The state of Azad Jammu and Kashmir lies between longitude 73o – 75o and latitude 33o – 36o and comprises an area of 5134 square miles (13,297 square kilometers). The topography of the area is mainly hilly and mountainous with valleys and stretches of plains. The area is full of natural beauty with thick forest, fast flowing rivers and winding streams. Main rivers are Jehlum, Neelum and Poonch. The climate is sub-tropical highland type with an average yearly rainfall of 1300 mm. The elevation ranges from 360 meters in the south to 6325 meters in the North.
According to the 1998 population census, the State of Azad Jammu & Kashmir had a population of 2.973, which estimated to have grown to 3.4 million in 2004. Almost 100% population is Muslim. The Rural to Urban ratio is 88:12.The population density is 258 persons per Sq Km. The literacy rate has increased from 55% to 60% after 1998 census. Infant mortality rate is approximately 56 per 1000 live births, whereas the immunization rate for the children under 5 years of age is more than 88%.
The majority of the rural population depends on forestry, livestock and agriculture for its subsistence. Average per capita income is estimated to range from $ 600 US to $ 5000. Unemployment rate is from 35 to 50%. In line with the national trends, indicators of social sector improvement, particularly health and population welfare have not shown much proficiency. Efforts have been made during the recent past to make up this deficiency, which will bring the fruits of development to the common man.
The area under cultivation is around 166432 hectares (almost 13% of the total area) out of which 92% of the cultivable area is rain-fed. About 845 households have very small land-holdings between one to two acres per family. According to the agricultural census of 1990, the average farm size is only 1.2 hectares, The major crops are maize, wheat & rice whereas minor crops include vegetables, grams, pulses (red Lobia) and oil-seeds. Major fruits are apple, pears, apricot and walnuts. Income through household earnings ranges between 30-40% while remaining share comes from other sources including employment and business etc. Reduced agriculture productivity has adversely affected the traditional lifestyle and average per capita income of the rural household.
About 42% of the total Geographical area (0.6 million hectares approximately) is controlled by the Forest Department. Annual wood demand is 1.65 million cubic meters and sustainable production is 0.7 million cubic meters.
The State of Azad Jammu and Kashmir has a parliamentary form of Government. The President is the Constitutional Head of the State, while the Prime Minister, supported by a Council of Ministers, is the Chief Executive. The State has its own Supreme Court and a High Court. Legislative Assembly comprises of 49 members, out of which 41 are directly elected and 8 are indirectly elected - a member each from the technocrats, Mashaikh, Overseas Kahmiris and 5 females.
The Ministry of Kashmir Affairs and Northern Affairs serves as a link between the Government of Pakistan and the Government of Azad Jammu and Kashmir. Since The State inherited a backward and underdeveloped economy, the major objective of the Pakistani Government has been to promote its economic development and provide it with grants-in-aid for the purpose, and also to cover the deficits in its revenue budget.
At the time of partition in 1947, the economy of Azad Jammu and Kashmir was on subsutance level but the determination to develop the area was there. In early 70’s, economic development of the area started in earnest. Despite financial constraints, planners made good efforts in laying down a proper path for the rapid development of the area.