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Montgomery District is an administrative district of the former Punjab Province of British India, in what is now Pakistan. Named after Sir Robert Montgomery, it lay in the Bari Doab, or the tract between the Sutlej and the Ravi rivers, extending also across the Ravi into the Rechna Doab, which lies between the Ravi and the Chenab. The administrative headquarters was the town of Montgomery, present-day Sahiwal. In 1978, the name of Montgomery District was changed to Sahiwal District.
It was bounded by the Districts of Lahore on the north-east, Jhang on the north-west, and Multan on the south-west, while on the south-east it bordered the Native State of Bahawalpur and the British District of Firozpur.
In the former tract a fringe of cultivated lowland skirted the bank of either river, but the whole interior upland consisted of a desert plateau partially overgrown with brushwood and coarse grass, and in places with impenetrable jungle. On the farther side of the Ravi, again, the country at once assumed the same desert aspect.
The population according to the 1901 census of India was 463,586, a decrease of 0-4% in the decade due to emigration to the Chenab Colony. The principal crops were wheat, pulse, cotton and fodder. Camels were bred for export. The leading manufactures are of cotton and silk, and lacquered woodwork, and there are factories for ginning and pressing cotton. The district was traversed by the main line of the North-Western Railway, from Lahore to Multan, and it is irrigated by the Upper Sutlej inundation canal system and also from the Ravi.
The Rechna Doab was long home to the pastoral Jats, who had constantly maintained a sturdy independence against the successive rulers of northern India. The sites of Kamalia and Harappa contain large mounds of antique bricks and other ruins left by the Indus Valley Civilisation, while many other remains of ancient cities or villages lie scattered along the river bank, or dotted the then-barren stretches of the central waste. 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 northern Punjab region. 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 Punjab region. After the decline of the Mughal Empire, the Sikh Empire invaded and occupied Sahiwal. The pastoral tribes of this barren expanse did not appear to have paid more than a nominal allegiance to the Muslim rulers, and even in the 19th century, when Ranjit Singh extended the Sikh supremacy as far as Multan, the population for the most part remained in a chronic state of rebellion. British influence was first exercised in the district in 1847, when an officer was deputed to effect a summary settlement of the land revenue. Direct British rule was effected on the annexation of the Punjab in 1849.
During the Indian Rebellion of 1857, there was a general rising of the Jat clans, the District formed the scene of the only rising which took place north of the Sutlej. Before the end of May, emissaries from Delhi crossed the river from Sirsa and Hissar, where open rebellion was already rife, and met with a ready reception from the Kharrals and other fierce Jat clans. The District authorities, however, kept down the threatened rising till August 26, when the prisoners in jail made a desperate attempt to break loose. At the same time Ahmad Khan, a famous Kharral leader, who had been detained at Gogera, broke his arrest, and, though apprehended, was released on security, together with several other suspected chieftains. On September 16 they fled to their homes, and the whole country rose in open rebellion. Kamalia was sacked; and Major Chamberlain, moving up with a small force from Multan, was besieged for some days at Chichawatni on the Ravi. The situation at the civil station remained critical till Colonel Paton arrived with substantial reinforcements from Lahore. An attack which took place immediately after their arrival was repulsed. Several minor actions followed in the open field, until finally the rebels, driven from the plain into the wildest jungles of the interior, were utterly defeated and dispersed. The British troops then inflicted severe punishment on the insurgent clans, destroying their villages, and seizing large numbers of cattle for sale.
The district was part of the Lahore Division of Punjab Province. The predominantly Muslim population supported Muslim League and Pakistan Movement. After the independence of Pakistan in 1947, the minority Hindus and Sikhs migrated to India while the Muslim refugees from India settled in the Montgomery District.
In 1978, the name of Montgomery District was changed to Sahiwal District.