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About Murree


Murree is a mountainous area, forming part of outer Himalayas, situated at 33.35’ north latitude and 73. 27’ eastern longitudes. It consists of four gradually increasing supers. On highest among them is situated Murree city itself at height of 7500 feet. Others include Patriata, Kuldana and Gharial. It is bounded by River Jehlum in the east, NWFP districts of Abbottabad and Heripur to the North and West, Islamabad Capital Territory to the Southwest and Kotli Sattian Tehsil (town) of Rawalpindi district to the South.

Pre Sikh Period

Administrative division of region comprising the whole area including present day Islamabad, districts of Rawalpindi, Jehlum and Attock of Punjab and Haripur, Abbottabad and Mansehra of NWFP has been changing from time to time throughout the history. Gazetteer of Rawalpindi District 1893-4, quoting historians of Alexander the Great, states that at the time of the Greek invasion the hill country North and Northeast of Taxila comprising present day Murree and Kahuta (including Kotli Sattian which was created as a tehsil in 1993 a century later) was ruled by Abhisar. The kingdom was named after the king.

During the Mughal period all hilly and semi hilly areas east of Haripur plains were part of Fatehpur Babari (Rawalpindi) under the the governorship of Gakkars. Murree, Kahuta, Kotli Sattian, parts of present day Haripur and Abbottabad districts formed part of the Khakhar governorship. The Hazara plains, present district of Haripur were part of Attock district while the Mansehra region, then called Pakhli sarkar was governed from Kashmir.

The writer of Gazetter of Hazara 1883-4 states that Khanpur, the Dhund and Karral country including the Rojoiya Ilaka (region) were part of the district. All the tribes acknowledged nominal supremacy of the Gakkars. However, as the Mughal power declined the Dhunds, Karrals and Jadun started to assert themselves and refused to pay any revenue to anyone. The situation seems to have continued during the Afghan period. In the local parlance this era in the history is called “apraji’ or self rule.

The Sikh Period

Sikh Sardar Milka Singh Thepuria occupied Rawalpindi in late seventeenth century but hilly areas including the Dhund and Karral country retained independence. Though Milka Singh granted 107 villages of the hill track Ghakkar chiefs but the gift was more nominal then real.

Maharaja Ranjit Singh took direct control of the Rawalpindi District in 1820. The Sikh armies, under the command of Hari Singh, attacked the area twice during next ten years but failed to subjugate the Karral and Dhund tribes inhabiting the area.

Frustrated by the continued resistance by the local population, in 1831 Maharaja Ranjit Singh entrusted the rule of the area to Sardar Ghulab Singh, then Sikh Governor of Muzaffarabad. Sardar Ghulab Singh treated the local population, especially the Dhond tribe, in a very harsh manner. He let loose his Sikh army over the tribe. His soldiers were rewarded one rupee for every hill man slain. It is said that the killing by the troops of Sardar Ghulab Singh became so numerous that it became a burden on his treasury. As a result, the reward was first reduced to half a rupee per person killed and then was further reduced to quarter of a rupee.

However, as the Sikh empire started to disintegrate in the aftermath of palace intrigues which engulfed the Lahore court after the death of Maharaja Ranjit Singh in 1839, the Dhunds and Karrals again rose in revolt and the troops had to be sent from Lahore to quell the resistance.

British Period

Under the terms of Treaty of Lahore of March 9, 1946 signed after First Anglo Sikh War between the British government and Maharaja Duleep Singh of Punjab, Kashmir and Hazara were ceded to the British government in lieu of payment of ten million rupees which the Sikh state was to pay to the British in punishment for waging war against them. Later following week the British Government conferred the title of Maharaja on Sardar Gulab Singh of Jammu. On March 16,1846 the British government and Maharaja Gulab Singh singed the treaty of Amritsar. Under the treaty the British government ceded all the area between river Ravi and Indus, (Kashmir and Hazara) to the Maharaja against payment of seventy-five lakh of rupees (7.5 million Nanakshahi).

There was resistance to the British decision all over Hazara and Kashmir. Though Shamsuddin the Governor of Kashmir later accepted the treaty under threat of army action by the British and hand over reign to Gulab Singh , but the resistance in the Hazara continued. As a consequence Maharaja Gulab Singh requested the British to exchange Hazara with territories near Jammu. The British government, which in the meantime annexed the Punjab in March 1849, accepted the request and took over the Hazara district from Maharaja Gulab Singh.

At the time of British took over, all the hilly areas east of Rawalpindi formed part of the Hazara District. In July 1850 the British government decided to hand over 309 villages Hazara to Rawalpindi. The ilakas (regions) handed over the the Rawalpindi district from Hazara included Pulgran, Kurri, Mughal, (Rawalpindi Tehsil) Charhan, Dewal, Kotli, Karor (Murree Tehsil) Jasgam, Kahuta, Kairo , Murree (Kahuta Tehsil) and Haro (Attock tehsil). However, parts of Dhund areas like Bakot, Boi, and Lora and the Karral country which formed part of Rawalpindi before 1831 were not returned to the Rawalpindi district and were kept in Hazara, which at that time consisted of Tehsils of Haripur and Mansehra. Tehsil Abbottabad was created in 1874 and most of these areas were included in the new Tehsil. Later in 1901 the Province of North West Frontier Province was created and Hazara district was merged into the new province. Thus the people of same ethnic group living together for centuries were divided into two provinces by virtue of the decision taken in July 1850.

Laying of Murree City

Habitually, the people of Murree preferred the low laying area, where climate was more favourable for agriculture and tops of the mountains were forests and pastures. However, due to their climate the same heights were liked by the British and they decided to build the same as a "little England" in the Punjab. For this purpose they purchased and leased hill tops from the local Dhond tribe under different agreements.

The Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner of Rawalpindi established their summer offices in the area in 1851. Soon the area became famous in the British Indian empire and more and more tourists and businessmen started to arrive in the area. Murree Sanatorium Committee was established in 1851. The committee was renamed as municipal committee in 1867.The British soldiers arrived in Murree in 1850. Initially they encamped at Nandkot near Tret, about thirty kilometers from Islamabad. However they had to leave the place and go present site of Murree as there were large number of cases where soldiers were bitten by snakes.

Barracks for the soldiers were built in 1853 and proper houses started to be constructed.

War of Independence[Mutiny]

The local tribes, have long history of resistance to Afghan and Sikh rule, initially did give much thought to the British occupation. But as the British started to settle in the eyebrows were raised and they started thinking about waging war against the new invaders. By the time of the War of Independence, or what the British called spy rebellion, the people of Murree were already convinced about military struggle against the British. As the news about the war came in, the tribes started consultations with this effect. According to the gazetteer of Rawalpindi 1893, the British government received reports of pledges among the tribesmen for the purpose in May, June 1857. The British called to local tribal heads to Murree and detained them in the name of consultations. However, as it seemed to be counterproductive so the tribesmen were allowed to return to their villages. On September 2, 1857 the local tribesmen, belonging to Dhond (Abbasi) tribe attacked the British settlements. However, the British got the information about the attack before hand and were well prepared and the Dhond attack was repulsed with heavy losses. In the meantime more force was called from Rawalpindi and services of loyal tribes were also called.

With increased force the British government started retaliatory action against the Dhond tribe. A number of tribesmen were killed during the operation and their villages were put on fire. Many others were arrested. Seeing the fate of the Dhond tribe, other hill tribes, who had earlier pledged their support to Dhonds, changed sides and assured their support to the British government. After the end of the war those under arrest were charged for various offences and their properties were confiscate. On October 17, 1858, 23 persons were blasted away by tying them in front of cannon. That brutal act took place at agency ground adjacent of Army Public School. Others were sent in banishment to Andaman and Nicobar islands for life.

As a collective punishment Dhonds were banned from joining any government service. The ban was only lifted at the start of present century but still the British animosity was not removed and they were continued to be called as treacherous, mischievous and untrustworthy in the government chronicles.

After First War of Independence ['sepoy mutiny']

The Mall Road was constructed in 1860 and buildings were constructed on one side of the road while no constructed was allowed on the other side to maintain the beauty of the surroundings. This law continued to be strictly followed for next hundred and thirty years. In early 1990s, the law was allowed to be violated which has resulted in undesired construction on the Mall and defaced its natural beauty 

Murree was declared summer capital of the Punjab in 1873. The capita had to be shifted to Simla (now Hamachal Pradesh India) owing to widespread cases of Diarrhea. At the start of twentieth century the British government established cantonments and military establishments at various places around Murree including Kuldana, Gharial, Upper and Lower Topa, Barian, and Kalabagh (near Nathiagalli). In the meantime Murree was also declared summer headquarter of the Northern Command of Indian Army which further increased Murree's position. During the period a number of English medium schools for the children of British families and solders were established. They included the Lawrence college, Saint Dynes and convent of Juses and Merry. After independence Murree continued to progress with each passing day and it popularity increased among the common Pakistanis. Before independence the entry of people of the Subcontinent to the Mall Road was very restricted.

Roads and Communication

Jehlum valley provides Punjab and thus the whole of South Asia the most easiest access into the vale of Kashmir. It is the only all weather route to the valley of Kashmir. Consequently for centuries Murree has served as gateway to Kashmir wit whom it has long and deep ethnic, cultural, social and linguistic similarities and link. and the Because of this By virtue of its geographical location Murree was always used as gateway the the state.

Historically, since time immemorial, a network of roads and ferry services were available accros River Jehlum to connect Kashmir Valley with other parts of the South Asian Subcontinent. The Gazetteer of Kashmir 1873 as well as The Gazetteer of Rawalpindi 1873 mention different routs connecting Rawalpindi with Kashmir and passing through Murree at the time of the British conquest consquest of Punjab which at that time included Kashmir, Murree as well as adjoining Hazara region of Kyber Pakhtoonkhwa.

One of such important roads passed through Murree and entered Kashmir at Kohala after passing through Dewal. The distance from Murree to Kashmir through this road was 163 miles. Murree being 40 miles Of which 21 miles were in Murree and remaining in Kashmir. There was a ferry service available at Kohala. The Gazetteer of Kashmir 1873 says that there was an old fort at Dewal, 12 miles from Murree. Dhak Banglows were available at (Ausia, near Dewal) and Kohala. This road ran closer to the present day Khaqan Abbasi road [ formerly Kohala Bridal road] which passes through Bhurban and joins Rawalpindi-Murree-Muzaffarabad-Srinagar road at Abbasian village near Kohala. Suspension bridge was constructed at Kohala in 1872 to replace the crossing by ferry which was dangerous and often resulted deaths due to capsizing of ferries. The suspension bridge made way for a new bridge in 1896. Likewise There were roads connecting Poonch with to Punjab passing through Murree.

There were three tracks from Poonch to Murree. Two of these roads joined at Kohala and crossed the river from there. The third one, Poonch-Ser Kakota-Kalapani-Parral-Raoli road crossed the River Jehlum at Khoaddar, 16 miles from Murree, where a ferry service was available. It was regarded as the easiest and the best route to Poonch from the Punjab. Besides Kohala and Khoaddar ferries were available to cross the river Jehlum at Serri, Malot Sattian, Rampattan and Lachman. Suspension Bridges were constructed both at Malot Sattian as well as Koaddar in 1956. A concrete bridge at Malot Sattian has repalced since than and is used as an indepndent rout from Rawalpindi to Rawalakot in Pakistani administered Poonch district of Kashmir. Koaddar, though has not though cought the attention of the policy makers despite the fact that connecting roads are available from both sides of the River. The suspecion bridge is, however, used to small vehicles.

Construction of matelled road between Rawalpindi and Murree was completed in 1873 and same was extended to Kohala and onwards to Kashmir in 1917. The section of the road between Murree to Kohala was realigned. The new section eighteen miles longer then the old road. After the construction of the new road the old road became in disuse for almost a century till it was realigned and metalled in 1970. Besides the Rawalpindi-Murree road constructed after the British occupation, there were small paths connecting Murree with Rawalpindi through different routes.

Till 1922 only tangas and bullcarts used to run between Rawalpindi and Murree and onwards to Baramula in Kashmir. In 1922 solid tyre bus-cum-truck called lorries started to run on the road. Later hollow tyre buses and trucks were introduced. Great strides were made in the construction of road network in the Murree subdivision after independence and now the area has a wide network connecting almost each village with main roads.

A new four lane dual carriage Highway [N-75] has been constructed. It separates from the old Rawalpindi-Murree-Muzaffarabad-Srinagar road at Satra Mile near Islamabad and joins it again at Lower Topa near Murree. The road called Rawalpindi-Murree Expressway was formally inaugurated by Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani on August 30 2011. It is part of Rawalpindi-Murzaffarabad Expressway. The work on Lower Topa- Kohala and Kohala Muzaffarabad sections of the project will commence soon.

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