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Chakwal is the capital and main city of Chakwal District located in the Dhanni region of the Pothohar in northern Punjab, Pakistan. The district is bordered by Khushab to its south, Rawalpindi to its north east, Jhelum to its east, Mianwali to its west and Attock to its north west. The district was created out of pats of Jhelum and Attock in 1985.
Chakwal city is located 90 kilometres south-east of the federal capital, Islamabad and 270 kilometres from provincial capital, Lahore. There are three ways to reach Chakwal city; by motorway through Kallarkahar exit, crossing bhaun and entering Chakwal in about 25 minutes, by Motorway through Chakwal exit, Balkasar interchange crossing Thoa Bahadur and entering city in about 30 minutes and by GT road taking Mandra exit before Rawat and following chakwal road in about 35 minutes.
Chakwal has been bestowed by rich culture, history, art and extravagant environment. Once been known as a picnic spot for the Mughal dynasty and the British Lords also holds the record for producing fine men like Colonel Muhammad Khan, Tabish Kamal, India's former prime minister Manmohan Singh and many other well reputed people. Chakwal District is also famous for Army Personnel in British Army during British Raj. Pakistan Army also have a large number of Troops from Chakwal District.
Chakwal has an urban population of 12%, the remainder is rural and that makes Chakwal, the district with largest rural population in Punjab, Pakistan. The common language of the people of Chakwal is Punjabi. Punjabi of Chakwal is a mixture of Pothohari, Saraiki and Hindi. Since people with different culture fused together, the languages also embraced each other.
In 997 CE, Sultan Mahmud Ghaznavi, took over the Ghaznavi dynasty empire established by his father, Sultan Sebuktegin. In 1005 he conquered the Shahis in Kabul in 1005, and followed it by the conquests of Punjab region. The Delhi Sultanate and later Mughal Empire ruled the region. The Punjab region became predominantly Muslim due to missionary Sufi saints whose dargahs dot the landscape of Punjab region. After the decline of the Mughal Empire, the Sikh Empire invaded and occupied the region. The Muslims faced restrictions during the Sikh rule. During the Mutiny of 1857 Chaudharials of Chakwal strengthened the hand of the British Raj by escorting the treasury from Chakwal to Rawalpindi and got the khilats and Jagirs.
During British rule, Chakwal was a tehsil of Jhelum district, the population according to the 1891 census of India was 164,912 which had fallen to 160,316 in 1901. It contained the towns of Chakwal and Bhaun and 248 villages. The predominantly Muslim population supported Muslim League and Pakistan Movement. After the independence of Pakistan in 1947, the minority Hindus and Sikhs migrated to India while the Muslims refugees from India settled down in the Chakwal District.
According to the 1998 census of Pakistan, the total population of Chakwal was 1,083,725 of which only 12.01% were urban making Chakwal the most rural district in Punjab. The literacy rate in 1998 was 57%. The predominant first language of the district is Punjabi, spoken by 97.7% of the population. Pashto is the first language of 1.2%, and Urdu of 0.9%. The local Punjabi dialects are Dhani and Awankari.
There is one district council, two municipal committees, Chakwal and Talagang and two town committees, Choa Saidan Shah and Kallar Kahar. In addition to being the district headquarters, Chakwal city is also the administrative centre of Chakwal tehsil (a subdivision of the district). The Chakwal District is divided into five Tehsils, namely, Kalarkahar, Choa Saidan Shah, Talagang, Lawa and Chakwal. The city of Chakwal itself is divided into five Union councils and Chakwal district is divided into 68 union councils. The district is represented in the provincial assembly by four elected MPAs and in National Assembly by two MNAs.
Chakwal has a total of 1,199 government schools out of which 52 percent (627 schools) are for girl students. The district has an enrolment of 181,574 in public sector schools. Approximately 400 schools are working in private sectors. Madrasas (Religious Schools) are not included.
Kashmir Book Depot is providing services in the field of education nearly about half century. This firm is built by Malik Muhammad Dawood. He was the first person of the district who introduced graduation level, master level, English medium and competitive examination books. He is the sole whole seller of the district, who is providing services of educational, religious, General, Madaris Educational books and publishing local cultural books.
Chakwal is mainly an agriculture area. Currently Chakwal is famous for production of international standard oranges, wheat, barley, sugarcane, and many other fruits and vegetables. Many cement companies including the Best Way Cement Factory, the largest factory in Asia is located in District Chakwal.
Chakwal district borders the districts of Rawalpindi and Attock in the north, Jhelum in the east, Khushab in the south and Mianwali in the west. The total area of Chakwal district is 6,609 square kilometres, which is equivalent to 1,652,443 acres (6,687.20 km2). Chakwal's landscape features the canyons in Thirchak-Mahal. There are man-made and natural lakes around the city in neighbouring communities. The small dams around the city have become picnic spots for their beauty. Some of the famous dams are: Dhok Taalian dam, Kot Raja dam, Khokhar zer dam and Dharabi dam.
The southern portion runs up into the Salt Range, and includes the Chail peak, 3,701 feet (1,128 m) above the sea level, highest point in the district. Between this and the Sohan river, which follows more or less the northern boundary, the country consists of what was once a fairly level plain, sloping down from 2,000 feet (610 m) at the foot of the hills to 1,400 feet (430 m) in the neighbourhood of the Sohan, the surface is now much cut up by ravines and is very difficult to travel over.
Lying at the beginning of the Pothohar plateau and the Salt Range, Chakwal is a barani district and the terrain is mainly hilly, covered with scrub forest in the southwest and levelled plains interspaced with dry rocky patches in the north and northeast. Largest Rakh in Chakwal is Smarkand Rakh which is located between Kallar Kahar and Talagang tehsils.
The Chinji National Park is near Kot Chuadarian, which was established in 1987 and is a protected area of IUCN category II (national park). Odharwal Town is the centre of the water division of district. It's eastern part water flows into Jehlum River and western and north parts flow into Sindh River via Sohan River. Springs are spread in whole district whereas Hot Spring is available at Balkasar.
Chakwal is a unique place in the perspective of tourism. Unlike northern areas of Pakistan, roads here are not blocked by landslides or snowfall. The Islamabad-Lahore Motorway provides easy access and almost every kind of tourism is available in Chakwal. Water sport, survival tourism, hunting, trekking, mountaineering, night safari and much more can be enjoyed in Chakwal.
The Chakwal district has also at offer the fascinating natural beauty in the Salt Range, fields of wild flowers, rare plants, and the views of a mesmerising lake, or a captivating dam or just an eye-catching landscape filling the heart with joy and can make the day of any tourist.
It had great potential for religious tourism as it had Katas Raj, one of the holiest sites for Hindus all over the world. Apart from the Katas Raj Temple Complex, Chakwal district has seven other historic sites - Kallar Kahar, Malot Fort, Kussak Fort, Makhiyala Fort, Sammarkand Fort and Nandna Fort. The district also has 22 dams and seven natural lakes. Interestingly, the ancient geographer Alberuni measured the radius of the earth sitting at the top of Nandna Fort.
Over the centuries, invaders like Ghaznavi, Ghauri, Taimur, Babar and Ranjit Singh attacked these forts. The famous battle between the armies of Alexander the Great and Raja Porus was also fought in Salt Range area.
Fossils dating back to millions of years have been discovered in areas of Kallar Kahar and Dhok Bun Amir Khatoon near Katas Raj. The Katas Raj itself is a wonderful site that has survived the wrath of time and stands with its grandeur intact to this day. The hilly terrain of Salt Range which passes through Chakwal district is dotted with a number of lakes and historic sites.
Dharabi Dam, the largest dam in the district, is just 4km away from Balkassar Interchange on the motorway. Its scenic environs can make the dam the focus tourism in Chakwal. Salman Taseer, a former governor of Punjab, had such a plan. He had purchased land on the bank of Dharabi Dam to build a hotel but his life was, unfortunately, cut short by his own official bodyguard.
Chehal Abdal peak near Basharat village is the highest mountain top in the three districts of Chakwal, Jhelum and Mianwali. A shrine on this peak attracts devotees as well as picnickers. The place can be developed into a tourist attraction.
Chakwak has limited hotels and the best way to visit Chakwal is to take excursion to Chakwal from Lahore or Islamabad.