Rawalpindi (/ˌrɑːwəlˈpɪndi/ or /rɔːlˈpɪndi/; Punjabi: راولپݨڈى, Urdu: راولپنڈى, romanized: Rāwalpiṇḍī), commonly known as Pindi (Punjabi: پݨڈى, romanized: Piṇḍi), is a city and capital of Rawalpindi Division located in the Punjab province of Pakistan. Rawalpindi is the fourth-largest city proper in Pakistan, while the larger Islamabad-Rawalpindi metropolitan area is also the country’s fourth-largest metropolitan area. Rawalpindi is adjacent to Pakistan’s capital of Islamabad, and the two are jointly known as the “twin cities” on account of strong social and economic links between the cities.
Rawalpindi is located on the Pothohar Plateau, known for its ancient Buddhist heritage, especially in the neighboring town of Taxila – a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city was destroyed during the invasion of Mahmud of Ghazni before being taken over by Gakhars in 1493. In 1765, the ruling Gakhars were defeated as the city came under the Sikh rule, and eventually became a major city within the Sikh Empire based in Lahore. The city was conquered by the British Raj in 1849, and in 1851 became the largest garrison town of the British Indian Army. Following the partition of British India in 1947, the city became home to the headquarters of Pakistan Army hence retaining its status as a major military city.
Construction of Pakistan’s new purpose-built national capital city of Islamabad in 1961 led to greater investment in the city, as well as a brief stint as the country’s capital immediately before completion of Islamabad. Modern Rawalpindi is socially and economically intertwined with Islamabad and the greater metropolitan area. The city is also home to numerous suburban housing developments that serve as bedroom-communities for workers in Islamabad. As home to GHQ of Pakistan Army & Benazir Bhutto International Airport, and with connections to the M-1 and M-2 motorways, Rawalpindi is a major logistics and transportation center for northern Pakistan. The city is also home to historic Havelis and temples and serves as a hub for tourists visiting Rohtas Fort, Azad Kashmir, Taxila, and Gilgit-Baltistan.
Rawalpindi features a humid subtropical climate (Köppen: Cwa) with hot and wet summers, a cooler, and drier winter. Rawalpindi and its twin city Islamabad, during the year, experiences an average of 91 thunderstorms, which is the highest frequency of any plain elevation city in the country. Strong windstorms are frequent in the summer during which wind gusts have been reported by Pakistan Meteorological Department to have reached 176 km/h (109 mph). In such thunder/wind storms, which results in some damage to infrastructure. The weather is highly variable due to the proximity of the city to the foothills of Himalayas.
The average annual rainfall is 1,200 mm (47 in), most of which falls in the summer monsoon season. However, westerly disturbances also bring quite significant rainfall in the winter. In summer, the record maximum temperature has soared to 48.4 °C (119 °F) recorded in June 1954, while it has dropped to a minimum of −3.9 °C (25 °F) several occasions, though the last of which was in January 1967.
Social structures in Rawalpindi’s historic core center around neighborhoods, each known as a Mohallah. Each neighborhood is served by a nearby bazaar and mosque, which in turn serves as a place where people can gather for trade and manufacturing. Each Mohallah has narrow gallies, and the grouping of houses around short lanes and cul-de-sacs lends a sense of privacy and security to residents of each neighborhood. Major intersections in the neighborhood are each referred to as a chowk.
South of Rawalpindi’s historic core, and across the Lai Nullah, are the wide lanes of the Rawalpindi Cantonment. With tree-lined avenues and historic architecture, the cantonment was the main European area developed during British colonial rule. British colonialists also built the Saddar Bazaar south of the historic core, which served as a retail center geared towards Europeans in the city. Beyond the cantonment are the large suburban housing developments that serve as bedroom communities for Islamabad’s commuter population.
The Rawalpindi-Islamabad Metrobus is a 22.5 km (14.0 mi) bus rapid transit service that connects Rawalpindi to Islamabad. The Metrobus network was opened on 4 June 2015, and connects the Pak Secretariat in Islamabad to Saddar in Rawalpindi. A second stage is from Peshawar Morr Interchange to the New Islamabad International Airport. The system uses e-ticketing and Intelligent Transportation System wand and is managed by the Punjab Mass Transit Authority.
Rawalpindi is situated along the historic Grand Trunk Road that connects Peshawar to Islamabad and Lahore. The road is roughly paralleled by the M-1 Motorway between Peshawar and Rawalpindi, while the M-2 Motorway provides an alternate route to Lahore via the Salt Range. The Grand Trunk Road also provides access to the Afghan border via the Khyber Pass, with onwards connections to Kabul and Central Asia via the Salang Pass. The Karakoram Highway provides access between Islamabad and western China, and an alternate route to Central Asia via Kashgar in the Chinese region of Xinjiang.
The Islamabad Expressway connects Rawalpindi’s eastern portions with the Rawal Lake and heart of Islamabad. The IJP Road separates Rawalpindi’s northern edge from Islamabad.
Rawalpindi is connected to Peshawar by the M-1 Motorway. The motorway also links Rawalpindi to major cities in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, such as Charsadda and Mardan. The M-2 motorway offers high speed access to Lahore via the Potohar Plateau and Salt Range. The M-3 Motorway branches off from the M-2 at the city of Pindi Bhattian, where the M-3 offers onward connections to Faisalabad, and connects to the M-4 Motorway which continues onward to Multan. A new motorway network is under construction to connect Multan and Karachi as part of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor.
The Hazara Motorway is also under construction as part of CPEC and will provide control-access motorway travel all the way to Mansehra via the M-1 or Grand Trunk Road.
Rawalpindi railway station in the Saddar neighbourhood serves as a stop along Pakistan’s 1,687 kilometres (1,048 mi)-long Main Line-1 railway that connects the city to the port city of Karachi to Peshawar. The stations is served by the Awam Express, Hazara Express, Islamabad Express, Jaffar Express, Khyber Mail trains, and serves as the terminus for the Margalla Express, Mehr Express, Rawal Express, Pakistan Express, Subak Raftar Express, Green Line Express, Sir Syed Express, Subak Kharam Express, and Tezgam trains.
The entire Main Line-1 railway track between Karachi and Peshawar is to be overhauled at a cost of $3.65 billion for the first phase of the project, with completion by 2021. Upgrading of the railway line will permit train travel at speeds of 160 kilometers per hour, versus the average 60 to 105 km per hour speed currently possible on existing track.
Rawalpindi is served by the Islamabad International Airport. The airport is located in Fateh Jang, Attock. It offers non-stop flights throughout Pakistan, as well as to the Middle East, Europe, North America, Cenral Asia, East Asia, and Southeast Asia.
Ayub National Park is located beyond the old Presidency on Jhelum Road. It covers an area of about 2,300 acres (930 ha) and has a playland, lake with boating facility, an aquarium and a garden-restaurant. Rawalpindi Public Park is on Murree Road near Shamsabad. The Park was opened to the public in 1991. It has a playland for children, grassy lawns, fountains and flower beds.
In 2008 Jinnah Park was inaugurated at the heart of Rawalpindi and has since become a hotspot of activity for the city. It houses a state-of-the-art cinema, Cinepax, a Metro Cash and Carry supermart, an outlet of McDonald’s, gaming lounges, Motion Rides, and other recreational facilities. The vast lawns also provide an adequate picnic spot.
Rawalpindi is situated near the Ayub National Park formerly known as ‘Topi Rakh’ (keep the hat on) is by the old Presidency, between the Murree Brewery Co. and Grand Trunk Road. It covers an area of about 2,300 acres (930 ha) and has a play area, a lake with boating facility, an aquarium, a garden-restaurant, and an open-air theater. This park hosts “The Jungle Kingdom” which is particularly popular among young residents.
- Liaquat Bagh, formerly known as the “company bagh” (East India Company’s Garden), is of great historical interest. The first prime minister of Pakistan, Liaquat Ali Khan, was assassinated here in 1950. Pakistan’s Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was assassinated here on 27 December 2007. She was the youngest and the only woman to be elected as Prime Minister of Pakistan.
- Rawalpindi Public Park (previously Nawaz Sharif Park, renamed Iqbal Park in 2019) is located on Murree Road just opposite the Arid Agriculture University Rawalpindi. The park was opened in 1991. It has a play area for children, lawns, fountains, and flower beds. A cricket stadium was built in 1992 opposite the public park. Several matches in the 1996 World Cup were held on this cricket ground.
In mid-2012 3D cinema, The Arena, started its operations in Bahria Town Phase-4 in Rawalpindi.
- Rawalpindi Golf Course was completed in 1926 by Rawalpindi Golf Club, one of the oldest golf clubs in Pakistan. The facility was initially developed as a nine-hole course. After several phases of development, it is now a 27-hole course and the biggest in Pakistan. From the clubhouse, there is a panoramic view of Faisal Mosque, the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi. Major domestic golf tournaments are regularly held here.
- Playland is another public park parallel to Ayub Park
- In 2019, after the Army Heritage Foundation took over Ayub park from Chaklala Cantonment Board, a new amusement park called JoyLand was opened on the site of a previously failed project. This newly developed park has a number of rides and activities for visitors, from the relaxing Ferris wheel to the daring Discovery. All rides are imported and meet safety standards. JoyLand is the only amusement park in Pakistan that is ISO 9001:2008 certified.