Dolatzai is the ethnic name common among the eastern Pashtun on both sides of the Durand Line. The different tribal units bearing the name do not seem to be connected with one another. They are found in four different geographical locations, three on the Pakistani side of the boundary and one in Afghanistan.
In Pakistan. One of the seven sub tribes of the Orakzai is called Dolatzai. Its strength was estimated at 1,550 fighting men in 1900 and 2,100 in 1908, that is 6-7 percent of the tribe's total population (King, p. 16; Frontier, p. 193). These Dolatzai are Sunnites, though in one source it is erroneously reported that some of them are Shiite (Dictionary, p. 54). Their winter settlements are located in the lower Mastura valley, and they thus control several passes on the border between independent tribal territory and the settled district of Kohat (in the North-West Frontier Province, Pakistan). Early contacts with the British were alternately peaceful, during which they received annual allowances for guarding the passes (Aitchison, pp. 513 ff.), and hostile, when there were innumerable raids and counter attacks (Paget and Mason, pp. 395 ff.; King, pp. 162 ff.; Frontier, pp. 210 ff.; Wylly, pp. 367 ff.; Aitchison, pp. 498 ff.). The former ruling family of Bhopal (Madhya Pradesh, India) is said to have been descended from the Feroze Khel, one of three branches of these Dolatzai (King, p. 38).
Two minor fractions of the great Kakar tribe also bear the name Dolatzai, one belonging to the Alako Zai section of the Sanjar Khel subtribe, the other to the Domara, an adopted subtribe, both living in the Zhob district of Baluchistan. They counted 700 and 50 fighting men respectively in 1899 (Dictionary, pp. 54-55).
Finally, there are three Dolatzai fractions among the northeastern Pashtuns, the first among the Malizai Yusufzai's in the central Barandu valley in Buner (Dictionary, p. 55: 1,500 fighting men in 1899; for a list of their villages, see Ridgway, p. 200; cf. Bellew, p. 175; Hayat Khan, tr., p. 112); a second among their southern neighbours, the Amazai, Utmanzai & Mandanrh (Mardan district; see Ridgway, pp. 185-86); and the third among the Gadun (also Jadun) of the Hazara district, east of the Indus (Ridgway, p. 239). In the latter instance, however, the Dolatzai of the English authors are consistently called Dolatzai in indigenous sources (Hayat Khan, pp. 154-55; Yar Muhammad, p. 204); the former is possibly a hyper corrective form of the latter. Similarly, Dolatzai Yusufzai's is the form given in all Persian sources, but in 1184/1770 Rahmat Khan, in his Khulasat al Ansab pelled it Dolazai Yusufzai (Niamatullah, tr., p. 125 n. 50).
In Afghanistan. The best-known group of Dolatzai belongs to the confederation of Ghilzai tribes, though its status is somewhat controversial. According to Afghan genealogists the Dolatzai constitute merely a section of the Saleh Khel subtribe of the Suleiman Khel tribe (Hayat Khan, p. 164; Yar Muhammad, p. 214). Although most Dolatzai acknowledge the connection, it has been reported that the Suleiman Khel do not (Robinson, p. 159), considering the Dolatzai an independent, non-Ghilzai tribe. Similar situations are frequent among the Pashtun and usually reflect the genealogical transposition by adoption of a loose political alliance between a larger tribe and a smaller, vassal tribe.
The number of sedentary Dolatzai families is unknown, but two villages named Dolatzai are listed in the province of Kabul, two others in Paktia, and one each in Nangrahar and Samangan (Nauroze, pp. 274-75). In the unpublished survey of Afghan nomads conducted in 1357 H/1978 560 nomadic Dolatzai families and 553 semi nomadic ones were enumerated. In 1357 H/1978 most of the former owned flocks and wintered in the Khost basin of Paktia, spending the summer on the north-western slopes of the Suleiman mountains (Saidabad district). Most of the semi nomads were landless peasants having a permanent winter settlement in Nangrahar and summer quarters in the vicinity of Kabul, where they performed any kind of unskilled work available, from harvesting in the countryside to casual labour in town. In addition, sixty-five nomad families, fifteen of harvesters, the rest pastoral, were migrating from southern Afghanistan to the upper Tarnak valley.
From its original home in south-eastern Afghanistan the tribe separated geographically in two stages. In the late 19th century several hundred families were transplanted to Afghan Turkestan under the northern Afghanistan pashtunization scheme then in progress; in the 1880s 300 Dolatzai families were reportedly living (perhaps only in winter) in the Balkh oasis, and 30 others near Aybak (Samangan; Maitland, pp. 176, 461, 488; partly repr. in Gazetteer of Afghanistan IV, pp. 196, 254). Since the 1930s such impoverished lineages have also left south-eastern Afghanistan (Robinson, p. 159), following the decline of trading nomadism across the border. The development of service nomadism among some other sections of the Dolatzai is another aspect of the same process of proletarization.
In the 1930s some 200 nomadic Dolatzai families from ten different sections were migrating between the basins of north-western British India, where they camped in winter (in the Kurram Agency of the North-West Frontier Province and the Loralai district of Baluchistan), and the highlands of central Afghanistan, where they summered (Behsud district of Hazarajat; Robinson, p. 159). All were purely trading nomads, without land or flocks. Like other Ghilzai nomads, the Dolatzai penetrated into the heart of Hazarajat during their participation in the military conquest of the area in 1310H/1892-93 (Faiz Muhammad, p. 715). In subsequent decades they took an active part in the flourishing summer nomad bazars of central Afghanistan (Ferdinand, pp. 144, 148). But in 1357 H/1978 only one section, the Qalandar Khel, comprising forty families, was still migrating across the Durand Line, though no longer carrying on trade or travelling via the Hazarajat highlands (Balland, 1988, p. 185; idem, 1991, pp. 226-27).