ACƎKZĪ, ACAKZĪ, or AČəKZĪ, AČAKẒĪ, a tribal grouping of Paṧtūn clans in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Acəkzī form part of the Zīrak branch of the Dorrānī (or Abdālī) and thus belong to the so-called western Paṧtūn (who are distinguished from the Ḡilzī, encompassing the eastern Paṧtūn). Their language is Maḡrebī/Qandahāri Pashto. Their eponymous ancestor is supposed to be a certain Acək, son of Zīrak, son of Abdāl, son of Tarīn, son of Ḵarṧbūn, whence Acək, + -zī (plural of the Pashto suffix -zay, “descendant of”) and the singular form Acəkzay. In the 18th century they were already established straddling the present Afghan-Pakistani frontier not far from Spīn Bōldak between Qandahār and Kōyṭa (Quetta). Indeed, Aḥmad Shah Dorrānī used to pass the hottest weeks of the summer on the Tōba heights (də Acəkzō Tōba) among the Acəkzī, whom he appreciated for their courage and their roughness equally (Caroe, Pathans, p. 261).

Toward the end of the 19th century, according to J. W. Murray (Dictionary, p. 201), the Acəkzī numbered 4,725 fighting men in the region of the “Khwaja Amran Range, Quetta-Pishin.” Bellew (Inquiry, p. 164) also placed them in the valley of “Kadani” (Kadanay) and on the northern slopes of the mountainous chain of “Khojak Amran” (Ḵᵛāǰa/Ḵōǰa Amrān) as far as the Tōba plateau. They were pastoral nomads, finding summer pasturage as far away as the Herat region, in Ḡōr, and in Bāḏḡīs. Bellew specifies that they had 5,000 tents and comprised two branches: the “Bahàdur” and the “Gajan,” divided into numerous subclans. Caroe, on his map, “Tribal Locations of the Pathans” (Pathans, between pp. 486 and 487), localized them in the same area as Bellew, which is still correct for the Acəkzī in Pakistan.

About 100,000 Acəkzī live in Afghanistan at present, established primarily between Qandahār and Spīn Bōldak, in Zamīndāvar north of Gerešk, and in Kōhdāman north of Kabul. Some of them are still nomadic husbandmen, others are sedentary farmers, and still others have settled in the large cities, where they practice various professions or occupy official posts (see C. M. Kieffer, Afghanica, I. Langues et ethnies d’Afghanistan, in press).


H. W. Bellew, An Inquiry into the Ethnography of Afghanistan, Woking, 1891 (repr. Graz, 1973).

O. Caroe, The Pathans, 550 B.C.-A.D. 1957, London, 1958.

J. W. Murray, A Dictionary of the Pathan Tribes on the North-West Frontier of India, Calcutta, 1899 (repr. Calcutta, 1910).

(C. M. Kieffer)

Originally Published: December 15, 1983

Last Updated: July 21, 2011

This article is available in print.
Vol. I, Fasc. 4, pp. 413-414

Cite this entry:

C. M. Kieffer, “ACƎKZĪ,” Encyclopædia Iranica, I/4, pp. 413-414; an updated version is available online at (accessed on 2 February 2014).