Mirpur more commonly 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, and most of the surrounding area remains agricultural. Mirpur is known for its grand buildings and large bungalows, primarily funded through its expatriate community, 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.
A significant portion of the population from the district migrated to the United Kingdom in the mid-to-late 1950s and in the early 1960s, mostly to West Yorkshire, East Midlands, West Midlands, Luton, Peterborough, Derby and East London. In fact, 70% of all British Pakistanis are British Mirpuris. Mirpur is thus sometimes known as “Little England”.Many British products are found, and many shops in the city accept the pound sterling.
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 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.
Electronic and print media are rapidly increasing in number. There are many daily newspaper published in Mirpur.
Football, cricket and volleyball are popular in Mirpur. Mirpur has a cricket stadium, Quaid-e-Azam Stadium.
There are registered sports clubs:A-5 Cricket Club, Al-Siraj Cricket Club, South Asia Cricket Club, Pilot Football Club, Youth Football Club and Kashmir National FC.
The district football team of Mirpur take part in the All Azad Jammu and Kashmir take part in football championships.
CNG auto rickshaws are very popular mode of transport for short routes within the city. The city’s transport system links it to a number of destinations in Azad Kashmir notably Bhimber, Jatlan, Chakswari, Dadyal, Kotli and Khoi Ratta and to major cities in Pakistan as well as including services to Gujrat, Jhelum, Kharian, Gujranwala, Lahore and Rawalpindi. There is no railway station in Mirpur. The closest station is in Dina. The promise of a rail extension to Mirpur has not been fulfilled.
Islamabad Airport which services the Mirpur region is 130 km away. Sialkot International Airport is 110 kilometres away
An international airport has been planned. The location of the airport has not been determined, but possible locations near Mirpur are Mangla, Jatlan and Bhalwhara. In August 2013, the National Assembly and the prime minister approved the airport. It was determined that the airport would be constructed in two years after funding
Mirpur is the shopping capital of Azad Kashmir. The shopping area is centred on Chowk Shaheed, Mian Mohammed Road, Puranian/Hattian, Nangi and Allama Iqbal Road.
Mirpur has food centres and restaurants. Samosa and fish are specialties. In terms of restaurants, there is a variety of food areas from takeaways to high-class restaurants. There is also a Thai restaurant. Some restaurants specialise in local Pothwari/Punjabi dishes.