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Humshehri: Thinking Pakistan's History

Thinking Pakistan's History

Dera Ghazi Khan

Dera Ghazi Khan city was founded by a Balochi chief on the banks of the Indus River. Once an important stopover for caravans traveling to India, DG Khan is still vital to the development and growth of southern Punjab.

Last Updated: 15 Apr. 2016

Overview

The city of Dera Ghazi Khan, or DG Khan, is located in southern Punjab on the western bank of the Indus River.It lies approximately 96 km west of Multan. In 2010 it had a projected population of 421,308. DG Khan City is the capital of DG Khan District. Seraiki and Balochi are both widely spoken in the district.

DG Khan Map
Dera Ghazi Khan location
(Google Maps)

Just north of DG Khan City are Dera Fateh Khan and Dera Ismail Khan. Together these three cities give this locality its name of Derajat. Dera Ghazi Khan and Dera Fateh Khan are both located in DG Khan District while Dera Ismail Khan is located in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

DG Khan2
Dames Lake at Fort Munro
(MunibShaikh)

Dera Ghazi District is situated uniquely as it touches the boundaries of various districts of all four provinces, making it the geographical center of Pakistan. On its western boundary are the Sulaiman Mountains, which extend as far as Afghanistan. A popular destination for tourists in the summer, the Fort Munro hill station is located here. It is the only hill station in southern Punjab, lying 85 km west of DG Khan City. The southern part of the Sulaiman Mountain range is comprised mostly of low hills. The tribal areas of DG Khan district lie in these mountains and are faced with numerous problems including poverty, and illiteracy. Hospitals and schools are often non functioning. Lack of drinking water, electricity, proper roads, and the tough terrain make it difficult for doctors and teachers to reach these parts.

History

The area that comprises the DG Khan District was under Hindu influence until the coming of Muhammad bin Qasim in 711 AD. This area was claimed by various rulers until it came under the control of the Langah Dynasty of Multan in 1445. The city itself was founded only in 1476 by a Balochi chieftain Nawab Haji Khan Mirani who named it Dera Ghazi Khan after his son. Dera means encampment in Balochi and Seraiki. Nawab Haji Khan Mirani declared himself independent of the Langah Sultans and chose the site of DG Khan due to its abundant grassland and wildlife. He was a cattle owner and knew the value of having a plentiful supply of grass for his cattle. At that time, DG Khan was surrounded by gardens and it was often referred to as dera phullan da sehra meaning dera, a garland of flowers.

DG Khan was an important stopover on the trade routes for merchants coming from Iran and Afghanistan. They would rest here before crossing the Indus River on boats and traveling further on to Multan. Under Akbar, the Mughals managed to extend their authority over DG Khan, but for the most part the Balochi chiefs retained much of their independence. Only in 1758, when the last of the Miranis passed away that the city passed into the hands of Afghans under the authority of the Durranis. Due to constant fighting between the Balochis, DG Khan and its surrounding areas were neglected. Agriculture declined, canals fell into disuse and people sought more prosperous areas.

The Sikhs took charge of the town in the 1820s and controlled it until 1849 when the British wrestled it from them after the Second Sikh War. It was the British who initially carved out the DG Khan District. In 1910 the River Indus flooded the town, destroying it. The entire town was then shifted 10 km west to its present site. The British laid the town in a grid pattern with a total of 66 blocks and wide streets intersecting the blocks.

Taunsa Barrage

DG Khan3
Two fishermen on the Taunsa Barrage
(Muzammil Pasha)

Taunsa Barrage is a dam on the Indus River, located 70 km north of DG Khan City. This dam is 1,325 meters long and directs the water from the Indus River to three different canals that in turn irrigate 2.2 million acres of land through a network of channels. It also provides clean drinking water to millions of farmers in that area. It was completed in 1953 and was fixed recently in 2005 with a loan from the World Bank.

Taunsa Barrage is a designated Ramsar site, a convention for conserving wetlands and its resources. Wetlands play an important role in purifying water, controlling floods and providing a habitat for a variety of wildlife and plants. This area is vital to the sustainability and livelihood not just of people but also for the birds and animals that inhabit it. According to Ramsar guidelines, each designated site must be managed wisely such that it continues to benefit people and the natural world.

Tomb of Ghazi Khan

DG Khan4
Tomb of Ghazi Khan

The tomb of Ghazi Khan Mirrani, for whom the city is named after, was built in the 15th century and resembles the Shah Rukn-e-Alam tomb in Multan. It is located at the old site of the city. There are a total of 11 graves belonging to the family of Ghazi Khan inside the tomb while an entire graveyard has also developed around the tomb.

The tomb has eight sides and eight bastions and is decorated with mosaic tiles on both its exterior and interior walls. It once had a large dome on top of its central chamber but was replaced with a simple, flat wooden roof during the British era after the floods.

Find out more

Books & Articles

Bhatti, Arshad. “Plan Afoot to Conserve Tomb of Ghazi Khan.” The Nation. 22 Nov. 2011.

“Dera Ghazi Khan.” District Government Dera Ghazi Khan.

Meyer, William Stevenson. “Dera Ghazi Khan District.” Imperial Gazetteer of India. Vol. 11. Oxford: Clarendon, 1908-1931. 250-51. Digital South Asia Library.

Pasha, Muzammil. “Taunsa Barrage a Lifeline for Millions.” The World Bank.8 Sep. 2012.

Shirazi,S.A.J. “Dera Ghazi Khan,” All Things Pakistan. 24 Sep. 2009


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