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The District was formed in 1970 as a Provincially Administered Tribal Area, It had previously been a Tribal Area known as the Malakand Protected Area, part of the Malakand Agency. From 1970 to 2000 the District was part of Malakand Division.
Malakand District lies at a strategically important position as it acts as a gateway to Swat, Dir, Chitral and Bajaur. It is surrounded by a series of mountains that were overgrown with different kinds of trees in the past though they have a barren look today. The famous Malakand Pass which connects Mardan to Swat and Dir is located near Dargai, where the local Pushtun tribes fought two fierce battles with the British army in 1895 and 1897.
The Swat River flows through the District down towards Charsadda District where it falls into the Kabul River. Malakand Districty is bounded on the north by Lower Dir District, on the East by Swat District, on the south east and south west by Mardan and Charsadda districts respectively and on the west by Mohmand and Bajour Agencies. The area of Malakand protected area is 952 km2.
The district is represented in the provincial assembly by two elected MPAs who represent the following constituencies: PF-98 (Malakand-1) PF-99 (Malakand-2) For the control of law & Order situation a local force has been raised which is called Malakand Levies whose head is the commandant/DCO Malakand. Malakand Levies is the reincarnation of the Malakand Field Force of British times.
The district of Malakand is divided into two tehsils:
1. Sam Ranizai:
Dargai is one of the Tehsil of Malakand District. Dargai is located on main highway from Peshawar to Swat, Dir and Chitral. Most of the tourists going to these areas had to take Dargai route so business flourished in Dargai. Due to recent law and order situation tourists going to Swat have considerably decreased affecting people's business here. Dargai is very famous for its Timber Market.
Dargai is very famous for its battles during British rule. The British commenced their campaign against Malakand in 1853 and spread its sphere of influence to the whole Malakand since then.
There are rare scenic places and tourist resorts in Dargai like Jabban and Malakand hydro-electric project. Water passes through a three-mile long tunnel, and has a natural fall of 350 feet. There are two power houses at Dargai and Malakand Khas. A third power plant of 81MW has recently been constructed in Dargai on Wartair side. Dargai is also home to Punjab Regminent Centre located Near Dargai Railway Station.
2. Swat Ranizai:
Batkhela is the main tehsil and capital of Malakand District, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province (KPK), Pakistan. During the era of Ashoka and Kanishka Batkhela was ruled by a leader named Butt hence the city has been given the name Batkhela. According to the 1998 census, the population of Batkhela is 38,222, and it is estimated to be 39,703 according to the World Gazetteer. Batkhela is a popular business city in NWFP province. This beautiful valley is covered by tall hills from all sides and there are many fast-flowing rivers which are contribution to its wonderful landscape. One water canal that pours into a small dam in Jaban area is the main source of electricity production. Batkhela main bazaar is more than 2 kilometers long; there are no intersections (junctions) so no traffic lights. Therefore it is the longest bazaar that has no traffic lights or junctions (intersections) on it. 100 percent of the households in Batkhela are Pashto-speaking. As business is main source of income, therefore, livelihood of people is mainly dependent on business.
The total area of Malakand District is 952 Square Km and has a population density of 596 people per sqkm. The population of Malakand is estimated to be 567,000 in 2004-05. Most of the people are Pashtuns speaking Pashto as their mother tongue. Agriculture is the major source of income, the total cultivatable land being 456600 hectors.
Usafzai is the biggest tribe living in District Malakand. A part of Malakand is occupied by the Uthmankhel clan of Pukhntoons (Pathans), while towards the south, at the bottom of Malakand Pass, live the Ranizais known as Sam Ranizai. Those living beyond the pass towards Swat are Swat Ranizai. This is also evident in the administration division; where one is called the Swat Ranizai and the other as Sam Ranizai. District Malakand has boundaries, to east palay with District mardan, to south shergarh District mardan, south east bangla harichand district charsadda, to west prang ghar (mohmnad Agency) and Selay pate bajaur Agency, north west Chakdara District lower Dir and (lanadake)District Swat to north. from shago naqa shergarh to Malakand top the area is known as tehsil dargai or sam ranizai, while from malakand top to landake the area is called is tehsil batkhela or swat ranizai.
The soil of Malakand is loamy and moist, and is irrigated by the Swat River which flows from Swat, through Kohistan and joins the river Kabul near Peshawar. The average rainfall is not enough, therefore the soil requires artificial irrigation.
There are rare scenic places and tourist resorts in Malakand like Jabban and Malakand hydro-electric project. Water passes through a three-mile-long tunnel, and has a natural fall of 350 feet. The main income-generating source in Malakand is the two power houses at Dargai and Malakand Khas. There are about 11 other suitable sites for construction of Small Hydel Power projects that needed investors attention.
Malakand as already mentioned is surrounded by high mountains rich with mineral resources which are yet to be exploited. However, deposits of chromite iron, china clay and fuller earth have been found in Malakand. There are vast chances of mineral exploration but due to poor status of the local denizens they are not in a position to invest and exploit the mineral resources in Malakand. If investors from the other districts and provinces diverted their attention towards mineral wealth they can find and get vast mineral treasures.
Historic ruins, founded at different places in the agency, indicate that this area was part of Gandhara civilization and Buddhist peoples lived here. The last Buddhist ruler, Raja Gira, seems to have ruled over there about nine hundred years ago. Sultan Mahmood of Ghazni, a Muslim ruler, came there from Afghanistan through Bajaur and defeated the Buddist ruler, Raja gira.
Later, another Afghan ruler, Muhammad Ghauri, invaded the area and Islam began to spread there. The Yousafzai Pathan tribe came to inhabit this area is the wake of the invasion. About 400 years ago, successive Mughal rulers attempted in vain to capture this area. After the fall of the Mughals, Sikh rulers tried to conquer this area but we repulsed. The British had always looked at this area with covetous eyes but dared no venture to flirt with it openly. In 1882, The British approached to the elders of Malakand Agency with the request to allow the passage of post to Chitral, which was then in the Administrative sphere of Gilgit. In 1885, the Chitral Expedition necessitated the British intervention in this area. British officer and troops had been besieged in Chitral by Chitralis . To reinforce their forces there, they needed a route to Chitral as the Gilgit-Chitral road, the only route at that time, was covered with snow and they had no option left except to pass through Malakand Agency. The British therefore, laid siege of the Malakand pass. The people fought bravely and offered stubborn resistance to the enemy. The British artillery particularly proving more than a match for the old and rusty guns and swords of the natives. To fortify their position and ensure the safety of the strategically Important Chitral road, they constructed two forts at Malakand and Chakdara with many piquet overhead the surrounding hills. One of them Churchill piquet, was named after Lt. Churchill who later on became the Prime Minister of Britain. Since then the British intervened in the politics of the area. A political Agent was stationed at Malakand to mediate between the British and the people of the Area.