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The Orakzais are usually considered to be divided into seven main clans: the Akhel, Ismailzai, Lashkarzai, Massuzai, Daulatzai, Muhammad Khel, Zemasht and Sturi Khel (or Alizai). The four Hamsaya clans are: the Ali Khel, Malla Khel, Mishti Khel and Sheikhans.
The Orakzai are a Pashtun tribe, basically every single Orakzai belong to the Tirah valley located in FATA. The Orakzais inhabit the mountains to the north-west and north-east of Kohat district, bounded on the north and east by the Afridis or Khyber Agency, on the south by the Bangash or Miranzai Valley and on the west by the Bangash country and the Safed Koh mountains. Due to limited resources and fertile land, many Orakzai have settled in Pakistan's major urban centres such as Hangu, Thall, Parachinar, Tirah, Peshawar, Attock, (Nowshera-Amangarh) Islamabad,Battagram-Allai, Wazirabad, Lahore, Abbottabad and Karachi.
The Orakzai tribes take their name, which literally means the lost son (Wrak Zoi), from a romantic legend about their ancestor, Sikandar Shah who was a prince from Iran. He was exiled or lost, and after many adventures he married and settled in Tirah. One branch, the Ali Khel, has been traced to Swat, whence they were expelled by the other inhabitants and it is not improbable that the whole tribe consists of refugee clans of the surrounding races. They cultivate a good deal of the Khanki and Kurmana valleys in the winter, but in the hot months retire to the heights of Tirah, of which they occupy the southern half called the Mastura Valley.
The Orakzais served in the Mughal army. The Bhopal State of India was established by Dost Muhammad Khan, an Orakzai commander in the Mughal army. His descendants, the Nawabs of Bhopal, were of Orakzai ancestry.
The government of British India estimated that the tribe had 28,000 fighting men. They were the object of various British military expeditions, notably in 1855, 1868, 1869, 1891 and the Tirah campaign of 1897.
In October 2008, with Taliban influence growing in their area, an Orakzai tribal gathering was called to establish a militia to fight the Taliban, part of a growing trend among tribes in the North-west to oppose the former rulers of neighbouring Afghanistan. A teenage suicide bomber drove an explosives-laden truck into the meeting, killing 85 and injuring more than 200. Following the attack, tribal elders vowed to fight the Taliban and Al Qaeda. In 2010, Orakzai made headlines as the site of a stoning.
- "Census of India, 1901, Volume 17, Part 1" by India Census Commissioner, Edward Albert Gait. Published by the Office of the Superintendent of Government Printing, India, 1902. Pg 149.
- Shaharyar M. Khan (2000). The Begums of Bhopal: A History of the Princely State of Bhopal. I.B.Tauris. p. 119. ISBN 978-1-86064-528-0.
- Orakzai suicide blast death toll reaches 85 The Daily Times (Pakistan)