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Punjab was, at its origin, a country surrounded on one side by the expansionist British Raj, and on the other by Afghanistan; as such, the creation of a vast railway network was a necessity for military deployment, in addition to the benefits it brought for trade. As such, in 1867, the Punjabi Empire initiated the first of its railway projects, constructing a short railway between Lahore and Amritsar. Today, with the expansion of Lahore to swallow the entirety of Amritsar, this railway falls entirely within city limits, but at the time it did not, and it played the important use of allowing the government to take control of the religious clergy headquartered there more effectively. The next great railway project of the Punjabi Empire was one from Lahore to Multan, as part of a wider project of a Lahore-to-Karachi railway that would allow for a connection to the ocean. The Lahore-to-Multan railway would see its construction begin in 1873, with the assistance of French engineers, and it saw its completion in 1879 despite worrying costs and inefficiencies in the project, an early example of the rot that had set into the Punjabi Empire. These costs perhaps killed enthusiasm for railway construction in the Late Empire period, but the effects of these existing lines were immense as they connected Lahore, Amritsar, and Multan in a way they had never been before.
Then in 1882-3, following two military coups, the Punjabi state became a republic, but at the same time it was faced with rebellions and invasions by Britain and Afghanistan that threatened to partition and destroy it. And though the Afghan invasion was halted and forced to turn back, though Patiala and Bahawalpur was kept from seceding, and though eventually the hill states would be brought to heel, the sluggish response to all of this showed critical failures of the Punjabi state that could be fixed with better transportation. Thus, though the assembly government that preceded Prem Nath Kaul's military coup has a reputation as anarchical in nature, it initiated a vast period of railway construction, as well as the creation of national schools to train them. Railways were constructed from Multan to Karachi, finally accomplishing the Indus River Delta link. Another was constructed to the border city of Quetta, in a railway that was vital for defence against the Afghan and Baloch threat, and another to Peshawar for much the same reason after the invasion of it was quelled. Following the end of the Patiala rebellion, Punjabi railways were constructed from Amritsar to Patiala, Ambala and Jind against the British threat, despite protests by the British who feared this would be used as part of support of a pan-Indian rebellion. And finally, railways were constructed both to relatively-calm Kashmir and to Jammu, destroyed by Prem Nath Kaul's army but soon to be rebuilt as a very different and modern city.
When Prem Nath Kaul returned to Lahore after the suppression of the Pahari revolt, he took the railway along with his army, and when he plotted a military coup against a government he thought risked the Punjabi state with its alleged weakness, he used the telegraph lines associated with it to ensure far-flung commanders would be loyal to him personally. And so, in 1890, as he stormed the assembly and had it declare him the chief of government, the transfer of power was far more peaceful and calm in the provinces as one would expect. And in power, he would expand Punjab's railway network yet further. Lines were constructed across the Pahari region, where they coarsed through valleys in grand spectacles of military engineering, a project that also had the aim of preventing further rebellions. These railway lines would link together parts of the Pahari region that were once isolated due to the great mountains to the extent of being virtual islands into the wider Punjabi polity like never before. He constructed further railway links along the Afghan border, but perhaps most famously he constructed railways in Baltistan and Ladakh. The construction of these railways at these altitudes was a very risky business, feats of remarkable engineering, and many died to see Leh and Skardu connected by railways like never before. It was all quite a remarkable feat, one that connected Punjab like never before. And indeed, when he died in 1903, this railway network was so thorough that his immediate successors constructed few others, in favour of updating the existing ones to standards. The great corporate consortiums Kaul had used to finance his railways were separated from the government, and the railways themselves were nationalized in 1913. Other lines were the development of private corporations, primarily.
The social effects of these railways were immediate. It connected the Punjabi state like never before. And because the railways were hyper-centralized around Lahore, it made it the centre of the state like never before. Though the distance from Multan to Dera Ismail Khan is 190 kilometres, from Multan to Lahore is 312 kilometres from Dera Ismail Khan to Lahore is 330 kilometres, the rail links between both cities to Lahore but not to one another made it much faster to reach Lahore than to one another until the creation of a railway between them in 1948. In this way it helped to make Lahore central to the Punjabi state. It ensured that Peshawar would no longer look across the Khyber Pass to Jalalabad for its identities and other such matters, but instead to other parts of Punjab, for economic and societal links. But above all, it opened the door for unprecedented internal migration. As irrigation projects opened up unprecedented amounts of land in this era, people could now come swiftly and easily to their new farmlands.
In the Pashtun lands, ethnic Punjabis came in vast numbers; though there had long been a trickle, it had been small, but here it was a vast barrage of people who chose to dwell beyond just the cities. Perhaps surprisingly, many of them would come to speak Pashtun as their first language and Punjabi as their second, in an effort that was both cultural assimilation and the creation of a wider Punjabi society. Furthermore, while many of the Muslim migrants quickly conformed to existing Pashtun religious customs, the Hindus and Sikhs chose to keep their religions, and this therefore was the creation of the Pashtun Hindu and Pashtun Sikh peoples. It was the migrants who spearheaded the successful language movement for the recognition of the Pashtun language as co-official in certain western departments, and when Amanullah Khan of Afghanistan came in exile in 1926, these migrants readily flocked to them; they were among those joined his army to take back Afghanistan in 1934.
In Karachi, migration of ethnic Punjabis would quickly turn the small Sindhi-speaking town into a vast metropolis which often prefers the Punjabi tongue. At the same time, migrants brought their very different religious traditions with them; among Muslims, this created very different mosque traditions, but ones that were fairly recognizable, but among Hindus and Sikhs, the gap was much larger. Sindhi non-Muslims are often known as "Nanakpanthi Hindus", people who while being idol-worshippers also strongly revere the Sikh gurus and cover the heads in the Sikh fashion when they enter temples. Many decades of Sikh rule had made many ethnic Punjabi Hindus revere the Sikh gurus as well even if perhaps on political rather than religious terms, but at the same time there existed a strong Hindu streak that regarded Guru Nanak as an uneducated, unlearned bumpkin. It was the former element, and not the latter, that became dominant among Punjabi Hindu migrants to Sindh, but the latter existed and caused tensions. At the same time, Sikh migrants tended to regard their religion on separate terms from guru-revering Hindus, and this perhaps separated Hinduism and Sikhism to an extent foreign to Sindh.
In Kashmir, migration of ethnic Punjabis was viewed by some as an "invasion"; though there had long been tourists and the like along with cross-migration both to and from the Majha, this was a much larger wave. Here, these migrants would come to speak Kashmiri as their first tongue and Punjabi as their second, and they became culturally similar to those in their new lands. But religiously, it was a bigger issue. Islam is dominant in Kashmir to an extent it is not in Punjab as a whole, and as such it is often structurally rigid. And though ethnic Punjabi Muslims did conform to many of this, it did also come with large religious strains that affected Kashmiri Islam and perhaps weakened some of its rigidity. But it was the Sikh and Hindu migrants that changed the land more. The Sikhs quickly overwhelmed the existing tiny and insignificant Sikh minority and created the modern Kashmiri Sikhs, with religious sentiments very much like those of the Majha. But as for the Hindus, it caused panic. There is an autochthonous Hindu population known as the Kashmiri Pandits that made up eight percent of the population prior to the migrations; they are highly insular in nature and are met with both admiration and revulsion by Hindus elsewhere, and migrations long ago meant that there were many Kashmiri Pandits far away from Kashmir. Most famously Prem Nath Kaul himself was proudly one of them, even if politically he was very separate from them. Often victims of pogroms, they chose to keep their religious customs private to not antagonize the minority. They also hold very distinct and unusual religious customs centred around Shiva rather than the Vishnu (and specifically Rama) that ethnic Punjabi Hindus prefer, even while being immensely respected for their immense knowledge of the Sanskrit language - indeed, the Mughal emperor Akbar gave them the title of "Pandit" in respect to their learned nature. The Hindus that came had very religious customs, they were not insular, and they practiced their religious customs openly, and this continued to be the case even after they came to speak Kashmiri as their first language. When it became increasingly clear migration would result in these Hindus outnumbering the Kashmiri Pandits, a fear began to set in that the Kashmiri Pandits would eventually cease to exist. To stop this, Kashmiri Pandit community leaders assembled as religious councils and took to various means. They prohibited what they called "Lahoris" from being members of Kashmiri Pandit congregations or visiting Pandit temples, and they harshly weighed against intermarriage with these "foreigners". These sentiments angered the migrant Hindus themselves and caused more than a little violence, but ultimately they were successful; today Kashmir has two separate Hindu communities with separate temple networks: first, the Pandits, and second, the so-called Lahoris. And though there are more Lahori Hindus than Pandits in modern Kashmir, the continued existence of the latter is assured.
There was a lot more migration than this as vast irrigation efforts opened up lots of land for farming, most notably in Bahawalpur where an unprecedented amount of land was opened up far from the rich Sutlej valley. And indeed, cultural differences between Majhi and provincial Punjabis had to be smoothed over, even when both such groups spoke forms of Punjabi. But this migration helped to create a unified Punjabi polity, as well as a unified Punjabi society in time. And it was the power of the railway that made it possible.