Bahawalpur District

Coordinates: 28°50′N 71°40′E / 28.833°N 71.667°E / 28.833; 71.667
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ضلع بہاول پور
Map of Bahawalpur District highlighted in red
Map of Bahawalpur District highlighted in red
Country Pakistan
Province Punjab
 • TypeDistrict Administration
 • Deputy CommissionerAnwar Zaheer Jappa
 • District Police OfficerSyed Muhammad Abbas
 • District Health OfficerN/A
 • Total24,830 km2 (9,590 sq mi)
 • Total4,284,964
 • Density170/km2 (450/sq mi)
Time zoneUTC+5 (PKT)
Number of Tehsils6
TehsilsBahawalpur City
Ahmedpur Sharqia
Khairpur Tamewali
Bahawalpur Saddar
LanguagesSaraiki, Punjabi and Urdu

Bahawalpur District (Urdu: ضلع بہاول پور) is a district of Punjab, Pakistan, with capital the city of Bahawalpur. According to the 1998 Census it had a population of 2,433,091, of which 27.01% were urban.[2] Bahawalpur district covers 24,830 km2.[3] Approximately two-thirds of the district (16,000 km2) is covered by the Cholistan Desert, which extends into the Thar Desert of India. The district is a major producer of cotton.[4]

Located in the south of the Punjab province, Bahawalpur district is bordered by India to its south and southeast, Bahawalnagar to its northeast, Vehari, Lodhran and Multan to its north, Rahimyar Khan to its west, and Muzaffargarh to its northwest.


Abbasi Masjid near Derawar Fort
Derawar Fort in Cholistan Desert

In 711 A.D. the various parts of Punjab and the whole Sindh came under the Arab rule when Muhammad Bin Qasim conquered Sindh, Multan and surrounding areas of Shorkot. The region came securely under the control of the Umayyad Caliphate. The tribes known as Arain in the region sometimes claim descent from the Arab soldiers who accompanied Muhammad Bin Qasim.

Sultan Mahmud Ghaznavi took over the region in 997 C.E. for the Ghaznavid dynasty empire established by his father, Sultan Sebuktegin. He conquered the Shahis in Kabul in 1005 and followed it by the conquest of Punjab. The Delhi Sultanate and later Mughal Empire ruled the region. The Punjab region became predominantly Muslim due to missionary Sufi saints whose dargahs dot the landscape of Punjab. During the period of British rule, Bahawalpur District increased in population and importance.

The district capital Bahawalpur, which lies just south of the Sutlej River, was founded in 1748 by Muhammad Bahawal Khan and was incorporated as a municipality in 1874. After the decline of the Mughal Empire, the Sikh Empire invaded some towns of modern Pakistan's Punjab province but Bahawalpur had a stronghold of the state's Abbasi nawabs in the city management and the town was free of Sikh Empire.[citation needed] In 1836 Bahawalpur stopped paying tribute to Sikh empire. The state's army had defended the territory and openly declared independence. The founder of the State of Bahawalpur was Nawab Bahawal Khan Abbasi I. The Abbasi family ruled over the State for more than 200 years (1748 to 1954). During the rule of the last Nawab Sir Sadiq Muhammad Khan Abbasi V, Bahawalpur State was merged with Pakistan. During the 1960s (1954) the Nawab agreed (Agreement dated 3 October 1947) for Bahawalpur to be absorbed into modern Pakistan. He was however given special privileges including the right to import several cars duty-free each year. Bahawalpur was formerly the capital of the state and now is the District and Divisional Headquarters of Bahawalpur Division.

The Nawabs of Bahawalpur originally came from Sindh and claimed descent from the Abbasid caliph of Baghdad; they formed a princely state and assumed independence in 1802.

The predominantly Muslim population supported Muslim League and Pakistan Movement. After the independence of Pakistan in 1947, the minority Hindus and Sikhs migrated to India while the Muslim refugees from India settled in Bahawalpur District.


Bahawalpur is located in the southeast of Punjab province, the capital, Bahawalpur city, is 889 km from Karachi. The region surrounding Bahawalpur to the west, called the Sindh, is a fertile alluvial tract in the Sutlej River valley that is irrigated by floodwaters, planted with groves of date palms, and thickly populated. The chief crops are wheat, gram, cotton, sugarcane, and dates. Sheep and cattle are raised for export of wool and hides. East of Bahawalpur is the Pat, or Bar, a tract of land considerably higher than the adjoining valley. It is chiefly desert irrigated by the Sutlej inundation canals and yields crops of wheat, cotton, and sugarcane. Farther east, the Rohi, or Cholistan, is a barren desert tract, bounded on the north and west by the Hakra depression with mound ruins of old settlements along its high banks; it is still inhabited by nomads. The principal inhabitants of the region surrounding Bahawalpur are Arain, Jat and Baluchi peoples. There are many historical sites in the area, including Uch, southwest of Bahawalpur, an ancient town dating from Indo-Scythian (Yüeh-chih) settlement (c. 128 BC to AD 450).

Bahawalpur is also an important agricultural training and educational center. Soapmaking and cotton ginning are important enterprises; cotton, silk, embroidery, carpets, and extraordinarily delicate pottery are produced. Factories producing cottonseed oil and cottonseed cake were built in the 1970s. It is an important marketing centre for the surrounding areas and is located on the crossroads between Peshawar, Lahore, Quetta and Karachi. Bahawalpur is also known for its distinctly embroidered slippers and shoes and the filigree pottery which is made here.

The city of Bahawalpur is located favourably for commerce, lying at the junction of trade routes from the east, south-east, and south. It is a centre for trade in wheat, cotton, millet, and rice grown in the surrounding region. Dates and mangoes are also grown here. Canals supply water for irrigation. The principal industries are cotton ginning, rice and flour milling, and the handweaving of textiles.

Cholistan Desert[edit]

East of Bahawalpur is the Cholistan Desert which covers about an area of 20,000 km 2 of Bahawalpur and 1000 km2 of Rahim Yar Khan and extends into the Thar Desert of India. The region was once watered by the Hakra River. At one time there were 400 forts in the area and archaeological finds around the Derawar Fort, the only place with a perennial waterhole, indicate that it was contemporaneous with the Indus Valley Civilisation. The average annual rainfall is only 12 cm, and the little cultivation that exists is made possible by underground wells, drawn up by the camels. The water is stored in troughs, built by the tribes, between sandhills and din waterholes called tobas. The forts here were built at 29 km intervals, which probably served as guard posts for the camel caravan routes. There were three rows of these forts. The first line of forts began from Phulra and went to Lera, the second from Rukhanpur to Islamgarh, and the third from Bilcaner to Kapoo. They are all in ruins now, and you can see that they were built with double walls of gypsum blocks and mud. Some of them date back to 1000 BCE, and were destroyed and rebuilt many times.


The district is administratively divided into five tehsils and 107 Union Councils:[5]

Name of Tehsil No of Unions
Ahmedpur Sharqia 31
Bahawalpur 36
Hasilpur 14
Khairpur Tamewali 8
Yazman 18
Total 107


Historical population
YearPop.±% p.a.
1951 527,837—    
1961 735,524+3.37%
1972 1,071,026+3.48%
1981 1,453,438+3.45%
1998 2,433,091+3.08%
2017 3,669,176+2.19%
2023 4,284,964+2.62%

At the time of the 2017 census, Bahawalpur district had 576,973 households and a population of 3,669,176. Bahawalpur had a sex ratio of 952 females per 1000 males and a literacy rate of 50.27% - 58.25% for males and 41.93% for females. 1,172,162 (31.95%) lived in urban areas. 1,062,204 (28.95%) were under 10 years of age.[7] In 2023, the district had 674,155 households and a population of 4,284,964.[1]


Religion in Bahawalpur district (2017)[7]
Religion Percent
Other or not stated

Muslims were the predominant religious community with 98.34% of the population while Hindus (including Scheduled Castes) were 1.12% of the population, living mainly in rural areas. Christians (0.48%) are another small minority, mainly in urban areas, and the reminaing population is Ahmadis and Sikhs.[7]

Religion in Bahawalpur District[a]
Religion Population (1941)[8]: 42  Percentage (1941)
Islam 1,098,814 81.93%
Hinduism [b] 174,408 13%
Sikhism 46,945 3.5%
Christianity 3,048 0.23%
Jainism 351 0.03%
Others [c] 17,643 1.32%
Total Population 1,341,209 100%


Languages of Bahawalpur district (2017)[7]

  Saraiki (67.06%)
  Punjabi (25.10%)
  Urdu (5.67%)
  Others (2.17%)

At the time of the 2017 census, 67.06% of the population spoke Saraiki, 25.10% Punjabi and 5.67% Urdu as their first language. In the south, the Riasti dialect blends into Marwari spoken in India's Rajasthan state.[7]


Buses run daily between Bahawalpur and other major cities of Pakistan. Pakistan's longest national highway, N-5, also passes through town, connecting Bahawalpur to Karachi and Lahore.


The main crops for which Bahawalpur is recognized are cotton, sugarcane, wheat, sunflower seeds, rape/mustard seed, and rice. Bahawalpur mangoes, citrus, dates, and guavas are some of the fruits exported out of the country. Vegetables include onions, tomatoes, cauliflower, potatoes, and carrots. Being an expanding industrial city, the government has revolutionized and liberalized various markets allowing the caustic soda, cotton ginning and pressing, flour mills, fruit juices, general engineering, iron, and steel re-rolling mills, looms, oil mills, poultry feed, sugar, textile spinning, textile weaving, vegetable ghee and cooking oil industries to flourish.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ 1941 data is for Bahawalpur State. Historic borders are not an exact match in the present-day due to various bifurcations to district borders — which since created new districts — throughout the historic Punjab Province region during the post-independence era that have taken into account population increases.
  2. ^ 1941 census: Including Ad-Dharmis
  3. ^ Including Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, Judaism, or not stated


  1. ^ a b "TABLE 1 : HOUSEHOLDS, POPULATION, HOUSEHOLD SIZE AND ANNUAL GROWTH RATE" (PDF). Pakistan Bureau of Statistics. 2023.
  2. ^ Urban Resource Centre Archived 2006-05-13 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ "Bahawalpur". Punjab Portal. Retrieved 17 August 2022.
  4. ^ "Bahawalpur shatters cotton-sowing record". The Express Tribune. 24 October 2023. Retrieved 31 March 2024.
  5. ^ "NRB: Local Government Elections". 5 August 2012. Archived from the original on 5 August 2012. Retrieved 1 March 2018.
  6. ^ "Population by administrative units 1951-1998" (PDF). Pakistan Bureau of Statistics.
  7. ^ a b c d e "District Wise Results / Tables (Census - 2017)". Pakistan Bureau of Statistics. Retrieved 12 January 2024.
  8. ^ "CENSUS OF INDIA, 1941 VOLUME VI PUNJAB PROVINCE". Retrieved 19 August 2022.

28°50′N 71°40′E / 28.833°N 71.667°E / 28.833; 71.667