Malakand today is substantially different to what it used to be in the past. After partition, major changes have taken place. The distinctive characteristic of the land is that it serves as a bridge for trade with the other districts of the Malakand Division. (Now divisional status has been abolished and district governments have been set up in all the districts). The Malakand Pass serves as a life-line for trade of Swat, Dir, Bajaur, Buner, Shangla and Chitral districts with other parts of the country.
The soil of Malakand is generally loamy and moist, and is irrigated by the Swat River, which flows from Swat and joins the river Kabul near Peshawar. The average rainfall is not enough; therefore the soil requires artificial irrigation. The climate here is moderately cold in winters and pleasant in summers.
High mountains rich in mineral resources, which are yet to be exploited, surround Malakand as already mentioned. However, deposits of chromite, iron, china clay and fuller’s earth have been found in Malakand. There are vast opportunities for mineral exploration in the area, which are yet to be exploited.


The people of Malakand are keenly interested in getting educated. Almost every village has a high school. Thana, a prominent village of Malakand is a seat of learning. In 1908, the British had opened a primary school in Thana. In 1934, the same school was upgraded to high level, with a boarding house facility. The school was further upgraded to higher secondary level. Students from far off places would flock in here to receive their education. Most of the educated people of the entire Malakand are matriculates from this school.
Taking into consideration the academic zeal of the people of the area, in 1962 the government constructed an intermediate college for boys at Thana, which was later upgraded to a degree level. Besides, an intermediate college for girls, a Commerce College and an Elementary College were also opened in Thana. After a few years many schools and colleges were opened in different areas of Malakand. Nowadays educational institutions have been set up everywhere in Malakand and a full-fledged education department works supervising all the academic institutions throughout Malakand. Official figures confirm the literacy level in Malakand to be higher as compared to the overall ratio in the country.
The district government after pursuing the provincial high-ups has taken approval for establishment of many academic institutions in Malakand. Planning is also underway to construct a Cadet College and a Polytechnic Institute in Malakand.


At the beginning there were extreme paucity of health establishments in Malakand. There existed a civil hospital at Batkhela, a TB sanatorium at Rang Mohallah near Piran village in Malakand and a few dispensaries in some villages of Malakand. After partition efforts were made to fulfil the requirements of the people in the health sector also. The civil hospital at Batkhela was upgraded to an agency headquarters hospital where an Agency Surgeon was posted. Later, a full-fledged health department was established with a district health officer and other staff.
Now in the health sector too greater strides have been made. Civil hospitals in other villages like Dargai, Agra, Thana, Totakan etc were constructed with a sprinkling of Rural Health Centres, Basic Health Units and dispensaries throughout Malakand.
Besides, the health sector, many other departments like Communications and Works, Public Health Engineering, Information, Agriculture, Livestock and Dairy Development, Forests and Finance have been established.


Before the British occupation, the Sam Ranizai area was a dry and arid land. Owing to scarcity of water for irrigation, the people had poor and negligible crops. But after the British occupied the land, survey was conducted and the Benton Tunnel through the Malakand hill towards Jabban was constructed. The flow of the River Swat was changed as a result of the tunnel. Surplus water was directed towards the Qalangi area via Trai-Totakan while a portion of the water was diverted towards the Malakand Pass, which was then made to go through that tunnel.
At the end of the outer edge of the water tunnel, besides running Jabban Hydro-Electric Project, a canal was also taken towards Dargai, which started irrigating thousands of land of the Sam Ranizai. The same water was further taken along the hillside towards Dargai where another hydro-electric project was built at the bottom of the hill.
The canal that ensued from the scheme proved very beneficial for the Sam Ranizai. The barren land mass was converted into a fertile irrigated land where different kinds of crops, fruits and vegetables started to grow. The people became very rich and the climate was greatly altered. Before the said water tunnel the area of Malakand Khas was a hot and dry place but after construction of the tunnel and passage of water, the climate abruptly changed. Now in winter season cold winds blew throughout the season while at the bottom of the Malakand Pass the weather condition remain normal.
The people of Malakand are very hardworking and live mostly on agriculture. Water flows in abundance. Most of the people have established self-irrigation schemes without any assistance from the government. The average rainfall in Malakand is not enough to meet the irrigation requirements of the people. Therefore, they have set up tube wells and other machines for artificial irrigation of their lands.
The land of Malakand as compared to other areas, is very fertile. Rice is the principal crop of Malakand. In Khareef rice, maize, millet and sugarcane are grown in abundance while in Rabi the main crops are beat, wheat, barely, grain and tobacco.
The land of Malakand abounds in greenery and has abundance of orchards where the main fruits grown are oranges, kinos (mandens), grapes, loquats, pears and apricots. These fruits are supplied to the rest of the country in commercial quantity. Oranges (malta) of Palai are very famous all over the country and tourists who visit Malakand in winter season never miss a chance to take a basket of the Palai oranges back home.
Industrially, Malakand is lagging behind. Successive governments have paid only lip services to the industrialization of this area. There are no signs of factories in Swat Ranizai. In Sam Ranizai, however, some factories were set up but later many of them were closed. Two ghee mills at Dargai, a motorcycle assembling plant and a leather unit at Sakhakot were established and productions started but later except the Dargai ghee mills, very unfortunately, the other two factories were shifted to Punjab.


MALAKAND-III HYDRO POWER PROJECT: The gigantic Malakand-III Hydro Power Project is a venture of the Sarhad Hydel Development Organization (SHYDO). The project is under construction. It will produce 81 mega watts of electricity and is to be completed within the next three years with an estimated cost of 106.15 million US dollars. It is expected that by 2006 the project will be commissioned.
The power generated from the Malakand-III Hydro Project will be supplied to industrial units within the project area as well as the industrial estates of the province. This project is proposed to be operated in conjunction with the existing power houses of Jabban and Dargai keeping in view the variation in water availability in the Swat River.


BENTON TUNNEL: The historic Benton Tunnel was completed in 1918. The British government constructed the tunnel for irrigation of the arid and waste lands apart from running the power house at Jaban.
Later after partition, the same water was utilized to also run the Dargai power house. A 6.75 kilometre long pitched channel, commencing 2300 meter downstream of the Benton Tunnel, was constructed parallel to the nullah to lead the water to trifurcate at Dargai.
The water is trifurcated into two irrigation branches. Abazai branch running in a westerly and Machai branch in easterly direction. Both the power plants at Jabban and Dargai are set up each between the outlet of the Benton Tunnel and the trifurcator. This productive tunnel is a great achievement of the British government in Malakand.
Due to increase in irrigation water requirements, the Amandara Head Works was upgraded under the Swabi SCARP and with the technical assistance of Chinese Geo-corporation, an auxiliary tunnel was also constructed parallel to the existing Benton Tunnel which caries an increased design discharge of 51 cusecs. This upgradation has also helped in controlling water leakage and thus enabling the authorities to get sufficient water for the power houses to run.
GIBRALTAR HILL: On entering district Malakand and passing through the historic Malakand Pass, one comes to the village namely Malakand Khas situated on the top of the hill. Proceeding downwards to the Batkhela, the famous Gibraltar Hill will come into view, which is crowned by two British made piquets at both sides (now turned into debris due to no repair at all). Between this hill and the Malakand Fort is located the Muslim graveyard covered with a thick wild olive forest, the firing range of the Pakistan army and the British cemetery.
On both sides of the Gibraltar Hill there are nullahs and ruins of the old Buddhist road. This was in use even during the early period of the British occupation and till the modern road was constructed. This road was connected to the village Rang Mohallah. The same has now been abandoned after a metalled road was constructed via Piran village.


Benton Tunnel at Khar
Gibraltar Hill in Malakand