Once the capital of kings, Sialkot today has the highest per capita income in Pakistan.
Last Updated: 5 Jan. 2015
Sialkot is a major city in Punjab province, located approximately 108 km north of Lahore. Administratively, Sialkot city lies in Sialkot District and has a population of more than 500,000. Sialkot is located some distance southwest of the Himalaya foothills while the Chenab River flows to its north. Three small seasonal streams, known as Aik, Bher, and Palkhu, flow through the city.
Sialkot is known for its well-developed cottage industry that produces export quality products such as sports goods, surgical instruments, leather garments, and musical instruments. It has the highest per capita income in Pakistan of approximately US$ 1200. It is the 13th largest city of Pakistan and after Karachi is the largest source of foreign exchange earnings in Pakistan.
Sialkot is one of the oldest towns of Punjab. Once known as Sangala, the ancient city was once situated inside a fort and encircled by a swamp or a lake. In 326 BC, Raja Porus having been defeated by Alexander and now in his service, aided Alexander in capturing the fort of Sangala after a fierce battle. It became the easternmost outpost of Alexander’s kingdom in this region.
Under the Mauryans, a long highway was constructed from Kabul to Delhi and passed through all the major towns, including Sialkot. During the reign of Ashoka, Sialkot began to flourish as a center of Buddhism and a number of stupas and monasteries were built there. The Sungas took power from the Mauryans and made Sialkot their capital.
After them, Menander, the famous Indo-Greek king, also made Sialkot his capital in around 160 BC and built a great palace there. During his reign, Sialkot was a great center of trade, while the countryside around it was full of parks and gardens and lakes. It was ‘a paradise of rivers and mountains and woods.’ The city itself was well laid out, the shops were full of costly merchandise, and its streets were filled with elephants and carriages, while Brahmans and nobles and servants all walked its streets.
The Huns swept across the Pakistan area in the 6th century and destroyed cities and monuments in their way. But their king Mihirakul chose to keep Sialkot as his capital. In the 10th century AD, Al Beruni accompanied Mahmud of Ghazni on his campaigns in the Indian Subcontinent and described Sialkot as an important town of north India. Under the administration of Muhammad Ghori the town began its expansion.
In 1524, Babar stayed in Sialkot while on his way to Delhi and mentions this city in his Babur-Nama. Akbar gave authority of this town to Raja Man Singh who took great interest in developing the industry of Sialkot. In fact, Sialkot produced one of the finest papers known as the Man Singh variety. Under Shah Jahan, Sialkot became a center of scholarly learning as many saints and scholars began to visit and settle in this city. In 1764, the Sikhs took control of this city and ruled it for about a hundred years until the British took over. The British made their fourth cantonment in Sialkot.
A large and thriving industry sector is found in Sialkot. In fact in 1986 the first ever private-sector dry port in Asia was built in Sialkot in order to make export easier and faster. Approximately 60% of all goods exported from Sialkot are done through this dry port.
Sialkot is world renowned for its sporting goods. As far back as 1883, this city was manufacturing hockey sticks, cricket bats, and polo sticks, and began producing its world famous soccer ball in 1918. Today, Sialkot produces almost 70% of the soccer balls used throughout the world. Leather garments are also widely produced and every year this industry earns $217 million just from its exported products. For more than a 100 years, Sialkot has manufactured surgical instruments. This industry employs more than a 100,000 people and earns $180 million.
Maulana Abdul Hakim Sialkoti was a great scholar of his time and is known for having constructed several buildings and facilities in Sialkot. He was born in Sialkot in 1561 to a famous scholar and writer Shams al Din, and initially taught in a madrassa in Lahore before setting in Sialkot. It is said that Dara Shikoh, the eldest son of Shah Jahan, used to come to him for advice.
Allama Muhammad Iqbal, one of the most famous philosophers, poets, and politicians of the subcontinent, was born in Sialkot in 1877. He received his his early education in Sialkot before moving to Lahore at the end of secondary school. He is credited for introducing the idea of a separate state for Muslims in India. His home is Sialkot is now preserved as a museum.
Faiz Ahmad Faiz was a renowned poet and political thinker of his times. Born and raised in Sialkot, Faiz began his teaching career in Amritsar’s M.A.O. College before shifting to Lahore. In 1947 he founded the Communist Party of Pakistan. Faiz was the first Asian to be awarded the Lenin Prize by the Soviet Union and was nominated for the Nobel Prize four times. His poetry continues to influence Pakistani literature and arts.