Azad Kashmir

Azad Jammu and Kashmir (Urdu: آزاد جموں و کشمیر‎ Azad Jammu o Kashmir), abbreviated as AJK and commonly known as Azad Kashmir, is a self-governing administrative division of Pakistan.
The territory lies west of the Indian-administered state of Jammu and Kashmir, and was previously part of the former princely state of Jammu and Kashmir, which ceased to exist as a result of the first Kashmir war fought between India and Pakistan in 1947.

Azad Kashmir is part of the greater Kashmir region, which is the subject of a long-running conflict between India and Pakistan.
The territory shares a border with Gilgit–Baltistan, together with which it is referred to by the United Nations and other international organisations as "Pakistan-administered Kashmir".
The territory also borders Pakistan's Punjab province to the south and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province to the west. To the east, Azad Kashmir is separated from the Indian-administered state of Jammu and Kashmir by the Line of Control, the de facto border between India and Pakistan.
Azad Kashmir has a total area of 13,297 square kilometres (5,134 sq mi), with an estimated population of around 4.6 million people.

The territory has a parliamentary form of government modeled after the Westminster system, with its capital located at Muzaffarabad.
The President of Azad Kashmir is the constitutional head of the state, while the prime minister, supported by a Council of Ministers, is the chief executive.
The unicameral Azad Jammu & Kashmir Legislative Assembly elects both the prime minister and president.
The state has its own Supreme Court and a High Court, while the Government of Pakistan's Ministry of Kashmir Affairs serves as a link between it and Azad Kashmir's government. Neither Azad Kashmir nor Gilgit-Baltistan elect members to Pakistan's National Assembly.

The 2005 earthquake killed 100,000 people and left another three million people displaced, with widespread devastation. Since then, with help from the Government of Pakistan and foreign donors, reconstruction of infrastructure is underway. Azad Kashmir's economy largely depends on agriculture, services, tourism, and remittances sent by members of the British Mirpuri community. Nearly, 87% of the households own farms in Azad Kashmir, while the region has a literacy rate of approximately 72% and has the highest school enrollment in Pakistan.


Administrative divisions
The state is administratively divided into three divisions which, in turn, are divided into ten districts.

Division          District           Area (km²)       Population       Headquarters
Mirpur              Mirpur             2,310                754,482             Mirpur
                       Kotli                2,162                834,094             Kotli
                       Bhimber          1,516                301,633             Bhimber

Muzaffarabad    Muzaffarabad   2,496                638,973             Muzaffarabad
                       Hattian            854                   251,000             Hattian Bala
                       Neelam           3,621                 106,778             Athmuqam

Poonch             Poonch            855                   411,035             Rawalakot
                       Haveli             600 (est.)           150,000 (est.)    Forward Kahuta
                       Bagh               768                   351,415             Bagh
                       Sudhanoti        569                   204,091             Palandri

AJK Total          10 districts      13,297               4,567,982           Muzaffarabad


Geography and climate

Landscape of Azad kashmir
The northern part of Azad Jammu and Kashmir encompasses the lower part of the Himalayas, including Jamgarh Peak (15,531 feet [4,734 meters]).
However, Sarwali peak in the Neelum Valley is the highest peak in the state.
Fertile, green, mountainous valleys are characteristic of Azad Kashmir's geography, making it one of the most beautiful regions on the subcontinent.

The southern parts of Azad Kashmir including Bhimber, Mirpur and Kotli districts has extremely hot weather in summers and moderate cold weather in winters. It receives rains mostly in monsoon weather.

Paddy field in Leepa valley
In the central and northern parts of state weather remains moderate hot in summers and very cold and chilly in winter.
Snow fall also occurs there in December and January.

This region receives rainfall in both winters and summers. Muzaffarabad and Pattan are among the wettest areas of the state.
Throughout most of the region, the average rainfall exceeds 1400 mm, with the highest average rainfall occurring near Muzaffarabad (around 1800 mm).
During summer, monsoon floods of the Jhelum and Leepa rivers are common, due to high rainfall and melting snow.

 
Culture
The culture of Azad Kashmir has many similarities to that of northern Punjabi (Potohar) culture in Punjab province.
The natives of Azad Kashmir speak Urdu, Potwari, and the Pahari languages. The Kashmiri language is spoken by fewer than 3% of the population.

The traditional dress of the women is the shalwar kameez in Pahari style.
The shalwar kameez is commonly worn by both men and women. Women use shawl to cover their head and upper body.
The popular and traditional cuisines of Azad Kashmir are Raan (Fried leg of Lamb), Rogan Josh, Balti Gosht, Dal Chawal (A mixture of split peas, split red lentils, and boiled rice), and Dam Aloo (Fried Potatoes).
The traditional drink of the region is tea.


Ethnic groups
Azad Jammu and Kashmir is almost entirely Muslim. This inhabitants of this region are of many communities and tribes who share ethnic and linguistic similarities with the people of Northern Punjab. While Urdu is the official language of the region, other languages commonly spoken are Pahari, Gojri and Potohari.

The main communities living in this region are as follows:

Gurjar-They are an agricultural tribe and are estimated to be the largest community living in Azad Jammu and Kashmir.

Jat- They are one of the larger community of AJK and primarily inhabit the Districts of Mirpur, Bhimber and Kotli. A large Mirpuri population lives in the UK and it is estimated that more people of Mirpuri origins are now residing in the UK than in Mirpur district. The district Mirpur retains strong ties with the UK.

Pahari Rajputs- They are a community of Pahari speaking Rajputs like Jarral Rajputs, Thakial Rajputs, etc. They primarily inhabit the Districts of Muzaffarabad, Bagh, Mirpur, Bhimber and Kotli

Sudhan- They are a large clan living in Poonch, Sudhanoti, Bagh and Kolti districts.

Abbasi- They are a large clan in Azad Jammu and Kashmir and mostly live in Bhag, Hattian Bala and Muzaffarabad districts. Besides Azad Kashmir, they also inhabit, Abbottabad and upper Potohar Punjab in large numbers.

Awan - A clan with significant numbers found in Azad Jammu and Kashmir, living mainly in the Poonch, Hattian Bala and Muzaffarabad districts. Besides Azad Kashmir they also reside in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in large numbers.


Education
The literacy rate in Azad Kashmir was 62% in 2004, higher than in any region in Pakistan.
However, only 2.2% were graduates, compared to the average of 2.9% for Pakistan.

Universities
The following is a list of universities recognised by Higher Education Commission of Pakistan (HEC):

Public universities
Mirpur University of Science and Technology (MUST)
University of Azad Jammu & Kashmir
University of Poonch, Rawalakot
Women University of Azad Jammu and Kashmir Bagh
University of Management sciences and Information Technology Kotli

Private universities
Al-Khair University
Mohi-ud-Din Islamic University

Medical colleges
The following is a list of undergraduate medical institutions recognised by Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC) as of 2013.

Public medical colleges
Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto Shaheed Medical College
Azad Jammu Kashmir Medical College

Private medical colleges
Mohiuddin Islamic Medical College, Mirpur (Admission Stopped)

Sports
In terms of sports, football, cricket and volleyball are very popular in Azad Kashmir.
Many tournaments are also held throughout the year and in the holy month of Ramazan night time floodlit tournaments are also organised.

Azad Kashmir has a t20 cricket team in Pakistan's T20 domestic tournament
Mirpur has a cricket stadium (Quaid-e-Azam Stadium) which has been taken over by the Pakistan Cricket Board for renovation to bring it up to International standards. There is also a cricket stadium in Muzaffarabad with the capacity of 8,000 people.
This stadium has hosted 8 matches of Inter-District Under 19 Tournament 2013.

There are also registered football clubs namely, Pilot Football Club,Youth Football Club and Kashmir National FC.
Pilot FC is the current champion of the District Football Association Cup (DFA Cup).
Mirpur also takes part in the All AJK Football Championship, last year Mirpur was the winner after beating Rawalakot in the final.


Economy
Neelum valley is a popular tourist destination in Azad Kashmir.
Historically the economy of these areas now called ‘Azad’ Kashmir has been agricultural which meant that land was the main source or mean of production.
This means that all food for immediate and long term consumption was produced from land.
The produce included various crops, fruits, vegetables etc. Land was also the source of other livelihood necessities such as wood, fuel, grazing for animals which then turned into dairy products. Because of this land was also the main source of revenue for the governments whose primary purpose for centuries was to accumulate revenue.

Agriculture is a major part of Azad Kashmir's economy. Low-lying areas that have high populations grow crops like barley, mangoes, millet, corn (maize), and wheat, and also raise cattle. In the elevated areas that are less populated and more spread-out, forestry, corn, and livestock are the main sources of income.
There are mineral and marble resources in Azad Kashmir close to Mirpur and Muzaffarabad. There are also graphite deposits at Mohriwali.
There are also reservoirs of low-grade coal, chalk, bauxite, and zircon. Local household industries produce carved wooden objects, textiles, and dhurrie carpets.
There is also an arts and crafts industry that produces such cultural goods as namdas, shawls, pashmina, pherans, Papier-mâché, basketry copper, rugs, wood carving, silk and woolen clothing, patto, carpets, namda gubba, and silverware. Agricultural goods produced in the region include mushrooms, honey, walnuts, apples, cherries, medicinal herbs and plants, resin, deodar, kail, chir, fir, maple, and ash timber.


Munda Gali Leepa valley AJK
The migration to UK was accelerated and by the completion of Mangla Dam in 1967 the process of ‘chain migration’ became in full flow.
Today, remittances from British Mirpuri community make a critical role in AJK's economy.
In the mid-1950s various economic and social development processes were launched in Azad Kashmir.
In the 1960s, with the construction of the Mangla Dam in Mirpur District, the Azad Jammu and Kashmir Government began to receive royalties from the Pakistani government for the electricity that the dam provided to Pakistan. During the mid-2000s, a multibillion-dollar reconstruction began in the aftermath of the 2005 Kashmir earthquake.

In addition to agriculture, textiles, and arts and crafts, remittances have played a major role in the economy of Azad Kashmir. One analyst estimated that the figure for Azad Kashmir was 25.1% in 2001. With regard to annual household income, people living in the higher areas are more dependent on remittances than are those living in the lower areas.
In the latter part of 2006, billions of dollars for development were mooted by international aid agencies for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of earthquake-hit zones in Azad Kashmir, though much of that amount was subsequently lost in bureaucratic channels, leading to considerable delays in help getting to the most needy. Hundreds of people continued to live in tents long after the earthquake.
A land-use plan for the city of Muzaffarabad was prepared by the Japan International Cooperation Agency.

Kashmir as a whole is the one of the most beautiful regions in the world.

Some well-known and popular tourist destinations are the following:

Muzaffarabad, the capital city of Azad Kashmir, is located on the banks of the Jhelum and Neelum rivers. It is 138 kilometres (86 mi) from Rawalpindi and Islamabad. Well-known tourist spots near Muzaffarabad are the Red Fort, Pir Chinassi, Patika,Subri Lake and Awan Patti.

The Neelam Valley is situated to the north and northeast of Muzaffarabad, The gateway to the valley. The main tourist attractions in the valley are Athmuqam, Kutton, Keran, Changan, Sharda, Kel, Arang Kel and Taobat.

Rawalakot city is the headquarters of Poonch District and is located 122 kilometres (76 mi) from Islamabad. Tourist attractions in Poonch District are Banjosa Lake, Devi Gali, Tatta Pani, and Toli Pir.

Bagh city, the headquarters of Bagh District, is 205 kilometres (127 mi) from Islamabad and 100 kilometres (62 mi) from Muzaffarabad. The principal tourist attractions in Bagh District are Bagh Fort, Dhirkot, Sudhan Gali, Ganga Lake, Ganga Choti, Kotla Waterfall, Neela Butt, Danna, Panjal Mastan National Park, and Las Danna.

The Leepa Valley is located 105 kilometres (65 mi) southeast of Muzaffarabad. It is the most charming and scenic place for tourists in Azad Kashmir.

Mirpur city is the headquarters of Mirpur District. The main tourist attractions near Mirpur city are the Mangla Lake and Ramkot Fort.

 

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