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| Dolat Khel |

Daniel Balland

Encyclopaedia Iranica

Dolat Khel is the tribal name common among the eastern Pashtuns at various levels of tribal segmentation. It is not to be confused with Dolat Zai. There are minor sections of Dolat Khel within the Sadozai, Utmanzai, & Mandarh's in the north-eastern extremity of the Peshawar basin, the Utman Khel in the lower Swat valley, the Malagori on the northern side of the Khyber Pass, their Malak Din Khel and Zaka Khel Afridi neighbors, and the Ahmadzai and Umanzai Wazir and the Dre Mahsud of Waziristan. Within the tribes of the Lodhi confederacy a Dolat Khel section is recorded among the Niazi, the Sherani, and two subdivisions of the Lohani's: the Yasin Khel, Mama Khel and the Salar Marwat of Lakki (Dictionary, pp. 53-54; Hart, p. 45; Hayat Khan, pp. 91, 184-86, 189, 223; King, p. 220; Merk, p. 85; Niamatullah, II, p. 50; Yar Muhammad Khan, pp. 191, 223-26, 229-30, 248). In fact, the name is so common as to be almost meaningless.

The Dolat Khel of Mama Khel Lohani appears to be the only tribal unit of importance that bears the name. Having outnumbered and eventually absorbed all other Mama Khel clans, it became the leading tribe among the Lohani's, a genealogically and economically related group of nomadic tribes. Centuries ago the Dolat Khel used to migrate and trade between the highlands of eastern Afghanistan (Katwaz) and the Indus lowlands (Derajat). Having lost Katwaz to the Suleiman Khel in the Timurid period, they found new summer quarters in the Suleiman mountains (Hayat Khan, p. 189). The tribe gradually shifted from a pastoral life to cultivation in their winter quarters, where they replaced the Lodhi tribes that had moved into Hindustan in the 15th-16th centuries (Gazetteer, p. 26; Tucker, p. 42). Bitter intertribal conflicts over cultivable land ensued, in the course of which the Dolat Khel won control of the upper Derajat around Tank by the beginning of the 17th century. Until the late 18th century they seem to have remained mainly nomadic, carrying on trading expeditions as far as Kabul and Qandahar (Raverty, V, p. 488).

At that time massive sedentarization reportedly occurred as part of an agricultural-development scheme undertaken by the chief of the Dolat Khel's around Tank. It included construction of "an enormous dam" across the Gomal river, so that early in the 19th century the area was described as well cultivated and irrigated (Edwardes, I, pp. 350, 358; Elphinstone, p. 368). By the mid-19th century the Dolat Khel were completely sedentarized, the first of the Lohani tribes to give up nomadism and long-distance trading (Lumsden, pp. 91-92). During the same period internal feuds and a long-standing guerrilla war against the Sikhs greatly weakened the tribe (Edwardes, I, pp. 359 ff.; Yar Muhammad Khan, p. 226), which dropped in size from 8,000-9,000 families in the late 18th century, a figure including several vassal tribes and many allogenous tenants (hamsaya) of various origins, to only 1,387 individuals according to the Indian census of 1881. At that time it was the weakest of all Lohani tribes (Elphinstone, p. 375; Hayat Khan, p. 190; Ibbetson, p. 72; Raverty, IV p. 325, V, p. 487). This decline is clearly reflected in the numerous encroachments by the Bettani on Dolat Khel lands in the second half of the 19th century. In 1910 R.T. Ridgeway (p. 106) described the Dolat Khel as "a very small and feeble tribe," and they have apparently remained so until today.

Genealogical details of Dolat Khel's tribal organization have been provided by Muhammad Hayat Khan (p. 185) and Yar Muhammad Khan (p. 223). The most important section is the Katti Khel, from which originated the headman of both the tribe and all the formerly united Lohani tribes (Hayat Khan, p. 189).


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  2. H. B. Edwardes, A Year on the Punjab Frontier in 1848-49, London, 1851; repaginated repr. Gurgaon, India, 1989.
  3. M. Elphinstone, An Account of the Kingdom of Caubul, London, 1815; repr. Graz, 1969.
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  14. Yar Muhammad Khan, Tawarikh e Khan Jahan, Lahore, 1311/1894.
  15. H. S. Tucker, Report of the Land Revenue Settlement of the Dera Ismail Khan District of the Punjab 1872-79, Lahore, 1879.