Roughly speaking, Hazara is that part of the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) east of the Indus; a series of fertile plains and terraced or forested hills rising from north of the Grand Trunk Rd into the Lesser Himalaya. Today’s Hazara Division consists of the Abbottabad and Mansehra districts, and since the 1970s the Kohistan district, reaching west from the Indus into the Hindu Raj mountains.
Southern Hazara was a favourite gateway from the plains into Kashmir for expanding regimes – the Mughals, the Afghan Durranis who defeated local tribes in 1752, and the Sikhs who wrested it away during the period 1818–24. After the First Sikh War (1846), Major James Abbott came here as a British ‘adviser’ to the Sikhs; on the Sikhs’ defeat in the Second Sikh War (1849) he became Hazara Division’s first deputy commissioner. Abbottabad, the divisional headquarters, is named after him.
Some towns still have the remains of old Sikh forts, as well as gurdwaras (Sikh temples) built in the 20th century. The Sikh population only evacuated at Partition. The road to Kashmir was severed at Partition, and now Hazara’s main artery is the KKH, ascending for 160km from Havelian to the Indus River at Thakot.