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Dera Ismail Khan Cantonment

The Dera Ismail Khan cantonment in North West Frontie accommodated about a brigade of troops as of 1900. The British raised the Cantt area in 1894 after it was raised to a district with Mr. H. W. Gee as its first Deputy Commissioner. It is the site of the big marble grave in its compound of Major General, Sir Henry Marion Durand, the son of Mortimer Durand who drew the Durand Line in 1893. Marion was the lieutenant governor of Punjab who on his visit to Tank fell down from howdah and got his head crushed on January 1, 1871.

Dera Ismail Khan is a city in NWFP, Pakistan. It is situated on the west bank of the Indus River and lies 200 miles west of Lahore and 120 miles north-west of Multan. Dera Ismail Khan was founded towards the end of the fifteen century by Ismail Khan, a son of the Baloch adventurer Malik Sohrab, who named the town after himself. Ismail Khan's descendants ruled for 300 years. It is often abbreviated to D.I.Khan. The bazars of the city all converge in one area, called Chowaglla (literally "intersection"). Major bazars include Topanwala bazar, Bhatiya bazar, Muslim bazar, Kalan bazar and Bakhiri bazar. Natives of Dera Ismail Khan are known as Derawals. The Airport is situated 10 KM away from city centre. The district has an area of 7,326 km.

Like all tribal towns and cities of the NWFP, the D I Khan also came to prominence during the British occupation of India. During British rule the town contained two bazaars, the Hindu and Muslim population living in separate quarters. The cantonment lies south-east of the town while the civil lines are to the south. The Dera - jat (plural of dera) Brigade had its winter headquarters at D I Khan, and the garrison consisted of a mountain battery, a regiment of Native cavalry, and three regiments of Native infantry.

In 1901 it had a population of 31,737. The old town was swept away by a flood in 1823, and the present town stands 4 M. back from the permanent channel of the river. The native quarters were well laid out, with a large bazaar for Afghan traders. It was the residence of many Mahommedan gentry. There was considerable through trade with Afghanistan by the Gomal Pass, and there were local manufactures of cotton wood-work. It was formerly divided into two almost equal portions by the Indus, which intersected it from north tosouth . To the west of the Indus the characteristics of the country resemble those of Dera Ghazi Khan. To the east of the present bed of the river there is a wide tract known as the Kachi, exposed to river action. Beyond this, the country rises abruptly, and a barren, almost desert plain stretches eastwards, sparsely cultivated, and inhabited only by nomadic tribes of herdsmen. In 1901 the trans-Indus tract was allotted to the newly formed North-West Frontier Province, the cis-Indus tract remaining in the Punjab jurisdiction.

A popular tourist destination is called Handeray Near About 45Km from the Dera Ismail Khan -Indus Highway. These ruins are situated near a place Mahra on the Indus Highway. Another popular tourist destination is a pre-Islamic fort called Bilot, 500m from the Dera Ismail Khan-Chashma highway. These ruins are situated on a hill.

D I Khan is famous for its lacquered woodwork, glass and ivory ware, mats, and sarongs. Newer industries include soap factories and textile, rice, flour, and oil mills. One of the most famous products of this district is the "Dhakki Date", which is exported to Middle East, United States, and Europe. This date is grown in the nearby village of Dhakki. There are also coal mines in the nearby village Saidu Wali on the edge of CRBC Canal.

The Shia and Sunni communities lived side by side for centuries, but started experiencing communal tension after objections were raised by the Sunni religious community through where the Shia 10th Muharram mourning processions passed. In 1939 the route was changed as the result of collective Shia-Sunni efforts to muster Muslimhood against Hindus occupying the bazaar. Hindus, the majority of them merchants, initially resisted the change but later on allowed it as it was a shorter distance.

The 400 yard bazaar area in the city was a predominantly Hindu area until 1947. Dera Ismail Khan witnessed one of the worst communal riots during partition. A large number of Hindus were killed and their properties burned in the name of Islam. Following the riots they all were put to death by the immediate Muslim neighbors. The area the Hindus vacated was given to immigrants/Muhajirs in claims.

D. I. Khan was considerably multi-ethnic and multi-lingual with sizeable chunk of Shia population since 1947, but it does not pose any threat to its heterogenic melting pot character. But the internal migration of Mehsood and Wazir tribesmen to the area, after the Gulf boom in the 1970s where tribesmen with earned foreign exchange bought lands and properties, changed its culture.v The 1979 Iranian Revolution widening the gap between the Shia and Sunni.

The huge influx of Afghan refugees to NWFP after 1979 tripled the town's population. In the following years D.I. Khan became a trade center with Afghan refugees and immigrant tribesmen with a hold on transport, markets and restaurant business not only in the town, but in Tank, Jandola, and North and South Waziristan. During the eight years of the Afghan holy war (1980-88) against the Soviet Union, thousands of foreign elements settled in Waziristan. They established business and entered relationship with local tribesmen.

The war against terrorism after the 9/11 had a negative impact on the peace of the area. It worsened after the military action began in Waziristan in September 2003. A large number of IDPs were been forced to migrate to D. I. Khan. It include those who ranked amongst Taliban and needed asylum. The action in Waziristan, committed to please the American, left NWFP volatile and vulnerable.

By 2009 entering the cantonment itself was hard, with huge barriers and gunmen alert on each of the entrances. The army officers bungalows are further bifurcated by barriers. Many sub-boulevards linking the cantonment are permanently blocked. Visiting the river through cantonment was a big boon for city people, which is permanently denied.

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 15:39:32 ZULU