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 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.
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.
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 Ghandara 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.