ABOUT AZAD KASHMIR
Azad Jammu and Kashmir, abbreviated as AJK and usually called Azad Kashmir, is a nominally self-governing polity administered by Pakistan. The territory lies west of the Indian-administered state of Jammu and Kashmir, and was previously a part of the previous princely state of Jammu and Kashmir, that ceased to exist as a results of the first Kashmir war fought between India and Pakistan in 1947.
The territory shares a border with Gilgit-Baltistan, along with that it’s referred to by the UN and different international organisations as “Pakistan-administered Kashmir”. Azad Kashmir is sixth of the size of Gilgit-Baltistan. The territory additionally 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.
The territory contains a parliamentary sort of government modeled after the Westminster system, with its capital situated at Muzaffarabad. The President is the constitutional head of state, whereas the Prime Minister, supported by a Council of Ministers, is the chief executive. The unicameral Azad Kashmir legislative assembly elects each the Prime Minister and President. The state has its own Supreme Court and a high court, whereas the govt of Pakistan’s Ministry of Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan serves as a link with Azad Kashmir’s government, though Azad Kashmir isn’t depicted in the Parliament of Pakistan.
The northern part of Azad Jammu and Kashmir encompasses the lower part of the range of mountains, together with Jamgarh Peak. However, Sarwali peak in the Neelum valley is the highest peak within the state. Fertile, green, mountainous valleys are characteristic of Azad Kashmir’s geography, making it one of the foremost lovely regions on the subcontinent.
The southern parts of Azad Kashmir together with Bhimber, Mirpur and Kotli districts has extraordinarily weather condition in summers and moderate cold weather in winters. It receives rains largely in monsoon weather.
The culture of Azad Kashmir has several similarities to that of northern Punjabi (Potohar) culture in Punjab province. The natives of Azad Kashmir speak Urdu, Potwari and Pahari.
Historically the economy of these areas currently referred to as ‘Azad’ Kashmir has been agricultural that meant that land was the most source or mean of production. This implies that all food for immediate and future consumption was produced from land. The products included numerous crops, fruits, vegetables etc. Land was additionally the source of alternative livelihood necessities like wood, fuel, grazing for animals that then become dairy product. Due to this land was additionally the most source of revenue for the governments whose primary purpose for hundreds of years 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 additionally raise cattle. Within the elevated areas that are less inhabited and more spread-out, forestry, corn, and livestock are the most sources of income. There are mineral and marble resources in Azad Kashmir near Mirpur and Muzaffarabad. There also are graphite deposits at Mohriwali. There also are reservoirs of low-grade coal, chalk, bauxite, and zircon. Local household industries produce carved wooden objects, textiles, and carpets. There is additionally an arts and crafts industry that produces such cultural product as namdas, shawls, pashmina, pherans, Papier-mâché, basketry copper, rugs, wood carving, silk and woolen wear, 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.
PLACES OF INTEREST
Banjosa Lake is an artificial lake and a tourist resort 20 kilometers from the city of Rawalakot in District Poonch of Azad Kashmir, Pakistan. It is located at an altitude of 1,981 meters.
The lake is surrounded by dense pine forest and mountains, which make it charming and romantic.The weather in the area remains cool in summers, and cold in winter. In December and January snowfall also occurs here, and the temperature falls to -5 °C.
The Banjosa Lake is accessible by a metallic road from Rawalakot. Public transport vans run daily between Rawalakot and Banjosa.
Jhelum Valley is a valley in Jhelum valley District of Azad Kashmir, Pakistan. It is a 50 kilometers long valley located along with Jhelum river surrounded by lush green mountains. Hattian Bala is the main town and district headquarters of the valley.
Some popular tourist attractions are Garhi Dupatta, Awan Patti, Chinari, Chakothi and Chikkar. The valley is connected by a metallic road from Muzaffarabad.
Hotels and rest houses with basic facilities are located in towns and villages in valley. Health facilities, education institutes, post offices, and land line phone service are also available.
Jhelum Valley Campus in the heavenly scenic Jhelum valley so as to be give people of this area an access to higher education at their door steps. The main setup of the Jhelum Campus will be at Hattian Bala beautiful junction of important areas of Bagh, Chanari, Leepa, Chokothi, Gari Dopatha and Muzaffarabad. Jhelum Campus is along the Site of Sirinagar Highway which remained a trade route between Indian held and liberation part of Azad Jammu & Kashmir.
Kel Valley is situated 19 kilometers (11.8 miles) from Sharda and 90 (55.9 miles) from Authmuqam in District Neelum of Azad Jammu & Kashmir. It is a small valley at a height of 2097 meters (6880 feet) above sea level. It is one of the most charming and picturesque places of Neelum. The Shounter Nallah joins River Neelam at this place and leads to Gilgit Agency over the Shandur Pass which is at a height of 4420 meters (14502 feet) above sea level. Kel is a base camp of mountaineering activities upto “Sarawaali Peak” which is 6326 meters (20755 feet) high, and glacier (about 25 kilometers long) which are said to be highest peak and longest glaciers of Azad Kashmir.
Busses ply daily on this route. It is advisable to hire a jeep from Authmuqam for a trip into the valley. Horses and ponies can be hired locally for travel to the interior of the valley. Banks, college, bazar, PCO, and tourist motels are also available here. The border village about 38 kilometers ahead of Kel,is a fascination yet unexplored. Halmat, Tao Butt, Jamwari, and Sardari are famous for their marvelous beauty. From Kel a long track goes towards Nanga Parbat over the Shounter Gali which is 4420 meters (14502 feet) above sea level. The beautiful plateau of Arang Kel can be reached after 2 hours of hike from Kel, about 460 meter (1500 feet) decline from River Neelam, is a worth visiting place.
This is the most fascinating valley in Azad Kashmir. A fair-weather road branches off for Leepa from Naile 45 Km from Muzaffarabad, climbs over Reshian Gali at 3200m high and then descends into the Leepa Valley. It spell-bounds everyone who visits this valley. Dao Khan is well recognised for its natural beauty and renowned for its calm and peaceful atmosphere. Deep in the heart of the valley lies Leepa village at 1921 m above sea-level. Its lush green river fields in summer and typical wooden Kashmiri houses present a wonderful view. Walnut, apples, cherries and honey of Leepa are very popular.
It is a valley of fountains, springs, waterfalls, flowering trees and plants. Geographically too, it is a hospitable valley. The Neelum Valley, 90 miles long bow-shaped with majestic pine, fir and deodar trees, lies north-south of Muzaffarabad (capital). This ninety-mile long kingdom of vegetation is ripped apart by the indigoblue Neelum river which flows serpentine down hills to merge itself into the river Jhelum at Domail. Domail, the confluence of two mighty rivers, presents highly fascinating scene of youthful embrace. This heart-warning spectacle is most soothing to the eye.
The valley, starting from Muzaffarabad, the capital of Azad Kashmir, is about 150 miles long. It lies on both sides of the river Neelum.
The geographical features enhance the natural beauty of the Valley. Its elevation, a mere 2,000 feet at the start, gradually rises till it attains a respectable height of 8,000 feet. On both sides there are high mountains and peaks. Nearly all the forest wealth of Azad Kashmir is to be found in this part of the State.
There are two approaches to the valley. One from the Kaghan Valley which is linked with it at two points, the Nuri Nari Hali (Pass) and the Ratti Gali and many minor Passes. From Dawarian it takes two days for hiking or riding and night stay at Dharian at 12,000 feet.
The second approach is from Muzaffarabad. It is a distance of 55 miles which is jeep able in fair weather. The Neelum meets the Jhelum river at Domali (meeting of the two) on the outskirts of Muzaffarabad city. From Paticka forest one reaches Nosari, 24 miles ahead of Muzaffarabad. Next come Chaliana (height 3,200 feet), Qazi Nag, Barian, Salkhela, Kundal Shahi, Athmaqam on this road. On a number of places, the local population has built rope crossings on the river. It is a very dangerous device and the very thought of crossing these points is horrible but thrilling.
Tao Butt is an example of vegetational generosity of the liberal nature. The spot is donned with all delicacies and niceties. Nature flirts here with fantastic environment. The forest wealth abounds in the Neelum Valley. Deodar, pine, fir, wild walnut, strawberry and hosts of other high statured trees and other types of wild growth and herbs are the treasure of the valley. Besides being invaluable in economic terms, the variety of natural growth offers a captivating scenery. Shunder Hill tops are covered with green forests and the fields are lush green with crops.
Pir Chinasi is a tourist spot located 30 kilometers (19 mi) east of Muzaffarabad city on the top of hills at an elevation of 2,900 metres (9,500 ft). The mountain peak has gained large fame for its ziyarat of a famous Saint Pir Chinasi Known as Pir Sayed Hussain shah Bukhari. The sight presents its visitors with breathtaking views of nature’s beauty. Due to its lush green plains, magnificent weather and charming landscapes tourists from all over Pakistan love to visit this place.
The sight and surrounding areas draped in the forest of pine, and oak trees presents pleasant summers and cold, snowy winters to its visitors. When visiting Pir Chinasi, visitors should be equipped with their own camping gear; because it is very hard to find a rest house to stay. There are only a couple of rest houses that are mostly found full or close. If you are lucky to find a room, rest runners charge too much for it. So, it will be more economical and more enjoyable for tourists to take their own camping equipment.
Ramkot Fort is a major landmark of Mangla city. The fort, located on the top of a hill and surrounded by River Jehlum from three sides, presents a picturesque landscape. The fort is accessible from Mangla Lake which is about 20km away from Mangla city. Most of the fort was demolished during the creation of Mangla Dam; a part remains and serving as public amusement place.
In 1992, government has built a small museum here, which contains several types of pieces of rocks, paintings and model of Mangla Power House.Ramkot Fort provides a view of hills surrounded by water from its top. It took over twenty minutes on a speed boat to reach the cliff on which the fort is located. Boats are available by Army Water Sports Club at the lake.
Rawalakot, is a township in Dist. Poonch, Azad Jammu and Kashmir. It is located in the Pir Panjal Range. Its other name is Pearl Valley because the excess of almond blossoms in the valley gives an impression of scattered pearls when seen from a mountain in summers. Rawalakot has one of the highest literacy and graduation rates in South Asia.
Rawalakot’s weather is quite erratic. However, the climate of Rawalakot can be divided into four seasons, namely spring, summer, autumn and winter. Rawalakot has mild to warm temperatures during the spring and autumn, humid temperatures during summer and cold to snowy during the winter. The temperature can rise as high as 38 °C during the mid-summer months and drop below -1 °C during the winter months. Snowfall occurs in December and January, while most rainfall occurs during the monsoon season stretching from July to September.
Farming for corn, rice and wheat is conducted in and around Rawalakot. Extensive vegetable farming including tomatoes, potatoes, spinach and various others is done as well. The largest industry for Rawalakot is the harvesting of Poplar trees, which are exported to Pakistan for manufacture of sports goods.
Government employment is a major sector for employment, however, a large section of the population is dependent upon remittances from overseas workers who send money to their relatives in Azad Jammu & Kashmir.
Banjosa and Toli pir two popular tourism destination in this area. Lodges, government-owned and private guest houses, and hotels are available in different parts of Rawalakot. Attractions include: mountain-based adventure tourism, rock climbing, mountaineering, trekking, summer camping and hiking, water-based adventure tourism, and paragliding. A Temple is located about two kilometer away from city Rawalakot near the uper block Faculty of Veterinary & Animal Sciences, The University of Poonch. Standing near the temple presents a charming sight of Rawalakot city also the beautiful view of The University of Poonch.
Shounter Lake is a scenic lake located in Shounter Valley, a sub valley of Neelam Valley, Azad Kashmir, Pakistan, at the elevation of 10,200 feet (3,100 m). The lake is fed by the surrounding mountains glacial waters.
The lake is encircled by snow coated mountains, green grass vegetation and specimens of Iris hookeriana are dispersed around the lake.
The lake is accessible from Kel town of Neelum valley, by a jeepable track.
Toli Pir is a hilltop area situated in Tehsil Rawalakot in the Poonch District of Azad Kashmir. Its approximate elevation is about 8800 ft above sea level. It is about 30 km, or a 45-minute drive, from Rawalakot in Azad Kashmir. Abbaspur, Bagh and Poonch River can be viewed from Toli Pir.
Toli Pir is the highest mountainous location in the northeastern area of Rawalakot; it is the point of origin of three different mountain ridges. The tourist rest house on the way to Toli Pir is also situated in a scenic location. There are some remains of an old mazar on the highest hilltop.
Toli Pir is most accessible during the summer months; the weather generally becomes colder from October through March.
AZAD KASHMIR MAJOR CITIES / TOWNS
Bagh, the Tehsil Headquarters of Distt. Poonch, is situate at the confluence of 2 mini rivers – Malwani and Mall which flow all the year round.
Bagh town comprises a minimum of 5,000 outlets and has a hospital. 2 rest homes are available for tourists. Permission for stay can be obtained from the nearby Forest Department, P.W.D.
Kotli is the chief town of Kotli District, within the Azad Kashmir. Kotli is connected with Mirpur by two metalled roads, one via Rajdhani, (90 km) and the different via Charhoi. It is conjointly directly connected with Rawalakot via Trarkhal (82 km) and a double road that links Kotli with the rest of Pakistan via Sehnsa, another major town in Azad Kashmir.
Mirpur (more usually known as New Mirpur City) is the capital of Mirpur district and is the largest city of Azad Kashmir. The city itself has gone through a process of modernization, while most of the surrounding space remains agricultural. Mirpur is known for its grand buildings and huge bungalow-houses primarily funded through its ex-pat community, which comes chiefly from the uk, Europe, Hong Kong, Middle East and North America. The main crop cultivated throughout summer is millet and pulses.
Situated at the confluence of the Jhelum and the Neelum rivers, Muzaffarabad the capital of the State of Azad Jammu and Kashmir is at a distance of eighty six miles from Rawalpindi and forty nine miles from Abbottabad. Surrounded by mountains, it looks like a walled town. It is the administrative capital of Azad Kashmir. Behind the Secretariat to the east is a road climbing above the town from where one can walk upto Pir Chinasi at 2,900 meters with good views of the Jhelum valley and the higher mountains above the Neelum to the north.
Poonch is a city and a municipal council in Poonch District in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. the city is close to the line of control – the de facto border with Pakistan’s Azad Kashmir.
Poonch is located at 33.77°N 74.1°E. It has a median elevation of 981 meters. The Pir Panjal range of mountains separates Poonch valley from the Kashmir valley.