DESTINATION Muzaffarabad-AJK | By Ch. Faisal Mahmood
Muzaffarabad is the capital of Azad Jammu & Kashmir, Pakistan, located on the banks of the Jhelum and Neelum rivers and serves as the cultural, legislative and financial capital of Azad Kashmir. Cradled by lofty mountains, its society reflects a blend of various cultures and languages.
Situated at the confluence of the Jhelum and Neelum rivers, the city is 138 km from Rawalpindi and about 76 km from Abbottabad. It is connected to Islamabad by a motorway, which has facilitated trade between the mainland and the autonomous region. The closest railway stations are Havelian, Rawalpindi.
The original name of Muzaffarabad was Udabhanda which was the capital of the Shahi dynasty which ruled portions of the Kabul Valley, in eastern Afghanistan and the old province of Gandhara from the decline of the Kushan Empire in third century to the early ninth century. The name “Muzaffarabad” comes from the name of Sultan Khan Muzaffar Khan, a Muslim ruler of Khandan-e-Bomba. After the 1948–49 war, Muzaffarabad was made the capital of Azad Jammu and Kashmir.
Its people of Muzaffarabad are a highly literate and business orientated class, maintaining close trade and social ties with Rawalpindi, Islamabad and rest of Pakistan
It is not commonly mentioned but Muzaffarabad is a prime destination for higher education institutions which have produced many doctors, engineers, lawyers and businessmen.
Being the capital of the state it has all the necessary facilities of life. In addition, there are two historical forts, the Red Fort and the Black Fort, situated on opposite sides of river Neelum which streams, proudly through the hub of the town, joins river Jhelum at Domel and plays a dominant role in the micro climate of Muzaffarabad.
Domel, the junction point of Neelum and Jhelum Rivers, presents a magic beauty from here. At the right bank of River Jhelum near this site, an established “Food Point” offers the delicacy of the famous “Kashmiri Cuisine” and other varieties of local traditional dishes of Kashmiri origin. Lohaar Gali situated 9 kilometers from the city, offers a bird eye view of the capital city. At night, the lights of the city present an unforgettable scene from this point.
The Red fort is a witness to the ancient history of this great city. tracing a chequered history. It is said that construction of the Fort was initially taken up by the Chuk rulers to counter the offensives of the intruders. However, Sultan Muzaffarabad Khan, the founder of Muzaffarabad town, finally completed it in 1646. During the mughal rule in Kashmir this Fort lost its importance, as they were more interested in other parts of their empire.But when Durrani’s took over the rule of this area, it regained importance and during the dogra rule of Maharaja Ghulab Singh and Maharaja Ranbir Singh, the fort was reconstructed and extended according to their political and militaries’ requirements. However, towards the end of 1947, the Dogra’s fled away leaving the fort wide open.
The awe-inspiring locus, at an altitude of 2,924 meters above sea level is located eastward of Muzaffarabad is a place of tremendous scenic beauty, velvet green plateaus and wonderful climate, it wins admiration of nature lovers. The view of the summit of the neighboring mountain peaks spell bounds a tourist. Devotees of Saint Shah Hussain Bukhari, undertake pilgrimages here.
A Tourist Lodge at Saran provides excellent accommodation facilities to the tourists. The natural beauty of the place attracts visitors who, once they are here, want to prolong their stay. The picturesque Shaheed Gali, at a height of about 1,640 meters above sea level is bound to fascinate tourists, for whom an excellent Rest House is available here.
Located at a distance of 19 Km from Muzaffarabad, it is a gateway to Neelum Valley and can be the first journey break on the way. A mini zoo and a fish hatchery have turned the place into a popular destination for tourists and site of diversions. AJ&K Tourism Department has constructed a Tourist Rest House here, which is very popular among tourists.
This is an ideal valley for both the domestic and ‘international tourists. The curling river Jhelum passes through from East to West between the high green mountains of this valley and joins the river Neelum at Domel near Muzaffarabad city. A 59 Km long metalled road runs along the river Jhelum from Muzaffarabad to Chokothi, which is located adjacent to Line of Control Buses and wagons ply on this route regularly.
This is the most fascinating & loveliest valley in Azad Kashmir. A metalled road branches off for Leepa from Naily,45 kilometers from Muzaffarabad, climbs over the Reshian Gali 3200 meters high and then descends to 1677 meters on the other side into the valley It spellbounds anyone who visits this valley which remains open for tourists from May to December.