Abbottabad and Sir James Abbott

    by B. Baldwin,drawing,1841



    Pakistan has heritage in every nook and corner. Most cities of Pakistan are tourist spots but tourists are unaware of the past and importance of those cities. Today before I tell you about another interesting city. Let me give you an outline of the one who developed it. Sir James Abbott was a British army officer and administrator in colonial India. Abbott was educated at a school in Eliot place, Blackheath and at the East India Company Military Seminary in Addiscombe, Surrey. He was commissioned as a cadet in the Bengal Artillery at the age of sixteen, arriving in India in 1823. In 1827 he was promoted to Lieutenant and made adjutant to the Sirhind division of artillery. In June 1838 he was promoted to brevet Captain. In November 1838, Abbott served in the army of Sir John Keane, who had been tasked with supporting Shah Shuja Durrani in his bid to wrest power from Dost Mohammad Khan in Afghanistan. In March 1840 Abbott set off from Khiva to Fort Alexandrovsk on the Caspian Sea. His caravan was attacked by Kazakhs and he was wounded in the hand and taken hostage, but he and his party were released because they feared retribution. He reached St Petersburg but the attempt at mediation failed. His bravery was recognised through promotion to full Captain. In 1841, Abbott returned from Britain to India. He first held a post with a local battalion in Mewar before becoming an assistant to the resident in Indore in 1842. Following the conclusion of the First Anglo-Sikh War in 1846, Abbott was handpicked to become one of Sir Henry Lawrence’s “Young Men”, also known as The Paladins of the Punjab. These were East India Company officers sent to act as “advisers” to the Sikh ruler.

    After the British had annexed the Punjab in the aftermath of the Second Anglo-Sikh War, Abbott was promoted to brevet major and appointed First Deputy Commissioner of Hazara. This was the time when Abbott reached the land he developed as Abbottabad. Abbott’s original seat of government in the Hazara was at Haripur but he eventually decided to shift this up into the hills for climatic and strategic reasons. Thus, a site was selected and acquired in late 1852, and Abbott thereafter shifted his headquarters there in January 1853, founding a small town and military cantonment which was to grow over time. Thus Pakistan’s city of Abbottabad was founded by and named after him. Abbott himself could not long witness the growth of his town, which was later named after him by his colleague Herbert Benjamin Edwardes. In April 1853 he was removed from his post and transferred back to the Bengal army, where he was placed in charge of a gunpowder factory in Calcutta. His transfer came amid concerns from Lahore over the methods of his governance, fears of divided loyalty, and antagonistic relationships with certain fellow officers. His last public act as deputy commissioner was to invite every person in the district to a party he was holding at Nara Hills. The party lasted three days and nights and was attended by ‘a large and lamenting crowd of people’. Abbott reportedly spent all of his savings on the party save for one month’s pay.

    Now let me take you to the wondrous city of Sir James Abbott. This is Abbottabad, which has been attracting tourists since the colonial era, as it is a major transit point to all major tourist regions of Pakistan. According to the Imperial Gazetteer of India, “the town is picturesquely situated at the southern corner of the Rash (Orash) plain, 4,120 feet (1,260 m) above the sea”. This is a peaceful city with an environment of serenity. One is lost in the aura of the place as one reaches the main bazaar of the city. The city is not a very big or over populated city. The people living there are hospitable and honour their guests. There is a lot of food variety for the food lovers. Red meat is becoming common now and you will see many Shinwari restaurants in the main bazaar of the city. The fruits and vegetables you will find there are heavenly tasty and the variety is unique.

    It is a wonderful tourist spot and very well established. Like much of the northern areas, tourism is one of the important sources of income in Abbottabad. Some popular tourist destinations in and around Abbottabad are Ayubia, Bara Gali, Harnoi, Dunga Gali, Ilyasi Masjid, Khaira Gali, Nathia Gali, Shimla Hill and Thandiani. The road to Abbottabad is well designed and constructed. You will not face any hurdles in reaching the city and the route is enriched with natural beauty and landscape. The green fields and mountains will surely mesmerise you during your journey to Abbottabad. In the summer a large number of tourists travel to Abbottabad as the weather remains pleasant there. The Karakoram Highway, which traces one of the paths of the ancient Silk Road, starts from Hasan Abdal on the N5 and heads north passing through the city, eventually reaching Khunjerab Pass. The Karakorum Highway is a major attraction itself for its views. The Karakoram, Himalayas and the Hindu Kush ranges can be approached from Abbottabad and it continues to be a transit city for tourists, serving as a base for visiting numerous nearby places, such as Hunza, Gilgit, Sakardu and Indus Kohistan, of the Karakoram Range.

    Such places in Pakistan are must see for everyone. These are heritage cities and have played a vital role in our history. You will find first-rate hotels, guest houses and restaurants in this city and you can plan a safe family trip.


    1. What can one make out of the photograph is shown at the top? Who is shown? Does he have a name?
      The learned author possibly forgot to mention that that the Military Academy at Kakul, is not very far from this town.
      Has this town not expanded in common with others bringing more of trouble makers and filth thus?

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