Spread over 2,040 square miles in Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), Dir is fertile and picturesque, producing wheat, barley, and fruits and covered in fir, pine, and walnut trees. However, the terrain is craggy and inhospitable, and most of the population lives in the remote valleys and mountains that dot the district. Like neighboring Swat, Dir was a “princely state” until 1969, when the district was formally merged into the NWFP. Formerly a single district within the NWFP, Dir was divided into two districts — Upper and Lower Dir — in 1996.
History of Dir: the forest and the treesDir and the neighboring districts of Chitral and Swat formed the NWFP’s Malakand Division, which was created in the 1970s and for the first time introduced federal governance to the area, replacing the traditional system of justice. In 1976, a legal dispute erupted between the nawab, or prince of Dir, who had previously controlled all the royalties from Dir’s forests and timber production, and the federal government, which had formed a corporation to harvest the forests. Timber merchants went on strike and killed two policemen in the Sharingal area of Dir. People in Karo, Nehag, and Usherai Darra also revolted against the state and demanded the abolition of the government’s corporation. Police and paramilitary scouts in Dir were not able to control the situation, and the Pakistani army was called in to to restore order. Later the same year, the government reduced its share of felled timber to 20 percent and ceded the rest to the traditional owners of the forests.
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