UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!


Orakzai Agency

The tribal area now forming Orakzai Agency was previously included in Frontier Region Kohat district and remained as such till 30-11-1973. The Biland Khel, a small pocket measuring about 6.5 square kilometers is also  part of this agency and lies couple of kilometres off Thall, bordering North Waziristan and Kurram agencies. Responding to long standing demand of the Orakzais the then President of Pakistan announced the creation of Orakzai Agency on 3-11-1973 and was formally inaugurated on 1st December, 1973. Prior to its upgradation as an agency this area was administered as Frontier Region of Kohat district by the Deputy Commissioner, Kohat. The Orakzai Agency consists of two sub-divisions i.e., Upper sub-division and Lower sub-division. The Upper sub-division comprises two Tehsils i.e. Upper Tehsil and Ismailzai Tehsil, while the Lower sub-division also has two Tehsils i.e. Lower Tehsil and Central Tehsil. The land of the Orakzai tribes is located between 33 -33' to 33 -54' north latitudes and 70 -36' to 71 -22' east longitudes. It is bounded in the north by Khyber Agency, in the east by FR Kohat, in the south by Kohat and Hangu districts and in the west by Kurram Agency. The total area of the agency is 1,538 square kilometres

There are two valleys Khanki and Mastura bounded by parallel ranges in the same directions. The ranges are densely covered with low brush wood. Occasional groves of pines are also found along these ranges which may have been thickly populated in the past. The valleys are in general 12 kilometers apart at the maximum. These are interpassed by important passes having heights of 1500 to 2400 meters. There are two valleys Khanki and Mastura bounded by parallel ranges in the same directions. The ranges are densely covered with low brush wood. Occasional groves of pines are also found along these ranges which may have been thickly populated in the past. Physiographically, Orakzai Agency is a mountainous area, dominated by the mountains of Karagh Ghar range dissected by numerous water courses. The height of the hills varies from 3000 meters in the west to less than 2000 meters in the east. Area near Bara River is fertile and yield rich harvest.

In the recent past proven reserves of coal have been found in various areas of the agency including Sheikhan, Mishti and Feroz Khel areas. The mines directorates had a number of exploratory studies carried out in the past and plans to include many more areas in the study. Presently ill-qualified private contractors are exploiting the coal quarries. These studies are likely to explore the mineral wealth of the agency of other types as well. Small scale mining, through primitive methods is carried out by local parties. About 10,000 tons of coal is excavated per month. Development potential for proper mining exists in a region covering more than 1,600 square kilometers area. Quality wise, the coal on the average contains about 56 per cent fixed carbon, 25 per cent ash and 20 per cent volatile matter.

The agency can be ranked as cold temperate region with mild rains. The climate of the agency is pleasant in summer and extremely cold in winter. Summer season starts from May and lasts till October. June, July and August are the hot months. The mean maximum and minimum temperature during the month of June is about 40 and 27  Celsius respectively. Winter starts from November and continuous till April. December, January and February are the cold months. January is the coldest month with mean maximum and minimum temperature of about 18 and 6  Celsius respectively. There is no meteorological observatory in the area. However, climatic data recorded at Kohat as close proxy is given in the following table. The annual rainfall ranges between 250 to 500 millimeters. The relative humidity ranges from 25 to 85 per cent.

The origin of Orakzai tribes is shrouded in mystery although they have many resemblances with Afghans. So many legends have appeared about their origin. One of them says that around 10th century AD a Persian prince namely Sikandar Shah was banished by his father for his mischievous deeds who later on used to be regarded as 'Wrakzai' i.e. lost son. He traveled to the sub continent and ultimately reached Kohat and became a courtier of the king there. The king sent him on an expedition to punish the inhabitants of Tirah who indulged in acts of plunder of travelers. The prince ultimately settled in the area and his descendents were known as Orakzais.

Presently the Orakzai tribes consist of original Orakzai tribes i.e., Ismailzai, Daulatzai, Alizai, Muhammad Khel and Sultanzai clans and historical 'Hamsaya' tribes i.e. Ali Khel, MalIa Khel, Mishti and Sheikhan. The 'Hamsaya' presently claim that they can not be considered as 'Hamsaya' and has independent tribal status in their own right. In total there are about 24 major sections. The largest tribe is Ali Khel.

The agency consist of two rivers i.e. Mastura and Khanki Toi running from west to east and draining into river Bara and Khanki. There are two valleys of the corresponding names bounded by parallel ranges in the same directions. The main river and the valley system are further divided by many tributaries and spurs.

Presently there are hardly any differences or special characteristics about food, dress and dwellings which could distinguish them from their brethren of the settled area. Men usually clad in Shalwar-Kameez, put Kula Lungi (turban) over their heads and carry Chaddar on their shoulders. Women folk wear Shalwar Kameez with Dupata and when going out of homes wear Surka (veil). Gold and silver ornaments are worn by females on special occasions.

Maize, wheat bread and meat are staple food of people of Orakzai Agency.

The Orakzais are in the habit of constructing double storey houses which are made of stones and mud. The lower storey used for cattle and storage of grain and the upper storey is used for sleeping cooking purposes and also as 'Morchas (bunkers) for defense purpose. The houses are not generally walled. They are often built on commanding positions with well placed towers for their protection. The Orakzais furniture consists of Charpais (beds) which are decorated for guests by spreading mattresses and beautiful bed sheets over them.

In common with other tribal agencies the literacy rate is low. Most of the tribes accordingly engage themselves in agriculture and raising of livestock. In the recent past most have traveled to the Middle East to work there. Many of them are in government services also.

The important towns of the agency are Ghiljo, Daboori, Kalaya, Mishti Mela and Kurez. The original headquarter was built in Kalaya in 1975 but could not be occupied due to some reasons and the present headquarter was built on Kohat-Thall road short of Hangu in 1989.

The administrative set up in the agency consists of Political Agent who is overall incharge of the agency. The agency has two sub-divisions looked after by Assistant Political Agents. The four Tehsils of the agency are headed by Political Tehsildars and Political Niab Tehsildars. The Malik system introduced by the British government is the same in Orakzai Agency as functioning in other FATA. Maliks used to work like a medium between administration and the (Qaum) or tribe. A Maliki is hereditary and devolves on the son and his son so on and so forth, for which regular benefits and subsidies are sanctioned from time to time. Lungi system, known .as Sufaid Resh, is slightly lower form of Maliki. In Orakzai Agency there are 8,639 Maliks and lungi holders. Although most of all Pakistan Laws including Pakistan Penal Code and Criminal Procedure Code have been extended to the tribal areas, the predominant procedure applied in Judiciary is the Frontier Crimes Regulation 1901. More than 90 per cent of the area is inaccessible  or tribal, in which the cases are decided by the tribesmen through a Counsel of Elders or Jirga, where it determines the guilt of the accused under the customary law and sentence is passed accordingly by Political Agent/Assistant Political Agent. The conviction under certain acts mentioned in the FCR may consist of imprisonment as well, while in other cases only fine can be imposed.

Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list

Page last modified: 09-07-2011 13:03:02 ZULU