|Approximately 60–70 per cent of the British Pakistani population (estimate for England only)|
|Regions with significant populations|
|Birmingham, Bradford, Oldham and surrounding towns|
|Urdu, Potwari, English (British)|
|Related ethnic groups|
The British Mirpuri community comprises people in the United Kingdom who originate from the Mirpur District in Azad Kashmir, Pakistan. While no accurate statistics are available, an estimated 60 to 70 per cent of British Pakistanis in England have origins in the Mirpur District.
The community speaks the Mirpuri/Pothohari which are dialects of the Punjabi language and are mainly from Jat Muslim and the Gujar, Bains/Vains Rajput community of Azad Jammu & Kashmir. The first generation Mirpuris were not highly educated, and they had little or no experience of urban living in Pakistan.
Mirpuris migrated because of the Mangla Dam, which was built in the 1960s and eventually flooded the surrounding farmland.
Mirpuris in Britain are still in touch with family back home in Azad Kashmir as remittances are sent back to them to help fund farmland and family businesses.
A report produced for the Department for Communities and Local Government in 2009 on the Pakistani Muslim community in England stated "There are no accurate figures available but it is estimated that 60 per cent of the Pakistani population is from the Mirpur District". However, it also noted that the Mirpuri Development Project has estimated that approximately 70% of British Pakistanis are Mirpuris. Large Mirpuri communities can be found in Birmingham, Bradford, Oldham and the surrounding towns. Luton and Slough have the largest Mirpuri communities in southern England.
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The large number of Mirpuris in the United Kingdom has many causes. Mirpur was considered to be a conservative district in 1960s, and life in its rural villages was dominated by rigid hierarchies. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the Government of Pakistan planned the Mangla Dam, which was to be built in the Mirpur area. Several thousand people had to move. Coincidentally, Britain at that time needed cheap workers, mainly for textile factories as British workers had begun to become expensive due to rising wages. Up to 5,000 people from Mirpur (5% of the displaced) left for Britain, and the displaced Mirpuris were given legal and financial assistance by the British contractor that built the dam.
Many started working in factories, mostly in the so-called "Black Country" near Birmingham and in Bradford, Leeds. In some villages of Mirpur, more than half of the people moved to the United Kingdom to settle in the industrial towns. The rural, impoverished district provided cheap, unskilled labour for Britain in the 1960s and the 1970s.
Families tend to be close-knit and the guiding influence behind everything from marriage to business. Such cultural values have clashed with British values, which tend to be more freethinking and independent.
The Mirpuris live in some of the most segregated areas of Britain, and their children attend the most segregated schools. The British government has made attempts to improve community cohesion by nurturing a sense of shared or collective national identity. One programme designed to encourage greater social mixing includes the busing of students of Pakistani origin to "white schools", in an attempt to bridge the divide between the British Pakistani and white British ethnic groups.
In 1960s, Mirpur was considered to be a rural and conservative area. Due to the Mirpuri diaspora, the region witnessed great economic progress in last three decades and has become one of the most prosperous areas of Pakistan.
Endogamy and kinship
Cousin marriages or marriages within the same tribe and caste system are common in some parts of South Asia, including rural areas of Pakistan. A major motivation is to preserve patrilineal tribal identity. The tribes to which British Mirpuris belong include Awans. As a result, there are some common genealogical origins within these tribes. Some Mirpuri British Pakistanis view cousin marriages as a way of preserving this ancient tribal tradition and maintaining a sense of brotherhood.
A study published in 1988 in the Journal of Medical Genetics, which looked specifically at two hospitals in West Yorkshire, found that the rate of consanguineous marriage was 55 per cent and rising, compared to a worldwide rate of 29 per cent. However, representatives of constituencies where there are high Pakistani populations say that consanguineous marriages amongst British Pakistanis are now decreasing in number, partly because of public health initiatives.
According to the British Home Office, as of 2000, more than half the cases of forced marriage investigated involve families of Pakistani origin, followed by Bangladeshis and Indians. The Home Office estimates that 85 per cent of the victims of forced marriages are women aged 15–24, 90 per cent are Muslim, and 90 per cent are of Pakistani or Bangladeshi heritage. 60 per cent of forced marriages by Pakistani families are linked to the small towns of Bhimber and Kotli and the city of Mirpur.
In 2009, a consultation was undertaken into the effects of providing an individual tick-box for "Kashmiri" people in the UK census. The majority of those who took part in the consultation chose to self-identify as Pakistani and a decision was taken not to introduce a Kashmiri tick-box for the ethnic group question in the 2011 census.
The following ethnic codes are used in UK school ethnicity profiles:
- AMPK: Mirpuri Pakistani
- AKPA: Kashmiri Pakistani
- AKAO: Kashmiri Other
The Guardian, June 17, 2002, "British Muslims series – A Map of Muslim Britain":
- Muslim population 1.8 million (3% of total British population)
- The Muslim population of London – 1 million (total 7.2 million); Birmingham – 150,000 (1 million) – this includes the world's biggest expatriate Kashmiri population
- Scotland 60,000 (33,000 in Glasgow); Wales 50,000; Northern Ireland 4000
- Census of India 1901 Volume 23A Jammu and Kashmir Part 2 Government of India Press
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... Kalesh kinship is indeed orchestrated through a rigorous system of patrilineal descent defined by lineage endogamy
- Zafar Khan. "Diasporic Communities and Identity Formation". University of Luton. Retrieved 26 December 2010.
- The frequency of consanguineous marriage among British Pakistanis, Journal of Medical Genetics 1988;25:186–190
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- DEd website