Mirpur is the largest city in Azad Kashmir, and the capital of Mirpur District. Mirpur is located at the extreme south of Azad Kashmir at a elevation of 459 metres (1509ft). It is 161 kilometre’s (100 miles) from Islamabad via the Grand Trunk Road and 295 kilometre’s (183 miles) from Muzaffarabad, the capital of Azad Kashmir.
The city of Mirpur was founded in the late 17th century (i.e late 1600’s) by a Gakhar 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 the Gakhars, Miran Khan and Sultan Fateh Khan”
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 on 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 Ranjit Singh confiscated the state.
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.
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 Valley, Hazara and the southern hill areas. Thus sealing the fate of Mirpur with the new state of Jammu and Kashmir.
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.
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.
After world war two 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 lake was filled up in 1966, depriving large numbers of Mirpuri farmers of their land, an alternative was readily available: to move overseas to join those of their kinsfolk who had established themselves in Britain.
As a result, Mirpur is one of the principal sources of migration from Pakistan to Europe, and especially to Britain, so much so that close to half a million migrants from this area now live in the United Kingdom. Although it is widely believed that the principal reason for this outflow was the construction of the Mangla Dam, this is only partially true. Whilst the construction of the dam undoubtedly reinforced the scale of the outflow, since the waters of the lake swamped most of the best land in the District, emigration from this region began long beforehand.
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 three sub-divisions, Mirpur, Chaksawari & Dadyal. The building of the new city in late sixties paved the way for New Mirpur situated on the banks of Mangla lake. In fact the remains of the old city (old Mirpur) are underneath the waters of the Mangla Lake, during colder months the water level decreases such that you can see the tops of minarets from the first mosques, and also the remnants of a Sikh gurdwara as well as a Hindu mandir possibly dedicated to the “mangla mata” (mangla mother goddess).This is a glimpse of pre-independence times when there were many faiths co-existing in Kashmir as a whole, but however after partition the Hindus, Buddhists and Sikhs fled to India. Mirpur was well planned and the buildings are mostly of modern design, in addition there is significant inward investment from expatriates now living in the United Kingdom, Europe, North America, & the Middle East. The city has a number of hotels, restaurants, shopping malls and other urban facilities.
As Mirpur adjoins the industrial cities of Pakistan, the Government of Azad Jammu & Kashmir has successfully endeavoured to develop it as an industrial place and promote private investment for establishing, Foam, Polypropylene, Synthetic yarn, Motorbikes, Textile, vegetable ghee, logging and sawmills, soap, cosmetics, marble, ready-made garments, matches, rosin, turpentine and scooter industrial units in the area. However, much of the infrastructure still needs further development in order to compete on a national level. As part of the relief/compensation package in the wake of Mangla Dam Raising Project, a New City is being developed along the southeastern 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.
Mirpur has the biggest & busiest bus network in Azad Kashmir, running from early hours of the morning to late night. Daily routes include Dina, Jhelum, Kharian & Gujrat. The new flying coachs in Mirpur travel to larger cities of Pakistan including Gujranwala, Sialkot, Rawalpindi & Faisalabad.
Auto Rickshaws are very popular mode of transport for short routes within the city. Many of the new rickshaws in the city use Compressed natural gas (CNG) instead of the petrol engines as CNG is environmentally clean and cheaper compared petrol.
The nearest airport is the Islamabad International Airport which is approx 150 kilometres from the city. The government of AJK have announced a new international airport to be built in the city but are still seeking private investors for the proposed project.
Mirpur has a large and diverse shopping area, centred around Chowk Shaheeda & Allama Iqbal Road. There are many stores, plazas, shopping malls & markets in the main bazaar selling everything from hand made pottery to international brands. The under construction Nosha Shopping Centre will be one of the largest shopping centres of the city when completed.
According to the 1998 census Mirpur had a population of approximately 370,000 making it by far the largest city in Azad Kashmir. Potwari’s account for approx 80% of the population followed by Punjabis 15%, Pathans & Afghan refugees 5% The majority of the people in the Mirpur district are Muslims, however prior to partition the district had a high number of Hindus & sikhs.
Mirpur (to the west and south) borders the Punjab province of Pakistan and the ethnicity, language and culture of both Punjab & the Mirpur district are virtually the same. The region has historically been a part of Greater Punjab. Pahari & Pothohari are the main languages spoken in Mirpur, whereas Punjabi is spoken in areas bordering Bhimber and Gujrat districts.
In recent times Mipur city has seen many new developments. Some of the schemes approved and under construction include:
” Quid-e-Azam Stadium
” Regency Hotel
” Mirpur International Airport (proposed)
” Jinnah Model Town
” Mirpur Grand Rest House
” Moori Industrial Zone
” New multi purpose grounds
” Mangla Dam upraising
” New recreation parks
” New Industrial Area
” Mohi-Ud-Deen Islamic Medical College
” Valley Homes Mirpur
The government of Azad Kashmir is paying special attention to tourism in AJK & Mirpur, building new theme parks, rest houses, hotels and renovating old forts to attract tourists to the region. Places of interest in Mirpur are:
” Mangla Fort & Museum
” Ramkot Fort
” Khari Sharif
” Jari Kas
” Monument of Basharat Shaheed
” Mangla Dam
” Gulshan e Kashmir
Geography and climate
Lying between 33°15′ and 33°34′ latitude and 73°31′ and 73°55′ longitude, Mirpur city is located at the extreme South of Azad Kashmir. Mirpur comprises partly plain and partly hilly areas. Mirpur’s hot climate and other geographical conditions closely resemble to those of Jhelum and Gujrat, the adjoining districts of Punjab, Pakistan.
” Chakswari is approx 20km from Mirpur city, it is fast becoming a commercial area of the district.
” Bhimber is 50km from Mirpur, the area is very rich in archaeological remains.
” Jandi Chontra is a scenic spot 67Km from Mirpur in Bhimber District, the Shrine of the Sufi Saint Baba Shadi Shaheed is located here.
” Khari Sharif is located 8km from Mirpur, it is famous for its Sufi shrines.
” Mangla town is located 16km from Mirpur, it is situated at the mouth of the Mangla Dam for which it is famous.
” Football Chok (Sector D4)- This is home to a large number of wealthy expatriates, local business men, government officials and ISI. Its an area with vast number of mansions because of this its known as Ameer Gar (Millionaires Row).
” Bhalot- This is one of largest and most populous villages of Mirpur.
” Mehmunpur Rajgan- situated 15 KM from Mirpur new city near Pul Manda. A famous villages of old Mirpur, Zaildar Raja Sajawal Khan(activist of freedom moment with people like Raja Akbar Khan and Subah Sadiq Shah) belonged to same village. He was imprisoned in Jammu in 1931 with Raja Akbar and Subah Sadiq when they retaliated against Quran Issue. The first meeting of Muslim Conference hosted by Raja Sajawal Khan and presided by Subah Sadiq Shah in Mirpur was held in Mehmunpur in which Ch. Ghulam Abbas, Sardar Abdul Qayyum Khan and other notables participated.
Notable People of Old Mirpur
” Ch Dalawar Khan, First Zailadar of Mirpur in the year 12AH
” Raja Allah Dad Khan, Jagirdar
” Raja Sajawal Khan of, Zaildar and Assessor
” Subah Sadiq Shah, Activist of Quran Movement
” Raja Gul Nawaz Khan, Zaildar
” General Raja Akbar Khan
” Ch. Noor Hussain, Politician
” Raja Bashir Ahmed Khan, Zaildar
” Late Ch. Khadim Hussain, MLA
” Late Ch. Patha Malik Hussain, Prosperous Landowner
” Ch. Fazal Ellahi
” Late Sheikh Younas Azam, Kashmiri journalist
” Mian Muhammad Bakhsh, Sufi saint
” Miran Shah Ghazi, Founder of Mirpur City
” Raja Rahman Khan, Chairmen
Notable People of New Mirpur
” Barrister Sultan Mahmood Ch, Ex.Prime Minister of AJK
” Cllr Raja Ghazanfer Khaliq, Ex.Lord Mayor of Bradford, UK
” Advocate Muhammad Azeem Dutt, High Court Advocate, President of JKPF & Political Activist
” Barrister Qurban Ali, Supreme Head Of Peoples National Party
” Lord Nazir Ahmed, Member of House of Lords
” Raja Zafar Maroof, Administrator District Council
” Raja Shabbir Ahmed Khan, Ex Public Prosecutor
” Ch.Rukhsar Ahmed Gujjar, M.L.A Of Khari Sharif
” Khalid Mahmood, Member of Parliament B’ham, UK
” Mohammed Ajeeb, Ex.Lord Mayor Bradford UK
” Ch Abdul Majid, President Pakistan Peoples Party (AJK)
” Cllr Liaquat Ali, Mayor of Waltham Forest
” Ch Aurangzeb, Ex.Lord Mayor Bradford, UK
” Ch Muhammed Saeed, CEO Azad Group Of Companies Ltd, President of the Federation of Pakistan Chamber of Commerce and Industry
” Ch Mohammed Yusuf, MLA Minister of Mangla Dam
” Raja Rahman Khan, Ex. Chairmen Union Council
” Cllr Raja Zarait, Mayor of Slough
” Cllr Ch FA Matloob, Chairman of Slough Labour Party & Slough’s youngest councillor
” Late Chaudhry Ali Muhammed Chacha, Senior Advocate Mirpur
” Mumtaz Khan, Founder of the Mumtaz Group
” Zarina Khan, BBC Radio presenter
” Mohammed Iqbal, Lord Mayor Leeds
” Mohammed Saleem, Founder of Kashmir Crown Bakeries & Nafees Group of Companies
” Cllr Chaudhry Abdul Rashid, Lord Mayor Birmingham
” Chaudhry Khurshid Ahmed, Race Relations Commisioner & Pakistan Human Rights Secretary
Ethnic groups in Mirpur
The demographics of Mirpur are made of three main ethnic groups.
” Gujjars – One of the three major ethnic groups in Mirpur. Most reside in Mirpur, Islam Gar, Dadyal and New Mirpur. Gujjars in Mirpur are in a minority, compared to Jatt and Rajput, this is mainly due to most of them having emigrated when old Mirpur was flooded following the construction of the Mangla Dam. They are very united and active in politics, enterprise and bureaucracy of AJK. Gujjar clans consist of Bajar, Khepar, Chaudhary, Bjarh, Chauhan, Bhumbla, Chandpuri, Chechi, Meelu, Hans, Bagri and Khatana.
” Jatt – Represent one of three majority ethnic groups of Mirpur. Mostly resident in Chaksawri, Dadyal & Main city of Mirpur and the villages surrounding Mirpur City such as Sangot, Purkhan, Balah-Gala, Thathal, Ban Khurma, Kalyal, Khambal and in many villages around the Khari Sharif area. Jatts play an active role in the politics of AJK. They are the largest group by population in the city of Mirpur. Jatt clans are made up of the Thathals, Ranyals, Nangyals, Nagyals, Kalyals, and Dhamyals.
” Rajputs – Third of the three major ethnic groups in number, they play an active role in politics and bureaucracy. Rajputs live in Main city & Khari Sharif region. The famous sub clans of rajputs are Gakhars, Chibbs, Punwar Solans & Minhas.
” Mughals – Are not involved in active politics but they are very active in the education sector.
” Arain – A minority group, mostly engaged in commercial businesses. They moved to Mirpur from Punjab.
” Awan – Especially in Sungot, Andrah & Islamgarh
” Sadat – Though a minority group they are a very active people and occupy important positions in all sectors. They moved to Mirpur from Punjab.
” Jarral – Large numbers of Jarral’s can be found in the New City.
” Kashmiri – Main city clans in Mirpur include Butt, Lone and Sheikhs. Most work in the trade sector, especially in gold. They are the descendants of Kashmiri workmen who migrated to the plains of Punjab from the Kashmir Valley in the 16th and 17th centuries.
” Birmingham, UK
” Bradford, UK
” Maidenhead, UK
” Leeds, UK
” London Borough of Waltham Forest
” Oldham, UK
” Nottingham, UK
” Slough, UK
” Luton, UK