Mirpur, is the capital of Mirpur district and is the largest city of Azad Kashmir, Pakistan. Mirpur City is at 459 m 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 has two subdivisions: Mirpur and Dadyal. Mirpur is now one of the largest city of Azad Kashmir.The building of the new city in late 1960s paved the way for New Mirpur, situated on the bank of ManglaLake.The project of four-star hotel PC has been completed. The government is planning to make the second rotating hotel of Pakistan in Mirpur, Azad Kashmir.
In fact, the remains of the old city (Old Mirpur) are under the waters of the Mangla Lake, bit during the colder months of March and April, the water level recedes to such an extent that one can travel on motorcycle on the old Mirpur, road which still exists. The holy shrines of Syed Abdul Karim and Meeran Shah Ghazi then 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 and graveyards reappear as well.
People from surrounding areas visit old Mirpur to pay homage to their ancient land on which they lived and pray on the graveyards of their loved ones. Urs Mubarak of Meeran Shah and Syed Abdul Kareem are also arranged in Old Mirpur.
The remains of Old Mirpur depict a silhouette of pre-Independence city, when many faiths coexisted. However, after division of the State of Jammu Kashmir, the non-Muslim community (Hindus, Buddhists and Sikhs) fled to Jammu.
New Mirpur was well planned, and modern buildings and ample roads serve each part of city. The affluence from emigration mainly to the UK is reflected by the structure and grandiose of the residential houses. There are telltale signs of inward investment by the expatriate community living in the United Kingdom, Europe, North America and the Middle East. There are a number of good hotels, restaurants, shopping malls and other urban facilities
The city itself has gone through a process of modernization, and most of the surrounding area remains agricultural. Mirpur is known for its grand buildings and large bungalows, primarily funded through its expatriatecommunity, which comes mainly from Europe (especially the United Kingdom), Hong Kong, the Middle East, and North America. The main crop cultivated during summer is millet and pulses. However, other crops such as wheat, maize and vegetables are also grown. The produce of quality rice from the paddy fields of Khari Sharif between Upper Jhelum Canal and Jhelum river is very famous and popular for its aroma and taste. The production of electricity from Mangla Dam provides the energy needs for Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Northern Punjab.
Mirpur is thus sometimes known as “Little England”.Many British products are found, and many shops in the city accept the pound sterling.
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 the role of 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 Mirpur city itself was founded in around 1640 AD or 1050AH 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.
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. The Delhi Sultanate and later Mughal Empire ruled the region. The Punjab region became predominantly Muslim due to missionary Sufi saints whose dargahs dot its landscape
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 the 18th century, Gakhar power in Pothohar had declined. Mirpur had become part of Chibb ruled the 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 1808, Ranjit Singh annexed Jammu state, which was already a tributary since 1780, 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 East India company and Raja Gulab Singh of Jammu on March 16, 1846. The British Government sold Kashmir to the Raja of Jammu for 75 lakhs Nanak Shahi Rupees. 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.
Mirpur was historically a part of the Punjab region. However it became a part of the Jammu division of the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir in a deal between the rulers of that state and the British. 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 Dogra Raja Gulab Singh of Jammu, 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. British 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 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 Burma during the Second World War.
Indo-Pakistan War of 1947
In the wake of the Indo-Pakistani War of 1947, a number of militant campaigns were organised all around the Western mountains of Kashmir and Jummu, including Poonch, Muzaffarabad and Mirpur to forcibly usurp Kashmir from Dogra ruler Maharaja Hari Singh.
On the Mirpur front, Captain Khan of Mong played a leading role in the campaign with the strategic aim to cut off the India’s supply line into the rest of Kashmir. In October 1947, Captain Khan ambushed two Dogra despatch-riders at Puranian Hattian on their motorcycle armed with one sten gun.This gun was used to raid Gobindpur Police Station a few nights later. This raid provided further supplies and consolidated their position. A number of further attacks ensued leading up to the Battle of Mirpur where five attacks were organised. On 25 November, finding the situation beyond control, Wazir Wazarat Mirpur, Rao Rattan Singh and Brig Karki from Nepal decided to abandon town at 1400 hours.
After World War II, a new set of opportunities opened up. Britain’s economy was just starting what proved to be a long postwar boom, and there was an acute short of labour in the foundries of the English Midlands and in the textile mills of Yorkshire and Lancashire. Now it was the turn of ex-seamen to become industrial workers in Britain. In 1960, when the Mangla Dam was about to be constructed, those who were going to be deprived of their agricultural land were afforded the opportunity to migrate to the United Kingdom and to join their relatives, who long established themselves in Britain.
As a result, Mirpur is one of the principal sources of migration from the State of Azad Kashmir to Europe, especially to Britain, so out of the million migrants from Azad Kashmir and Pakistan, 82% came from Mirpur.
Although one major reason for the outflow was the construction of the Mangla Dam, but long before the construction of dam, a sizable Mirpuri community already existed in the UK.
The Mangla is a multipurpose dam located on the Jhelum River in the Mirpur District of Azad Kashmir in Pakistan. It is the seventh largest dam in the world. The dam got its name from the village of Mangla. Major Nasrullah Khan of the Pakistan Army revealed for the first time in 2003, that the project was designed and supervised by Binnie & Partners of London (the team led by partner Geoffrey Binnie), and it was built by Mangla Dam Contractors, a consortium of 8 U.S. construction firms, sponsored by Guy F. Atkinson Company of South San Francisco.
Ramkot Fort is an ancient fort situated in Azad Kashmir, Pakistan currently beside the Mangla Dam. It is accessible through boat, 13 kilometers away from Dina and 79 kilometers by road from Mirpur, Azad Kashmir to Dadyal town. The fort is accessible from Siakh village from Dadyal side and Mangla through boats which take approximately 20 to 30 minutes. Three sides of the hilltop are surrounded by the Jhelum River, which falls into the huge reservoir of Mangla Dam. It was built by a Gakkhar named Toglu as recorded by traveler and geologist Frederick Drew in his book.
Khari Sharif is an agricultural area in Mirpur District of Azad Jammu & Kashmir. Broadly speaking, Alaqa-e-Khari (translation in English: Area of Khari) refers to the fertile plains of Khari which exist between the hills of Mirpur and the river Jhelum. Khari has some 80 small and large villages and one of the villages itself is known as Khari Sharif. It is located at a distance of 8 km from the city of Mirpur, Azad Kashmir and is known for housing the shrines of Sufi saints known as PirShah Ghazi Qalandar Damri Wali Sarkar and Mian Muhammad Bakhsh. The place acts as a great seat of learning for students of Islam.
Saif Ul Malook Festival
The Saif Ul Malook Festival takes place annually in April, usually in the city centre. It is an 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 and Potwari poet famous for his poem Saif ul Malook.
The Rathoa Mehla takes place annually in summer in Rathoa Town near the dam front. It is an event celebrating culture value peace and tolerance.
Pahari Mushahira is a literary event in which poets from all over Azad Kashmir present their poems to the general public. It is celebrated regularly in Mirpur, 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.