At Rawalpindi’s iconic Dilbar Hotel, a true taste of Kashmir in Pakistan 

The combination of photos shows Dilbar Hotel, a small eatery offering Kashmiri food in Rawalpindi, Pakistan on December 5, 2023. (AN Photo)
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Updated 13 December 2023

At Rawalpindi’s iconic Dilbar Hotel, a true taste of Kashmir in Pakistan 

  • Establishment was set up in 1947 as a tea café to provide a “social space” to migrant Kashmiris after India’s partition
  • Café became a restaurant in 1950 and is now a customer favorite in the twin cities for its authentic Kashmiri dishes

RAWALPINDI: Nestled in a labyrinth of narrow streets, an eatery called Dilbar Hotel has a unique selling point: it’s probably the only place in the twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad, possibly even across Pakistan, where one can enjoy food from the Himalayan valley of Kashmir in its true richness and abundance. 

The establishment began as a humble tea café in Rawalpindi following the creation of Pakistan after the end of British colonial rule in 1947. It has since evolved into a renowned restaurant serving authentic Kashmiri cuisine to a clientele that includes locals, food enthusiasts and politicians.

The owners, Malik Jamal and his brother, migrated to Pakistan during partition from Kupwara in what is present-day Indian-administered Kashmir, and launched the tea café to provide a “social space” to the Kashmiri migrant community that had settled in Rawalpindi, according to Jamal’s son, Malik Aslam Pervez, who now runs the restaurant. 

An undated file photo of Dilbar hotel in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. (Photo courtesy: Top-rated/website)

By 1950, the tiny café was so popular among the migrant community as well as local residents of the garrison city that the owners decided to diversify and add some famous Kashmiri main dishes to their menu. That’s when Dilbar Hotel became what it is today, a bastion of Kashmiri food in Rawalpindi and Islamabad, serving up, among other delicacies, ‘rogan josh,’ a lamb curry with a heady combination of intense spices in a creamy tomato sauce, ‘harissa,’ a mutton curry and an authentic winter dish from Kashmir, and ‘gushtaba,’ meatballs cooked in a creamy, tangy, almost soupy, yoghurt gravy.

Kashmir, a Muslim-majority Himalayan region, has been divided between Pakistan and India since 1947, with both claiming it in full but ruling it in part. The unique cuisine of the region, however, is found in both nations. 

“My father migrated from Kupwara, and the dishes we serve are the same recipes introduced here since 1950,” 61-year-old Pervez told Arab News at Dilbar Hotel in Raja Bazar near the shrine of the patron saint of Rawalpindi, Shah Chan Charagh. 

“We have preserved the heritage of Kashmir through food, maintaining the authenticity of recipes, taste, and spices for over 75 years.”

Malik Aslam Pervez (right), owner of Dilbar Hotel interacts with customers while preparing food in his kitchen in Rawalpindi, Pakistan on December 5, 2023. (AN Photo)

Asked about the secret behind the taste of the traditional Kashmiri food served at the restaurant, Pervez said he had learnt every single recipe from his father as a young boy, and each dish had been “authentically” preserved as it was passed down through the generations.

“I used to sit with my father [at the hotel], I was almost 12 when I started sitting with him here,” he said.

“These recipes, the taste, spices, all of them are preserved in our family, our hearts. And they are the same for the last 75-76 years. We have not made any changes to them.” 

All the dishes, Pervez said, were prepared using traditional methods and without adding packaged spices or processed food items.

Karamat Hussain, a loyal customer, attested to the authentic taste and said he came to the restaurant at least once a week.

“The most special thing here is their yakhni and gushtaba, which they prepare quite well. Everyone comes here for that,” he said, referring to a broth and traditional Kashmiri meatballs, respectively.

Dilbar Hotel also counts many prominent political figures among its regulars.

In this file photo, three-time ex-Prime Minister of Pakistan, Mian Nawaz Sharif (left) is seen standing with Malik Aslam Pervez, owner of Dilbar Hotel. (Photo courtesy: Malik Aslam)

“Sheikh Rasheed [prominent Pakistani politician from Rawalpindi] has spent his childhood here, he is very fond of our cuisine. Then [former prime minister] Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, he is also fond of our food,” Pervez said.

“[Three-time ex-PM] Mian Nawaz Sharif has also eaten here, [his late wife] Begum Kalsoom has also visited us.”

In this undated file photo, Sheikh Rasheed (right), a prominent Pakistani politician from Rawalpindi, Malik Aslam (2nd right) owner Dilbar Hotel and Shahid Khaqaan Abbasi (center), former Pakistani prime minister, are seen posing for a photo at the Dilbar Hotel in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. (Photo courtesy: Malik Aslam)

Over the decades, customers say Dilbar Hotel has become an “indispensable part” of Rawalpindi’s culinary landscape, weaving together the flavors of Kashmir and the stories of its past generations. 

Waseer Ali Qazi, a retired government official, recalled when he first visited the establishment in 1964. 

“People who had seen [pre-1947] Kashmir, who knew its cuisine... all those people never went anywhere else, they would come straight to chacha [uncle],” Qazi said, referring to Pervez’s father, the founder of Dilbar.

“The tradition, authenticity and the taste that we find here, you don’t find it in the modern cuisine of today. The food offered here is not available anywhere else in Pakistan, except Kashmir.”

Pakistan finance minister expresses hope of larger IMF program amid Washington meetings

Updated 9 sec ago

Pakistan finance minister expresses hope of larger IMF program amid Washington meetings

  • Pakistan’s finance minister is in Washington to attend spring meetings by the International Monetary Fund, World Bank
  • The visit comes days before expiry of Pakistan’s current $3 billion program, which helped it avert a default last year

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s finance minister, Muhammad Aurangzeb, on Saturday expressed hope about his country securing a larger bailout program from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Pakistani state media reported, amid Aurangzeb’s meetings with officials of global financial institutions in Washington.
Aurangzeb has been in Washington since last week to participate in spring meetings organized by the IMF and World Bank. His tour is an important one for the South Asian country as Pakistan’s ongoing nine-month, $3 billion loan program with the IMF expires this month.
Speaking to journalists and think-tank officials, the finance minister said Pakistan was requesting a “larger and longer” multi-billion-dollar loan program from the IMF and discussions were underway with the Fund’s officials, the state-run APP news agency reported.
“Once the mission is back in Islamabad, we are going to agree on the priorities and the principles,” he was quoted as saying.
“We have our own views and we’ll share it with IMF. But I would rather leave it to the joint meetings in terms of the size and the duration of the program.”
Pakistan signed the $3 billion agreement with the IMF in June 2023, which helped the South Asian country avoid a default. The country is believed to have requested the IMF for another $8 billion bailout program.
The finance minister’s visit to the US also comes at a time when the IMF has published its updated World Economic Outlook, projecting Pakistan’s growth at 2 percent. The Fund has kept the country’s expected growth rate at 3.5 percent for the next fiscal year.
Separately, Aurangzeb met with representatives of rating agencies, S&P Global and Fitch Ratings, and addressed their concerns on the external side, inflation, primary balance and interest rate regime.
“The minister shared an update on the positive indicators of the country on the back of Standby Arrangement (SBA) signed with IMF,” the APP reported. “He highlighted ongoing reforms in the priority areas of taxation, energy and privatization over the short, medium and long-term horizon.”
Aurangzeb referred to his meetings with officials of multilateral institutions and reaffirmed that the World Bank agenda of climate change, digitalization and human development aligned with priorities of the Pakistani government. He also mentioned potential Saudi investments in Pakistan.

Pakistani woman cricketer Nida Dar completes 100 ODI wickets

Updated 50 min 35 sec ago

Pakistani woman cricketer Nida Dar completes 100 ODI wickets

  • Dar becomes second Pakistani woman to achieve the feat in her 108th ODI match against West Indies
  • Prior to her, former Pakistan captain Sana Mir reached the milestone, has 151 wickets from 120 ODIs

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani off-spinner Nida Dar on Sunday achieved her 100th One-Day International (ODI) wicket as her side lost their second game to West Indies at the National Stadium in Karachi.
This was 108th ODI match played by Dar, who became the second Pakistani woman to achieve the feat.
“Congratulations to Nida Dar being the second Pakistani female player to get over a hundred ODI wickets,” Lisa Sthalekar, former Australian woman cricketer and broadcaster, commented after the Pakistan-West Indies match.
“This shows you the long journey she has had. She is a fiercely character that loves that competitiveness.”
Prior to Dar, former Pakistan captain Sana Mir reached the milestone. She has taken 151 wickets from 120 ODIs.
In July 2021, the International Cricket Council announced that Dar had become the country’s first cricketer, male or female, to take more than 100 wickets in Twenty20 internationals.
She had accomplished the feat while playing a match against West Indies, though Pakistan were defeated in that game too.

Pakistan dispatches eight relief consignment for Gaza via Egypt

Updated 21 April 2024

Pakistan dispatches eight relief consignment for Gaza via Egypt

  • Israel’s war on Gaza has killed at least 34,097 people since October 7, Palestinian health ministry says
  • Pakistan does not recognize Israel, calls for an independent Palestinian state based on pre-1967 borders

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Sunday dispatched another consignment of relief goods for the people of Gaza, the Pakistani foreign office said, amid Israel continuing airstrikes and ground offensive in the besieged Palestinian territory.
This is the eighth consignment, comprising food items, medical supplies and other relief goods, sent by Pakistan for the Palestinians in Gaza, according to the Pakistani foreign office.
The 400-ton shipment was dispatched for Port Said in Egypt during a handing over ceremony at the Karachi port that was attended by Palestinian Ambassador Ahmed Jawad Rabei and Pakistani officials.
“The shipment will be received by the Ambassador of Pakistan to Egypt at Port Said and handed over to the Egyptian Red Crescent for its onward delivery to Gaza,” the foreign office said in a statement.
The development came as the Palestinian health ministry said at least 34,097 people had been killed during more than six months of Israel’s war on Gaza.
The tally included at least 48 deaths in the past 24 hours, a ministry statement said on Sunday, adding that 76,980 people had been wounded in the Gaza Strip since the war began when Hamas militants attacked Israel on Oct. 7.
Pakistan does not recognize the state of Israel and calls for an independent Palestinian state based on “internationally agreed parameters” and the pre-1967 borders with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital.
The foreign office said Islamabad remained committed to addressing the urgent needs of the Palestinian brothers and sisters as they faced a dire humanitarian situation in Gaza.

Iranian president to arrive in Pakistan on Monday for three-day visit— foreign office 

Updated 21 April 2024

Iranian president to arrive in Pakistan on Monday for three-day visit— foreign office 

  • Iranian president to arrive with his spouse and high-level delegation to discuss bilateral cooperation, says FO
  • Visit an important opportunity for Pakistan and Iran to strengthen ties rooted in history and religion, says FO

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s foreign office confirmed on Sunday that Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi will visit the country from Apr. 22-24, describing his trip as an “important opportunity” for both countries to strengthen bilateral ties and enhance cooperation. 

Raisi’s visit takes place days after Iran and Israel exchanged drone and missile strikes, escalating tensions in the already volatile Middle East. 

“President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Dr. Seyyed Ebrahim Raisi will undertake an official visit to Pakistan from 22 to 24 April 2024,” the foreign office said in a statement. 

“This will be the first visit by any Head of State to Pakistan after the general elections in February 2024.”

Pakistan and Iran are often at odds with each other over instability on their shared border, with both countries routinely trading blame for not rooting out militancy.

Tensions surged in January when Pakistan and Iran exchanged air strikes, both claiming to target alleged militant hideouts in each other’s countries. Both sides have since then undertaken peace overtures and restored bilateral ties. 

Pakistan’s foreign office said Raisi will visit with his spouse and a high-level delegation, comprising Iran’s foreign minister and other cabinet members and a “large” business delegation.

The Iranian president would meet Pakistan’s president, prime minister, Senate chairman, National Assembly speaker and visit Lahore and Karachi where he will meet the provincial leadership of the country. 

“The two sides will have a wide-ranging agenda to further strengthen Pakistan-Iran ties and enhance cooperation in diverse fields including trade, connectivity, energy, agriculture, and people-to-people contacts,” the foreign office said. 

Discussions would also focus on regional and global developments as well as bilateral cooperation to combat “terrorism,” the statement added. 

“Pakistan and Iran enjoy strong bilateral ties anchored in history, culture and religion,” the foreign office said. “This visit provides an important opportunity to further strengthen Pakistan-Iran relations.”

Gunmen kill 7 customs officials in western Pakistan in two attacks

Updated 21 April 2024

Gunmen kill 7 customs officials in western Pakistan in two attacks

  • No group has yet claimed responsibility for the two attacks since Thursday
  • A recent surge in attacks in Pakistan has soured its relations with Afghanistan 

DERA ISMAIL KHAN: Unknown gunmen killed two customs officers in western Pakistan, officials said on Sunday, following the killing of five other customs officials in the area in recent days.

No group has claimed responsibility for the two attacks since Thursday, which police said they were investigating.

Security in regions of Pakistan bordering Afghanistan has deteriorated in recent years. Attacks, some claimed by the Pakistani Taliban (TTP) militant group, have risen, mostly targeting police and security officials.

“Customs officials were present for checks... when unknown persons opened fire,” said the district deputy superintendent of police, Muhammad Adnan, adding that two people were injured and the area on a busy highway had been cordoned off.

“Three days ago, five officials, including an officer, of the customs department, were killed in a shooting in the same area and the attackers escaped,” he said.

The rise in attacks has escalated tensions between Pakistan and Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban administration.

Pakistan, saying militants have been using Afghan territory to launch attacks, has called on the Taliban to take action and carried out an airstrike last month on Afghan territory.

The Taliban have denied allowing the use of Afghan soil for militancy and said Pakistan’s security issues are a domestic issue for Islamabad.