in the region.

Since it is located at the extreme south of the state Jammu & Kashmir, the climate is extremely hot and dry during summer – making it very similar to the Pakistani areas of Jehlum and Gujar Khan. Most of its bushy landscapes, stretching from Bhimber to Dadyal, are barren – leaving only a small stretch of fertile land but highly productive land in the surrounding of Mangla water. The only crop cultivated during the spring/summer season is millet. However, there are a few farms that grow vegetables and wheat, especially when the dam water subsides during the winter season. The hydroelectric power from the dam makes this district somewhat unique among others. However, the annoyance caused by unannounced hours-long daily blackout makes many Kashmiris resentful over unfair energy supply.

Surroundings[edit]

  • Balah is one of the oldest communities of Mirpur Azad Kashmir. It is in between Bhurkay and Sangot. The famous Shareef Market and Police Lines are located in Balah.
  • Bhalot, is amongst Mirpur's most populous villages.
  • Bhimber is 50 km from Mirpur, the area is very rich in archaeological remains.
  • Chakswari Approximately 40 km from Mirpur city, it is fast becoming a commercial area of the district
  • Dadyal is a Tehsil of the Mirpur District, 65 km from Mirpur at north, the 2nd largest city after Mirpur in AJK.
  • Islamgarh Islamgarh is situated in North East of Mirpur city. Travel distance is 30 km.
  • Jandi Chontra a popular scenic spot 67 km from Mirpur in Bhimber District, the Shrine of the Sufi Saint Hazrat Sheikh Baba Shadi Shaheed is also located here.
  • Jangian Kotla is located near river Jehlum and situated approximately 20 km south of Mirpur.
  • Kakra Town is 12–15 km from Mirpur, the area is beautiful and creates nice views to Mangladam.
  • Khari Sharif located 8 km from Mirpur, it is famous for its Sufi shrines.
  • Kotli is 101 km. from Mirpur, the area is hilly and beautiful views of valleys.
  • Khaliqabad is 6 km from Mirpur its an intersection for the main road leaving mirpur city, this area is home to large Bainse and Jat population
  • Mangla town is located 16 km from Mirpur, it is situated at the mouth of the Mangla Dam for which it is famous.
  • Football Chowk, in sector D4, is situated on the outskirts of Mirpur city. This area is home to a large number of wealthy expatriates, local business men, government and ISI officials.
  • Mehmunpur Rajgan, Situated 15 km from Mirpur city near Pul Manda.
  • Sahalia 70 km from Mirpur city.

Notable people of Mirpur[edit]

Raja Zahid of Bova Tangeree. Currently resides in Bedford, England. Father of Hassan Butt and Chaudhry Eshan Iqbal. Chairman of Bedford Volleyball Club

Twin cities[edit]

Gallery[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]