WATCH: How Mirpur City in Azad Kashmir became ‘Little England’
Ever wondered how the city got that label?
The city of Mirpur in Azad Kashmir is often known as “Little England” due to its large British-Pakistani community. Its connection with Britain has made it a place quite unlike anywhere else in Pakistan.
It is a well-planned city and its infrastructure is partially funded through its expatriate community, which mainly resides in the UK. Yet, it was not always like this.
In the 1960s, Mirpur was still considered to be a rural and conservative area. It’s only in the last four decades that the region has witnessed great economic progress and has become one of the most prosperous places in Pakistan. So, how did Mirpur change?
In the early 1960s, the Pakistani government planned the Mangla Dam, which was to be built in the Mirpur district on the Jhelum River. Several thousand people had to move. Coincidentally, Britain at that time needed cheap workers. So, the UK government decided to give many of the Mirpur evictees permits so they could go to the UK to work in factories in the Midlands and the north of England.
Most of those migrants permanently settled in places like West Yorkshire, East Midlands, West Midlands, Luton, Peterborough, Derby, and East London. Luton and Slough have the largest Mirpuri communities in southern England. It is estimated that 60% to 70% of British-Pakistanis in England have origins in the Mirpur District.
The migrants sent remittances to the city, and influenced it culturally, socially, and economically. Many British products are now easily found, and many shops in the city accept the pound sterling.
“It’s a home away from home for UK Pakistanis,” says Zahoor from Ilford, proudly showing the little semi-detached houses and their neat gardens that he hopes to sell on. “They’ll even have British-style rubbish collections.”
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