With the Taliban back in control in Afghanistan and the TTP once again on the march along the borders of Afghanistan and Pakistan, tribal societies, their leadership and organization must be better understood by those dealing with them. Without this understanding, there will be little hope of successfully managing conflict with the recently re-emerged Taliban and TTP. It is with this in mind that we must applaud Colonel Rai Kashif Amin Khan for making a classic of tribal society available to the reader. This is Sir Lucas White King’s celebrated monograph, The Orakzai Country and Clans written over a century ago. The re-printing of the monograph is the occasion of my writing an Op-Ed in its honour, and it is also an opportunity to revisit some autobiographical notes from my life among the Orakzai (for further information, see my Pukhtun Economy and Society). Who are the Orakzai peoples? Their name Orakzai derives from the words orak or lost and zai meaning son. The story goes that a Persian prince arrived in this region a long time ago as a result of changing fortunes and founded the tribe. When I was appointed Political Agent in charge of the recently formed Orakzai Agency in the mid-1970s, I looked around for literature about its history and culture. Indeed, when I was not attending official meetings or presiding over reconciliation assemblies among the tribes, I would spend my free time researching and locating rare manuscripts on tribal societies. I found three priceless monographs: Merck on the Mohmand, Howell on the Mahsud and King on the Orakzai. All three authors were British officers belonging to the elite cadre of the Indian Civil Service, the famed ICS. Writing about the peoples they served was a great tradition of British field officers and I believe it is essential to continue this tradition in Pakistan. In one way or other, I managed to preserve all three monographs through publication. Last year, I was delighted to see that Oxford University Press had republished Howell’s little gem. King, who wrote on the Orakzai, was Deputy Commissioner of Kohat (from 1897-1900) and gave us an intelligent and analytical account of the Orakzai tribes who were then part of his charge. I am now thrilled to receive King’s Orakzai, re-published by courtesy of Colonel Kashif, a true scholar-soldier, presently Commandant of the Orakzai Scouts. The Colonel deserves our gratitude and I hope his senior colleagues take note of his contribution. With patience and wise handling, the tribes can be united peacefully in a common cause. The monograph is divided into three main sections: the first deals with an overview of the Orakzai clans and the regions where they live; the second deals with their history and their relations with other tribes; and the third discusses relations between the British colonial government and the Orakzai clans. There are sections on military expeditions but also on other topics such as customs, shrines and leadership which are invaluable to the reader. It is notable that although the tribe is overwhelmingly Sunni, significant Shia communities are living in the Orakzai Agency. The final chapter describes, beginning in 1885, hostile Orakzai “depredations” – the word used by King – to which the British reacted by launching several campaigns into Orakzai territory. King points out the sympathies the Orakzai felt for the Afghans in the Second Anglo-Afghan War (1878-80). The final major expedition against the tribe took place in 1897 and ended in its surrender to the British and the handing over of a large number of arms and ammunition as well as stolen cattle. King’s monograph, as he states, was meant to provide his colleagues in the British colonial administration with a better understanding of the important tribes of what was then the North-West Frontier Province. Being aware that they were in the Afridi-dominated Kohat district, the Orakzai always had a sense of being treated as a minority and therefore neglected. It was only when the Orakzai finally had their own Agency did they feel the validation of their identity. Today, the tribes of the Orakzai Agency are seemingly peaceful and away from national events. But one century ago, they were in the eye of a political storm. A British girl, Miss Mollie Ellis, the daughter of Major Ellis, had been kidnapped in 1923 and taken into the Orakzai areas. Ajab Khan, a young Afridi, was behind the kidnapping. He was upset because he believed that some British troops had come to his village and insulted the local women. He promised revenge according to the code of honour and eventually slipped into the Kohat Cantonment and kidnapped Miss Ellis. In the scuffle to get her out of the house, her mother was killed. The empire was outraged. Keep in mind that this was the high noon of the British Indian empire. The idea of a British girl kidnapped by a tribesman and taken into the tribal areas was enough to send electric shocks of outrage through the bodies of every red-blooded British male. There was talk of revenge; regiments were marched about, there were even air sorties and search parties sent into the tribal areas. But most effectively, it was the political officials, who through negotiation and diplomacy, brought back Miss Ellis. Overnight, she became an international celebrity. Films and books came out of her story. But people soon noticed that she talked about the courtesy and hospitality she received at the hands of the tribesmen. This dampened the interest in her story as her own community was expecting outrage and sexual assault as they saw the tribesmen through the prism of caricature and stereotypes. When she began to talk about the modesty of the people and the care with which they treated her, they soon lost interest. Miss Ellis was taken into the house of Akhundzada Mahmud, a respected religious leader, to ensure that no harm came to the young girl. He would be her guardian and protect her in his home. His son Akhundzada Saeed told me half a century later that he still recalled her as a woman of great beauty. He was proud that they protected her honour and cared for her. I interviewed him and we became friends. My time in the Agency was fraught with danger and excitement. Two events stand out. They provide us with lessons for today: with patience and wise handling, the tribes can be united peacefully in a common cause. This conclusion flies in the face of the common stereotype about the tribes that they are recalcitrant and difficult to handle. In the first case, I hosted the first-ever visit by a Prime Minister to the interior of the Agency, and the second was my overseeing the shifting of the headquarters into the Agency. Both these developments were assisting in incorporating the Agency into the larger nation of Pakistan. The visit of Mr Z A Bhutto to the heart of the Agency was, indeed, historic. The tribesmen vigorously resisted any intrusion let alone something as visible and consequential as the visit of a Prime Minister. Besides, these areas always had foreign agents working to spoil precisely such occasions. As I began to prepare for Bhutto’s visit, I knew that one shot fired in the distance would ruin the entire trip with headlines forming across the world. I, therefore, worked very hard to ensure that peace prevailed when Bhutto landed. The problem was that almost every tribe was amid tribal feuds with their neighbours. How could I impose universal peace when no such thing had happened before in the area? I enquired about traditional methods of creating peace in such a situation. I was told that there was a long shot but it was worth trying. If I could get the tribes to agree on and sign off on teega, a stone, they would honour it. The symbolism of the stone was that it would act as a boundary between the tribes and it had to be limited to a specific period. In this case, we got the tribes to sign off on a teega for 24 hours. In the event, the invited elders sat peacefully and quietly listening to the Prime Minister but when it was all over, I noted that they continued to sit. Curious, and alert to possible mischief, I asked my staff what was going on. I was told that this was not a form of protest, but that they were keen to see the helicopters take off again. Nothing like this had happened before in the Agency. Bhutto had arrived in a convoy of three helicopters and we had ensured that he would be received with full honours as the head of the government of Pakistan. We had erected an impressive covered stage and flags and buntings were visible everywhere. The surrounding hilltops were taken by our scouts ready to ensure that no one would attempt to disrupt the proceedings. We had found an antique gun to present to Bhutto through our tribal elders and he was pleased to receive the gift. That photograph along with an article was published by Time magazine that week; proof that the Orakzai had arrived. Bhutto, who it was known, had begun to lose his temper easily was in a foul mood. At lunch, which we had arranged in the tiny rest house, he was hearing the news of Jimmy Carter’s victory in the American presidential race with increasing gloom. “The Democrats always give us a tough time. They’re not our friends,” he said more to himself than the officials gulping food around the table and wondering who would be the next victim of his wrath. He had already insulted General Jamaldar, a member of the National Assembly for the Agency. Bhutto had promised adult franchise, educational and development programs and gave significant importance to the Tribal Areas. This had made him more popular than any other politician from Pakistan. While Bhutto’s reception was peaceful in the Orakzai Agency, he received a hostile welcome in other agencies during his tour of the Tribal Areas, especially the South Waziristan Agency. It was an ill omen. Bhutto would be toppled from the government within a year and would not survive his successors’ determination to see that his life ended on the gallows. In the end, nothing would matter. It was like a Greek tragedy-preordained and prewritten. The writer is Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies, School of International Service, American University and author of The Flying Man: Philosophers of the Golden Age of Islam.