Azad Jammu and Kashmir (Urdu: آزاد جموں و کشمیر Āzād Jammū̃ o Kaśmīr, translation: Free Jammu and Kashmir), abbreviated as AJK and commonly known as Azad Kashmir, is a nominally self-governing polity administered by Pakistan. The territory lies west of the Indian-administered state of Jammu and Kashmir, and was previously part of the former princely state of Jammu and Kashmir.
Azad Jammu and Kashmir
آزاد جموں و کشمیر
Sharda town in Neelum Valley, Azad Kashmir
Azad Jammu and Kashmir is shown in red and rest of Pakistan is shown in white and rest of Jammu and Kashmir is hatched showing area with Pakistan's territorial claim
|Anthem||Watan Hamara Azad Kashmir|
|Established||October 24, 1947 (Azad Kashmir Day)|
|Largest city||New Mirpur City|
|• Type||Self-governing state under Pakistani administration|
|• Body||Azad Jammu & Kashmir Legislative Assembly|
|• President||Masood Khan|
|• Prime Minister||Raja Farooq Haider (Pakistan Muslim League (N))|
|• Total||13,297 km2 (5,134 sq mi)|
|• Total||4.45 million|
|Time zone||UTC+5 (PKT)|
|ISO 3166 code||PK-JK|
|Ethnic Groups||Gujjar (largest)|
Azad Kashmir is part of the greater Kashmir region, which is the subject of a long-running conflict between Pakistan and India. The territory shares a border with Gilgit-Baltistan, together with which it is referred to by the United Nations and other international organisations as "Pakistan administered Kashmir".[note 1] Azad Kashmir is one-sixth of the size of Gilgit-Baltistan. The territory also borders Pakistan's Punjab province to the south and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province to the west. To the east, Azad Kashmir is separated from the state of Jammu and Kashmir by the Line of Control, the de facto border between India and Pakistan. Azad Kashmir has a total area of 13,297 square kilometres (5,134 sq mi), and a total population of 4,045,366 as per the 2017 Census.
The territory has a parliamentary form of government modeled after the Westminster system, with its capital located at Muzaffarabad. The President is the constitutional head of state, while the Prime Minister, supported by a Council of Ministers, is the chief executive. The unicameral Azad Kashmir Legislative Assembly elects both the Prime Minister and President. The state has its own Supreme Court and a High Court, while the Government of Pakistan's Ministry of Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan serves as a link with Azad Kashmir's government, although Azad Kashmir is not represented in the Parliament of Pakistan.
The 2005 earthquake killed 100,000 people and left another three million people displaced, with widespread devastation. Since then, with help from the Government of Pakistan and foreign donors, reconstruction of infrastructure is underway. Azad Kashmir's economy largely depends on agriculture, services, tourism, and remittances sent by members of the British Mirpuri community. Nearly 87% of the households own farms in Azad Kashmir, while the region has a literacy rate of approximately 72% and has the highest school enrollment in Pakistan.
The northern part of Azad Jammu and Kashmir encompasses the lower area of the Himalayas, including Jamgarh Peak (4,734 m or 15,531 ft). However, Hari Parbat peak in Neelum Valley is the highest peak in the state. Fertile, green, mountainous valleys are characteristic of Azad Kashmir's geography, making it one of the most beautiful regions of the subcontinent.
The region receives rainfall in both the winter and the summer. Muzaffarabad and Pattan are among the wettest areas of Pakistan. Throughout most of the region, the average rainfall exceeds 1400 mm, with the highest average rainfall occurring near Muzaffarabad (around 1800 mm). During the summer season, monsoon floods of the rivers Jhelum and Leepa are common due to extreme rains and snow melting.
At the time of the Partition of India in 1947, the British abandoned their suzerainty over the princely states, which were left with the options of joining India or Pakistan or remaining independent. Hari Singh, the maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir, wanted his state to remain independent. Muslims in Western Jammu province (current day Azad Kashmir) and the Frontier Districts Province (current day Gilgit-Baltistan) had wanted to join Pakistan.
In Spring 1947, an uprising against the Maharaja broke out in Poonch, an area bordering the Rawalpindi division of West Punjab. Maharaja's administration is said to have started levying punitive taxes on the peasantry which provoked a local revolt and the administration resorted to brutal suppression. The area's population, swelled by recently demobilised soldiers following World War II, rebelled against the Maharaja's forces and gained control of almost the entire district. Following this victory, the pro-Pakistan chieftains of the western districts of Muzaffarabad, Poonch and Mirpur proclaimed a provisional Azad Jammu and Kashmir government in Rawalpindi on October 3, 1947.[note 2] Ghulam Nabi Gilkar, under the assumed name "Mr. Anwar," issued a proclamation in the name of the provisional government in Muzaffarabad. However, this government quickly fizzled out with the arrest of Anwar in Srinagar. On October 24, a second provisional government of Azad Kashmir was established at Palandri under the leadership of Sardar Ibrahim Khan.
On October 21, several thousand Pashtun tribesmen from North-West Frontier Province poured into Jammu and Kashmir to liberate it from the Maharaja's rule. They were led by experienced military leaders and were equipped with modern arms. The Maharaja's crumbling forces were unable to withstand the onslaught. The raiders captured the towns of Muzaffarabad and Baramulla, the latter 20 miles (32 km) northwest of the state capital Srinagar. On October 24, the Maharaja requested military assistance from India, which responded that it was unable to help him unless he acceded to India. Accordingly, on October 26, 1947, Maharaja Hari Singh signed an Instrument of Accession, handing over control of defence, external affairs and communications to the Government of India in return for military aid. Indian troops were immediately airlifted into Srinagar. Pakistan intervened subsequently. Fighting ensued between the Indian and Pakistani armies, with the two areas of control more or less stabilised around what is now known as the "Line of Control".
India later approached the United Nations, asking it to resolve the dispute, and resolutions were passed in favour of the holding of a plebiscite with regard to Kashmir's future. However, no such plebiscite has ever been held on either side, since there was a precondition which required the withdrawal of the Pakistani Army along with the non-state elements and the subsequent partial withdrawal of the Indian Army. from the parts of Kashmir under their respective control – a withdrawal that never took place. In 1949, a formal cease-fire line separating the Indian- and Pakistani-controlled parts of Kashmir came into effect.
Following the 1949 cease-fire agreement with India, the government of Pakistan divided the northern and western parts of Kashmir that it occupied at the time of cease-fire into the following two separately-controlled political entities:
- Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) – the narrow, southern part, 250 miles (400 km) long, with a width varying from 10 to 40 miles (16 to 64 km).
- Gilgit–Baltistan formerly called the Federally Administered Northern Areas (FANA) – the much larger political entity to the north of AJK with an area of 72,496 square kilometres (27,991 sq mi).
At one time under Pakistani control, Kashmir's Shaksgam tract, a small region along the northeastern border of Gilgit–Baltistan, was provisionally ceded by Pakistan to the People's Republic of China in 1963 and now forms part of China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.
In 1972, the then current border between the Indian and Pakistani controlled parts of Kashmir was designated as the "Line of Control". This line has remained unchanged since the 1972 Simla Agreement, which bound the two countries "to settle their differences by peaceful means through bilateral negotiations". Some political experts claim that, in view of that pact, the only solution to the issue is mutual negotiation between the two countries without involving a third party such as the United Nations. The 1974 Interim Constitution Act was passed by the 48-member Azad Jammu and Kashmir unicameral assembly.
Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) is a self-governing state under Pakistani control, but under Pakistan's constitution the state is informally part of the country. Pakistan is administering the region as a self-governing territory rather than incorporating it in the federation since the UN-mandated ceasefire. Azad Kashmir has its own elected President, Prime Minister, Legislative Assembly, High Court, with Azam Khan as its present chief justice, and official flag.
Azad Kashmir's financial matters, i.e., budget and tax affairs, are dealt with by the Azad Jammu and Kashmir Council rather than by Pakistan's Central Board of Revenue. The Azad Jammu and Kashmir Council is a supreme body consisting of 14 members, 8 from the government of Azad Jammu and Kashmir and 6 from the government of Pakistan. Its chairman/chief executive is the prime minister of Pakistan. Other members of the council are the president and the prime minister of Azad Kashmir(or and individual nominated by her/him) and 6 members of the AJK Legislative Assembly. Azad Kashmir Day is celebrated in Azad Jammu and Kashmir on October 24, which is the day that the Azad Jammu and Kashmir government was created in 1947. Pakistan has celebrated Kashmir Solidarity Day on February 5 of each year since 1990 as a day of protest against India's de facto sovereignty over its State of Jammu and Kashmir. That day is a national holiday in Pakistan. Kashmiris in Azad Kashmir observe the Kashmir Black Day on October 27 of each year since 1947 as day of protest against military occupation in Indian controlled Jammu and Kashmir.
Brad Adams the Asia director at the U.S.-based NGO Human Rights Watch has said in 2006; "Although 'azad' means 'free,' the residents of Azad Kashmir are anything but, the Pakistani authorities govern Azad Kashmir government with tight controls on basic freedoms." Scholar Christopher Snedden has observed that despite tight controls the people of Azad Kashmir have generally accepted whatever Pakistan has done to them, which in any case has varied little from how most Pakistanis have been treated (by Pakistan). According to Christopher Snedden one of the reasons for this was that the people of Azad Kashmir had always wanted to be a part of Pakistan.
Consequently, having little to fear from a pro-Pakistan population devoid of options, Pakistan imposed its will through the Federal Ministry of Kashmir Affairs and failed to empower the people of Azad Kashmir, allowing genuine self-government for only a short period in the 1970s. The Interim Constitution of the 1970s only allows the political parties that pay allegiance to Pakistan: "No person or political party in Azad Jammu and Kashmir shall be permitted... activities prejudicial or detrimental to the State's accession to Pakistan." The pro-independence Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front has never been allowed to contest elections in Azad Kashmir. While the Interim Constitution does not give them a choice, the people of Azad Kashmir have not considered any option other than joining Pakistan. Except in the legal sense, Azad Kashmir has been fully integrated into Pakistan.
According to the project report by the Asian Development Bank, the bank has set out development goals for Azad Kashmir in the areas of health, education, nutrition, and social development. The whole project is estimated to cost US$76 million. Germany, between 2006 and 2014, has also donated $38 million towards the AJK Health Infrastructure Programme.
|Division||District||Area (km²)||Population (2017 Census)||Headquarters|
|Mirpur||Mirpur||1,010||456,200||New Mirpur City|
|Jhelum Valley||854||230,529||Jhelum Valley|
Geography and climate
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The northern part of Azad Jammu and Kashmir encompasses the lower part of the Himalayas, including Jamgarh Peak (15,531 feet [4,734 meters]). However, Sarwali peak in the Neelum Valley is the highest peak in the state. Fertile, green, mountainous valleys are characteristic of Azad Kashmir's geography, making it one of the most beautiful regions on the subcontinent.
The southern parts of Azad Kashmir including Bhimber, Mirpur and Kotli districts has extremely hot weather in summers and moderate cold weather in winters. It receives rains mostly in monsoon weather.
In the central and northern parts of state weather remains moderate hot in summers and very cold and chilly in winter. Snow fall also occurs there in December and January.
This region receives rainfall in both winters and summers. Muzaffarabad and Pattan are among the wettest areas of the state. Throughout most of the region, the average rainfall exceeds 1400 mm, with the highest average rainfall occurring near Muzaffarabad (around 1800 mm). During summer, monsoon floods of the Jhelum and Leepa rivers are common, due to high rainfall and melting snow.
The population of Azad Kashmir, according to the preliminary results of the 2017 Census, is 4.45 million. The website of the AJK government reports the literacy rate to be 74%, with the enrolment rate in primary school being 98% and 90% for boys and girls respectively.
The population of Azad Kashmir is almost entirely Muslim. The people of this region culturally differ from the Kashmiris living in the Kashmir Valley of Jammu and Kashmir, and are closer to the culture of Jammu. Mirpur, Kotli and Bhimber are all old towns of the Jammu region.
Azad Jammu and Kashmir has an almost entirely Muslim population. Most residents of the region are not ethnic Kashmiris. The majority of people in Azad Kashmir are ethnically Punjabi. The main communities living in this region are:
- Sudhans – (also known as Sudhozai) are second largest tribe of the state, mostly living in Poonch, Sudhanoti, Bagh and Kolti districts. the tribe claims an Pashtun ancestry.
- Gujjars – They are an agricultural tribe and are estimated to be the largest community living in Azad Jammu and Kashmir.
- Jats – They are one of the larger community of AJK and primarily inhabit the Districts of Mirpur, Bhimber and Kotli. A large Mirpuris population lives in the UK and it is estimated that more people of Mirpuri origins are now residing in the UK than in Mirpur district. The district Mirpur retains strong ties with the UK.
- Awans – A clan with significant numbers found in Azad Jammu and Kashmir, living mainly in the Bagh Poonch, Jhelum Valley and Muzaffarabad. Besides Azad Kashmir they also reside in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in large numbers.
- Abbasis – They are a large clan in Azad Jammu and Kashmir and mostly live in Bagh, Jhelum Valley and Muzaffarabad districts. Besides Azad Kashmir, they also inhabit, Abbottabad and upper Potohar Punjab in large numbers.
- Kashmiris – Ethnic Kashmiri populations are found in Neelam Valley and Leepa Valley.
The culture of Azad Kashmir has many similarities to that of northern Punjabi (Potohar) culture in Punjab province, while the Sudhans have oral tradition of Pashtuns, Peshawari turban is one of famous element wore by Sudhans.
The traditional dress of the women is the shalwar kameez in Pahari style. The shalwar kameez is commonly worn by both men and women. Women use shawl to cover their head and upper body.
The official language of Azad Kashmir is Urdu,[note 3] while English is used in higher domains. The majority of the population, however, speak dialects of the Pahari-Pothwari language complex. These are also spoken across the Line of Control in neighbouring areas of Indian Jammu and Kashmir, and are closely related both to Punjabi to the south and Hinko to the northwest. The language variety in the southern districts of Azad Kashmir is known by a variety of names – including Mirpuri, Pothwari and Pahari – and is closely related to the Pothwari proper spoken to the east in the Pothohar region of Punjab. The dialect(s) of the central districts are occasionally referred to in the literature as Chibhali or Punchi, but the speakers themselves usually call them Pahari, an unfortunately ambiguous name that is also used for several unrelated languages of the Lower Himalayas. Going north, the speech forms gradually change into Hindko. Already in Muzaffarabad District the preferred local name for the language is Hindko, although it is still apparently more closely related to the core dialects of Pahari. Further north in the Neelam Valley, the dialect, locally known as Parmi, is more unambiguously subsumed under Hindko.
Another major language of Azad Kashmir is Gujari. It is spoken by several hundred thousand[note 4] people among the traditionally nomadic Gujars, many of whom are nowadays settled. Not all ethnic Gujars speak Gujari, the proportion of those who have shifted to other languages is probably higher in southern Azad Kashmir. Gujari is most closely related to the Rajasthani languages (particularly Mewati), although it also shares features with Punjabi. It is dispersed over large areas in northern Pakistan and India. Within Pakistan, the Gujari dialects of Azad Kashmir are more similar, in terms of shared basic vocabulary and mutual intelligibility, to the Gujar varieties of the neighbouring Hazara region than to the dialects spoken further to the northwest in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and north in Gilgit.
There are scattered communities of Kashmiri speakers, notably in the Neelam Valley, where they form the second-largest language group after speakers of Hindko. There have been calls for the teaching of Kashmiri (particularly in order to counter India's claim of promoting the culture of Kashmir), but the limited attempts at introducing the language at the secondary school level have not been successful, and it is Urdu, rather than Kashmiri, that Kashmiri Muslims have seen as their identity symbol. There is an ongoing process of gradual shift to larger local languages, but at least in the Neelam Valley there still exist communities for whom Kashmiri is the sole mother tongue.
In the northernmost district of Neelam there are pockets of other languages: Shina, with two distinct varieties spoken in three villages, Pashto, the language of two villages on the Line of Control, and the endangered Kundal Shahi, spoken by some of the inhabitants of the eponymous village and the only language not found outside Azad Kashmir.
Historically the economy of Azad Kashmir has been agricultural which meant that land was the main source or mean of production. This means that all food for immediate and long term consumption was produced from land. The produce included various crops, fruits, vegetables etc. Land was also the source of other livelihood necessities such as wood, fuel, grazing for animals which then turned into dairy products. Because of this land was also the main source of revenue for the governments whose primary purpose for centuries was to accumulate revenue.
Agriculture is a major part of Azad Kashmir's economy. Low-lying areas that have high populations grow crops like barley, mangoes, millet, corn (maize), and wheat, and also raise cattle. In the elevated areas that are less populated and more spread-out, forestry, corn, and livestock are the main sources of income. There are mineral and marble resources in Azad Kashmir close to Mirpur and Muzaffarabad. There are also graphite deposits at Mohriwali. There are also reservoirs of low-grade coal, chalk, bauxite, and zircon. Local household industries produce carved wooden objects, textiles, and dhurrie carpets. There is also an arts and crafts industry that produces such cultural goods as namdas, shawls, pashmina, pherans, Papier-mâché, basketry copper, rugs, wood carving, silk and woolen clothing, patto, carpets, namda gubba, and silverware. Agricultural goods produced in the region include mushrooms, honey, walnuts, apples, cherries, medicinal herbs and plants, resin, deodar, kail, chir, fir, maple, and ash timber.
The migration to UK was accelerated and by the completion of Mangla Dam in 1967 the process of 'chain migration' became in full flow. Today, remittances from British Mirpuri community make a critical role in AJK's economy. In the mid-1950s various economic and social development processes were launched in Azad Kashmir. In the 1960s, with the construction of the Mangla Dam in Mirpur District, the Azad Jammu and Kashmir Government began to receive royalties from the Pakistani government for the electricity that the dam provided to Pakistan. During the mid-2000s, a multibillion-dollar reconstruction began in the aftermath of the 2005 Kashmir earthquake.
In addition to agriculture, textiles, and arts and crafts, remittances have played a major role in the economy of Azad Kashmir. One analyst estimated that the figure for Azad Kashmir was 25.1% in 2001. With regard to annual household income, people living in the higher areas are more dependent on remittances than are those living in the lower areas. In the latter part of 2006, billions of dollars for development were mooted by international aid agencies for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of earthquake-hit zones in Azad Kashmir, though much of that amount was subsequently lost in bureaucratic channels, leading to considerable delays in help getting to the most needy. Hundreds of people continued to live in tents long after the earthquake. A land-use plan for the city of Muzaffarabad was prepared by the Japan International Cooperation Agency.
Some well-known and popular tourist destinations are the following:
- Muzaffarabad, the capital city of Azad Kashmir, is located on the banks of the Jhelum and Neelum rivers. It is 138 kilometres (86 mi) from Rawalpindi and Islamabad. Well-known tourist spots near Muzaffarabad are the Red Fort, Pir Chinassi, Patika, Subri Lake and Awan Patti.
- The Neelam Valley is situated to the north and northeast of Muzaffarabad, The gateway to the valley. The main tourist attractions in the valley are Athmuqam, Kutton, Keran, Changan, Sharda, Kel, Arang Kel and Taobat.
- Sudhanoti is one of the eight districts of Azad Kashmir in Pakistan. Sudhanoti is located 90 km (56 mi) away from Islamabad, the Capital of Pakistan. It is connected with Rawalpindi and Islamabad through Azad Pattan road.
- Rawalakot city is the headquarters of Poonch District and is located 122 kilometres (76 mi) from Islamabad. Tourist attractions in Poonch District are Banjosa Lake, Devi Gali, Tatta Pani, and Toli Pir.
- Bagh city, the headquarters of Bagh District, is 205 kilometres (127 mi) from Islamabad and 100 kilometres (62 mi) from Muzaffarabad. The principal tourist attractions in Bagh District are Bagh Fort, Dhirkot, Sudhan Gali, Ganga Lake, Ganga Choti, Kotla Waterfall, Neela Butt, Danna, Panjal Mastan National Park, and Las Danna.
- The Leepa Valley is located 105 kilometres (65 mi) southeast of Muzaffarabad. It is the most charming and scenic place for tourists in Azad Kashmir.
- New Mirpur City is the headquarters of Mirpur District. The main tourist attractions near New Mirpur City are the Mangla Lake and Ramkot Fort.
* Granted university status.
Cadet College Pallandri
- Cadet College Palandri is situated in beautiful natural surroundings about 100 km (62 mi) from Islamabad
- Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto Shaheed Medical College in Mirpur
- Azad Jammu Kashmir Medical College in Muzafarabad
- Poonch Medical College in Rawalakot
Private medical colleges
Football, cricket and volleyball are very popular in Azad Kashmir. Many tournaments are also held throughout the year and in the holy month of Ramazan night-time flood-lit tournaments are also organised.
New Mirpur City has a cricket stadium (Quaid-e-Azam Stadium) which has been taken over by the Pakistan Cricket Board for renovation to bring it up to International standards. There is also a cricket stadium in Muzaffarabad with the capacity of 8,000 people. This stadium has hosted 8 matches of Inter-District Under 19 Tournament 2013.
There are also registered football clubs:
- Pilot Football Club
- Youth Football Club
- Kashmir National FC
- Azad Super FC
- The Indian government and Indian sources refer to Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan as "Pakistan-occupied Kashmir" ("PoK") or "Pakistan-held Kashmir" (PHK). Sometimes Azad Kashmir alone is meant by these terms. "Pakistan-administered Kashmir" and "Pakistan-controlled Kashmir" are used by neutral sources. Conversely, Pakistani sources call the territory under Indian control "Indian-Occupied Kashmir" ("IOK") or "Indian-Held Kashmir" ("IHK").
- Officially, Mirpur and Poonch districts were in the Jammu province of the state and Muzaffarabad was in the Kashmir province. All three provinces spoke languages related to Punjabi, not the Kashmiri language spoken in the Kashmir Valley.
- Snedden (2013, p. 176): On p. 29, the census report states that Urdu is the official language of the Government of Azad Kashmir, with Kashmiri, Pahari, Gojri, Punjabi, Kohistani, Pushto and Sheena 'frequently spoken in Azad Kashmir'. Yet, when surveyed about their 'Mother Tongue', Azad Kashmiris' choices were limited to selecting from Pakistan's major languages: Urdu, Punjabi, Sindhi, Pushto, Balochi, Saraiki and 'Others'; not surprisingly, 2.18 million of Azad Kashmir's 2.97 million people chose 'Others'.
- Hallberg & O'Leary (1992, p. 96) report two rough estimates for the total population of Gujari speakes in Azad Kashmir: 200,000 and 700,000, both from the 1980s.
- Richard M. Bird; François Vaillancourt (December 4, 2008). Fiscal Decentralization in Developing Countries. Cambridge University Press. pp. 127–. ISBN 978-0-521-10158-5.
- Bose, Sumantra (2009), Contested Lands, Harvard University Press, p. 193, ISBN 978-0-674-02856-2,
Azad Kashmir – "Free Kashmir," the more populated and nominally self-governing part of Pakistani-controlled Kashmir
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These are self-ruled autonomous regions. But restrictions apply.
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- Snedden, Christopher (2013). Kashmir-The Untold Story. HarperCollins Publishers India. p. 14. ISBN 978-93-5029-898-5.
Similarly, Muslims in Western Jammu Province, particularly in Poonch, many of whom had martial capabilities, and Muslims in the Frontier Districts Province strongly wanted J&K to join Pakistan.
- Bose 2003, pp. 32–33.
- Behera, Navnita Chadha (2007), Demystifying Kashmir, Pearson Education India, p. 29, ISBN 8131708462
- Snedden 2013, p. 59.
- Snedden 2013, p. 61.
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Second, Azad Kashmiris had always wanted to be part of this nation.
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- Rahman 1996, p. 226.
- The preceding paragraph is mostly based on Lothers & Lothers (2010). For further references, see the bibliograghy in Pahari-Pothwari.
- Akhtar & Rehman 2007, p. 68. The conclusion is based on lexical similarity and the comparison is with the Hindko of the Kaghan Valley and with the Pahari of the Murre Hills.
- Hallberg & O'Leary 1992, pp. 96, 98, 100.
- Hallberg & O'Leary 1992, pp. 93–94.
- Hallberg & O'Leary 1992, pp. 111–12, 126.
- Rahman 2002, p. 449; Rahman 1996, p. 226
- Akhtar & Rehman 2007, p. 70.
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- Akhtar & Rehman 2007, pp. 70, 75.
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