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| Dotani |

Daniel Balland

Encyclopaedia Iranica

Family Tree of the Dotani's

Dotani is a Pashtun tribe of the Lodhi confederation and is still mainly nomadic. The Dotan's have sometims been included among the Lohani tribes because of common migratory patterns (Gazetteer of Afghanistan VI, pp. 162-64). All indigenous accounts point to a wholly independent status, however (Hayat Khan, p. 183; Yar Muhammad Khan, p. 222) J.A. Robinson (p. 160) has provided the best discussion of internal subdivisions of the tribe, and most of the segments he described were recorded in the Afghan nomad survey of 1357 Hijri (1978) (unpublished).

In the survey 1,215 Dotani nomadic families (about 6,800 individuals) were enumerated. The majority were herders (maldar), who gathered in summer on the high pastures of Hazarajat (Balland and Kieffer, p. 78). The remainder were mainly impoverished nomads scattered in summer camps throughout the Ghazni basin and the upper Tarnak valley around Moqor (eastern Afghanistan), where they looked for daily labor, usually as harvesters (darawgar). Most Dotani nomads wintered in the North-West Frontier Province of Pakistan, in either southern Waziristan or Derajat. A minority wintered in southern Afghanistan, mainly in the Qandahar oasis (17 percent), where some owned houses, or in the middle Helmand valley (6 percent). From a social geographical point of view, four different subgroups can thus be distinguished. A fifth group consisted of sedentary Dotani settled in southern Waziristan or in eastern Afghanistan.

Such social geographical fragmentation is typical of Pashtun tribes in eastern Afghanistan. It is the result partly of a general crisis that has impoverished and depastoralized many nomads in the area in the second half of the 20th century (Balland, 1988a, pp. 182 ff.) and partly of earlier developments specific to the tribe, which can only roughly be reconstructed.

In the earliest sources on the Dotani tribe they are described as sedentary rice and wheat growers living around Wana in southern Waziristan (Broadfoot, p. 394; Elphinstone, p. 387; Niamatullah, II, p. 128 n. 72). In the mid-19th century territorial pressure from the Ahmadzai Wazir gradually ousted the Dotani from that region; villages were destroyed, and a growing proportion of the inhabitants was forced to adopt a nomadic life. H.B. Lumsden (p. 97) was the first to mention nomadic Dotani. This remarkably late process of nomadization apparently took place rapidly, the number of Dotani nomadic families reportedly increasing from about 200 in the 1860s (Foujdar Khan, p. LXXXVI) to 1,000 in the 1890s (King), that is, from about one third of the tribe (Broadfoot, p. 394: estimated at 600 families in 1839) to more than half (Gazetteer of Afghanistan VI, pp. 162-64). The need for new seasonal grazing lands increased correspondingly. After the Hazarajat war of 1309-10 Hijri (1892), in which they did not participate, the Dotani secured access to the large summer pasturelands that they presently hold in Nawor (Balland, 1988b, p. 272). Competition from the Wazir limited the availability of winter grazing in the middle Gomal area, however, and, though pasturelands were available downstream in the Derajat and neighboring Do'ab district of Baluchistan, they soon became overcrowded (Robinson, p. 160).

The scarcity of winter grazing, coupled with permanent insecurity during the biannual migration through Wazir territory (King; Gazetteer of Afghanistan VI, pp. 162-64; Military Report, pp. 147-48), induced several Dotani lineages to give up all grazing in India and to take up new winter quarters in less populated southern Afghanistan, thus creating a major geographical division within the tribe (Balland and Kieffer, p. 85). This shift, already in full swing in the 1930s (Robinson, pp. 161, 164), was intensified during the following decades: The entire main nomadic section of the tribe, the Bazar Khel, wintered in southern Waziristan in 1311-13 Hijri (1932-34), but in 1357 Hijri (1978) two of every three Bazar Khel families were spending the winter in southern Afghanistan. The number of Dotani nomads whose migratory route crossed the Durand Line had thus remained more or less constant since the 1890s, despite demographic growth (according to Robinson, pp. 161 ff., 976 families in 1311-13 Hijri (1932-34), 933 families in 1357 Hijri (1978)). Nomadic Dotani also increasingly engaged in trading activities. Although they were not yet considered a major trading (powindah) tribe in 1860, they gained that status within two decades (Lumsden, p. 91; Raverty, IV, pp. 491, 499; Gazetteer of Afghanistan VI, pp. 162-64; for later periods, see Ferdinand, pp. 144, 148). Some even took part in the external trade of Bukhara (Tucker, p. 188). In 1357 Hijri (1978), however, according to an unpublished survey, only twelve families of the Bazar Khel section still reported trade as a significant activity.

In 1357 Hijri (1978) Dotani nomads migrating along the Gomal route made up the largest single nomadic group crossing the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, a position held by the Nusair in the 19th century and the Suleiman Khel in the first half of the 20th century (Balland, 1991, p. 227). Since then, however, land conflicts between the Dotani and the Wazir have come to an end, especially as the latter are now more dependent upon remittances from the Persian Gulf than on local resources and have consequently abandoned their previous claims to the Zarmelan plain and the adjacent Gomal valley (Ahmad, p. 5).

Appendix

Sub Groups of the Dotani (1357 Hijri - 1978 AD)

  Winter Location Number of Families Percentage
Maldar's North West Frontier Province 782 64
  Southern Afghanistan 196 16
Darawgar's North West Frontier Province 151 13
  Southern Afghanistan 86 7

Bibliography

  1. A. S. Ahmad, "Nomadism as Ideological Expression. The Case of the Gomal Nomads," Nomadic Peoples 9, 1981, pp. 3-15; repr. in A. S. Ahmad, Pakistan Society, Karachi, 1986, pp. 211-27.
  2. D. Balland, "Le declin contemporain du nomadisme pastoral en Afghanistan," in E. Grötzbach, ed., Neue Beiträge zur Afghanistanforschung, Liestal, Switzerland, 1988a, pp. 175-98.
    Idem, "Nomadic Pastoralists and Sedentary Hosts in the Central and Western Hindukush Mountains, Afghanistan," in N. J. R. Allan, G. W. Knapp, and C. Stadel, eds., Human Impact on Mountains, Totowa, N.J., 1988b, pp. 265-76.
    Idem, "Nomadism and Politics. The Case of Afghan Nomads in the Indian Subcontinent," Studies in History (New Delhi) 7/2, 1991, pp. 205-29.
    Idem and C. M. Kieffer, "Nomadisme et secheresse en Afghanistan. L'exemple des nomades Pastun du Dat-e Nawor," in Equipe ecologie et anthropologie des societes pastorales, ed., Pastoral Production and Society, Cambridge and Paris, 1979, pp. 75-90.
  3. J. S. Broadfoot, "Reports on Parts of the Ghilzi Country, and on Some of the Tribes in the Neighbourhood of Ghazni; and on the Route from Ghazni to Dera Ismail Khan by the Ghwalari Pass," Royal Geographical Society Supplementary Papers 1, 1886, pp. 341-400.
  4. M. Elphinstone, An Account of the Kingdom of Caubul, London, 1815; repr. Graz, 1969.
  5. K. Ferdinand, "Nomad Expansion and Commerce in Central Afghanistan," Folk 4, 1962, pp. 123-59.
  6. Nawab Foujdar Khan, "Statements Regarding Trade Carried on by the Povindah Merchants," in R. H. Davies, Report on the Trade and Resources of the Countries on the North-Western Boundary of British India, Lahore, 1862, pp. LXXXV-XCV.
  7. Muhammad Hayat Khan, Hayat e Afghan, Lahore, 1867; tr. H. Priestley as Afghanistan and Its Inhabitants, Lahore, 1874; repr. Lahore, 1981.
  8. L.W. King, letter dated 30 November 1894, National Archives of India, Foreign Department, Secret F, February 1895, No. 575.
  9. H. B. Lumsden, The Mission to Kandahar, Calcutta, 1860. Military Report on Waziristan 1935, Calcutta, 1936.
  10. Khwaja Niamatullah, Makhzan e Afghan, tr. B. Dorn as History of the Afghans, 2 vols., London, 1829-36; repr. London, 1965; repr. Karachi, 1976.
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  12. J. A. Robinson, Notes on Nomad Tribes of Eastern Afghanistan, New Delhi, 1935; repr. Quetta, 1978; repr. Quetta, 1980.
  13. Sher Muhammad Khan, Tawarikh e Khan Jahan, Lahore, 1311/1894.
  14. H. S. Tucker, Report of the Land Revenue Settlement of the Dera Ismail Khan District of the Punjab 1872-79, Lahore, 1879.