Rawalpindi راولپݨڈى, commonly known as Pindi پݨڈى,, is a city and capital of Rawalpindi Division located in the Punjab province of Pakistan. Rawalpindi is the fourth-largest city proper in Pakistan, while the larger Islamabad-Rawalpindi metropolitan area is also the country’s fourth-largest metropolitan area. Rawalpindi is adjacent to Pakistan’s capital of Islamabad, and the two are jointly known as the “twin cities” on account of strong social and economic links between the cities.
Rawalpindi is located on the Pothohar Plateau, known for its ancient Buddhist heritage, especially in the neighboring town of Taxila – a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city was destroyed during the invasion of Mahmud of Ghazni before being taken over by Gakhars in 1493. In 1765, the ruling Gakhars were defeated as the city came under Sikh rule, and eventually became a major city within the Sikh Empire based in Lahore. The city was conquered by the British Raj in 1849, and in 1851 became the largest garrison town of the British Indian Army. Following the partition of British India in 1947, the city became home to the headquarters of Pakistan Army hence retaining its status as a major military city.
Construction of Pakistan’s new purpose-built national capital city of Islamabad in 1961 led to greater investment in the city, as well as a brief stint as the country’s capital immediately before completion of Islamabad. Modern Rawalpindi is socially and economically intertwined with Islamabad, and the greater metropolitan area. The city is also home to numerous suburban housing developments that serve as bedroom-communities for workers in Islamabad. As home to GHQ of Pakistan Army & Benazir Bhutto International Airport, and with connections to the M-1 and M-2 motorways, Rawalpindi is a major logistics and transportation centre for northern Pakistan. The city is also home to historic havelis and temples, and serves as a hub for tourists visiting Rohtas Fort, Azad Kashmir, Taxila and Gilgit-Baltistan.
The region around Rawalpindi has been inhabited for thousands of years. Rawalpindi falls within the ancient boundaries of Gandhara, and is in a region littered with Buddhist ruins. In the region north-west of Rawalpindi, traces have been found of at least 55 stupas, 28 Buddhist monasteries, 9 temples, and various artifacts in the Kharoshthi script.
To the southeast are the ruins of the Mankiala stupa – a 2nd-century stupa where, according to the Jataka tales, a previous incarnation of the Buddha leapt off a cliff in order to offer his corpse to seven hungry tiger cubs. The nearby town of Taxila is thought to have been home to the world’s first university. Sir Alexander Cunningham identified ruins on the site of the Rawalpindi Cantonment as the ancient city of Ganjipur (or Gajnipur), the capital of the Bhatti tribe in the ages preceding the Christian era.
The first mention of Rawalpindi’s earliest settlement dates from when Mahmud of Ghazni destroyed Rawalpindi and the town was restored by Gakhar chief Kai Gohar in the early 11th century. The town fell into decay again after Mongol invasions in the 14th century. Situated along an invasion route, the settlement did not prosper and remained deserted until 1493, when Jhanda Khan re-established the ruined town, and named it Rawal.
The 16th century Rawat Fort offered military protection to Rawalpindi.
During the Mughal era, Rawalpindi remained under the rule of the Ghakhar clan, who in turn pledged allegiance to the Mughal Empire. The city was developed as an important outpost in order to guard the frontiers of the Mughal realm.Gakhars fortified a nearby caravanserai, in the 16th century, transforming it into the Rawat Fort in order to defend the Pothohar plateau from Sher Shah Suri’s forces. Construction of the Attock Fort in 1581 after Akbar led a campaign against his brother Mirza Muhammad Hakim, further securing Rawalpindi’s environs. In December 1585, the Emperor Akbar arrived in Rawalpindi, and remained in and around Rawalpindi for 13 years as he extended the frontiers of the empire, in an era described as a “glorious period” in his career as Emperor.
With the onset of chaos and rivalry between Gakhar chiefs after the death of Kamal Khan in 1559, Rawalpindi was awarded to Said Khan by the Mughal Emperor. The Emperor Jehangir visited the royal camp in Rawalpindi in 1622, where he first learned of Shah Abbas I of Persia’s plan to invade Kandahar.
Rawalpindi declined in importance as Mughal power declined, until the town was captured in the mid 1760s from Muqarrab Khan by the Sikhs under Sardar Gujjar Singh and his son Sahib Singh. The city’s administration was handed to Sardar Milkha Singh, who then invited traders from the neighboring commercial centers of Jhelum and Shahpur to settle in the territory in 1766.The city then began to prosper, although the population in 1770 is estimated to have been only about 300 families. Rawalpindi became for a time the refuge of Shah Shuja, the exiled king of Afghanistan, and of his brother Shah Zaman in the early 19th century.
Sikh ruler Maharaja Ranjit Singh allowed the son of Sardar Milkha Singh to continue as Governor of Rawalpindi, after Ranjit Singh seized the district in 1810. Sikh rule over Rawalpindi was consolidated by defeat of the Afghans at Haidaran in July 1813 The Sikh rulers allied themselves with some of the local Gakhar tribes, and jointly defeated Syed Ahmad Barelvi at Akora Khattak in 1827, and again in 1831 in Balakot. Jews first arrived in Rawalpindi’s Babu Mohallah neighbourhood from Mashhad, Persia in 1839, in order to flee from anti-Jewish laws instituted by the Qajar dynasty. In 1841, Diwan Kishan Kaur was appointed Sardar of Rawalpindi.
On 14 March 1849, Sardar Chattar Singh and Raja Sher Singh of the Sikh Empire surrendered to General Gilbert near Rawalpindi, ceding the city to the British. The Sikh Empire then came to an end on 29 March 1849.
Rawalpindi’s Fatima Jinnah Women University is housed in a Victorian mansion.
Following Rawalpindi’s capture by the British East India company, 53rd Regiment of the company army took quarters in the newly captured city. The decision to man a permanent military cantonment in the city was made in 1851 by the Marquess of Dalhousie. The city saw its first telegraph office in the early 1850s. The city’s Garrison Church was built shortly after in 1854, and is the site where Robert Milman, Bishop of Calcutta, was buried following his death in Rawalpindi in 1876. The city was home to 15,913 people in the 1855 census. During the 1857 Sepoy Mutiny, the area’s Gakhars and Janjua tribes remained loyal to the British.
Numerous civil and military buildings were built during the British era, and the Municipality of Rawalpindi was constituted in 1867,while the city’s population as per the 1868 census was 19,228, with another 9,358 people residing in the city’s cantonment. The city was also connected to railways that offered connection to India and the northwest frontier in Peshawar in the 1880s. The Commissariat Steam Flour Mills were the first such mills in Punjab, and supplied most of the needs of British cantonments throughout Punjab. Rawalpindi’s cantonment served as a feeder to other cantonments throughout the region.
Rawalpindi flourished as a commercial centre, though the city remained largely devoid of an industrial base during the British era. A large portion of Kashmir’s external trade passing through the city; in 1885, 14% of Kashmir’s exports, and 27% of its imports passed through the city. A large market was opened in central Rawalpindi in 1883 by Sardar Sujan Singh, while the British further developed a shopping district for the city’s elite known as Saddar with an archway built to commemorate Brigadier General Massey.
Rawalpindi’s cantonment became a major center of military power of the Raj after an arsenal was established in 1883. Britain’s army elevated the city from a small town, to the third largest city in Punjab by 1921. In 1868, 9,358 people lived in the city’s cantonment – by 1891, the number rose to 37,870. In 1891, the city’s population excluding the Cantonment was 34,153. The city was considered to be a favourite first posting for newly arrived soldiers from England, owing to the city’s agreeable climate, and nearby hill station at nearby Murree. In 1901, Rawalpindi was made the winter headquarters of the Northern Command and of the Rawalpindi military division. Riots broke out against British rule in 1905, following a famine in Punjab that peasants were led to believe was a deliberate act.
During World War 1, Rawalpindi District “stood first” among districts in recruiting for the British war effort, with greater financial assistance from the British government channeled into the area in return. By 1921, Rawalpindi’s cantonment had overshadowed the city – Rawalpindi was one of seven cities of Punjab in which over half the population lived in the cantonment district. Communal riots erupted between Rawalpindi’s Sikh and Muslim communities in 1926 after Sikhs refused to silence music from a procession that was passing in front of a mosque.
HMS Rawalpindi was launched as an ocean liner in 1925 by Harland and Wolff, the same company which built RMS Titanic. The ship was converted into an armed vessel, and was sunk in October 1939. The British government carried out poison gas testing on Indian troops during the Rawalpindi experiments over the course of more than a decade beginning in the 1930s.
On 5 March 1947, members of Rawalpindi’s Hindu and Sikh communities took out a procession against the formation of a Muslim ministry within the Government of Punjab. Policemen fired upon protestors, while Hindus and Sikhs fought against weaker Muslim counter-protestors. The area’s first Partition riots erupted the next day on 6 March 1947, when the city’s Muslims, angered by the actions of Hindus and Sikhs and encouraged by the Pir of Golra Sharif, raided nearby villages after they were unable to do so in the city on account of Rawalpindi’s heavily armed Sikhs.
At the dawn of Pakistan’s independence in 1947 following the success of the Pakistan Movement, Rawalpindi was a 43.79% Muslim, while Rawalpindi District as a whole was 80% Muslim. The region, on account of its large Muslim majority, was thus awarded to Pakistan. Rawalpindi’s Hindu and Sikh population, who had made up 33.72% and 17.32% of the city, migrated en masse to the newly independent Dominion of India after communal riots in western Punjab, while Muslim refugees from India settled in the city following anti-Muslim pogroms in eastern Punjab and northern India.
In the years following independence, Rawalpindi saw an influx of Muslim refugees, Pashtun and Kashmiri settlers. Having been the largest British Cantonment in the region at the dawn of Pakistan’s independence, Rawalpindi was chosen as headquarters for the Pakistani Army, despite the fact that Karachi had been selected as the first capital.
In 1951, the Rawalpindi conspiracy took place in which leftist army officers conspired to depose the first elected Prime Minister of Pakistan, Liaquat Ali Khan. Rawalpindi later became the site of the Liaquat Ali Khan’s assassination, in what is now known as Liaquat Bagh Park. In 1958, Field Marshal Ayub Khan launched his coup d’etat from Rawalpindi. In 1959, the city became the interim capital of the country under Ayub Khan, who had sought the creation of a new planned capital of Islamabad in the vicinity of Rawalpindi. As a result, Rawalpindi saw most major central government offices and institutions relocate to nearby territory, and its population rapidly expand.
Construction of Pakistan’s new capital city of Islamabad in 1961 led to greater investment in Rawalpindi. Rawalpindi remained the headquarters of the Pakistani Army after the capital shifted to Islamabad in 1969, while the Pakistan Air Force continues to maintain an airbase in the Chaklala district of Rawalpindi. The military dictatorship of General Zia ul Haq hanged Pakistan’s deposed Prime Minister, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, in Rawalpindi in 1979.
In 1980, tens of thousands of Shia protestors led by Mufti Jaffar Hussain marched on Rawalpindi to protest a provision of Zia ul Haqs Islamization programme. A spate of bombings in September 1987 took place in the city killing 5 people, in attacks that are believed to have been orchestrated by agents of Afghanistan’s communist government.
Modern Rawalpindi is socially and economically intertwined with Islamabad, and the greater metropolitan area. The city is also home to numerous suburban housing developments that serve as bedroom-communities for workers in Islamabad. In June 2015, the Rawalpindi-Islamabad Metrobus, a new bus rapid transit line with various points in Islamabad, opened for service.