DAWTĀNĪ (or Daftānī, sg. Dawtānay/Daftānay), Pashtun tribe of the Lōdī confederation, still mainly nomadic. The Dawtānī have sometimes been included among the Lōḥāṇī tribes because of common migratory patterns (Gazetteer of Afghanistan VI, pp. 162-64). All indigenous accounts point to a wholly independent status, however (Ḥayāt Khan, p. 183; Šēr Moḥammad 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of the tribe, and most of the segments he described were recorded in the Afghan nomad survey of 1357 Š./1978 (unpublished).

In the survey 1,215 Dawtānī nomadic families (about 6,800 individuals) were enumerated. The majority were herders (māldār), who gathered in summer on the high pastures of northern Dašt-e Nāwor in Hazārajāt (Balland and Kieffer, p. 78). The remainder were mainly impoverished nomads scattered in summer camps throughout the Ḡaznī basin and the upper Tarnak valley around Moqor (eastern Afghanistan), where they looked for daily labor, usually as harvesters (darawgar). Most Dawtānī nomads wintered in the North-West Frontier Province of Pakistan, in either southern Waziristan or Dērajāt. A minority wintered in southern Afghanistan, mainly in the Qandahār 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 (see Table 9). A fifth group consisted of sedentary Dawtānī 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 Dawtānī tribe they are described as sedentary rice and wheat growers living around Wāna in southern Waziristan (Broadfoot, p. 394; Elphinstone, p. 387; Neʿmat-Allāh, II, p. 128 n. 72). In the mid-19th century territorial pressure from the Aḥmadzī Wazīr gradually ousted the Dawtānī 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 Dawtānī. This remarkably late process of nomadization apparently took place rapidly, the number of Dawtānī 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 Hazārajāt war of 1309-10/1892, in which they did not participate, the Dawtānī secured access to the large summer pasturelands that they presently hold in Nāwor (Balland, 1988b, p. 272). Competition from the Wazīr limited the availability of winter grazing in the middle Gōmal area, however, and, though pasturelands were available downstream in the Dērajāt and neighboring Žōb district of Baluchistan, they soon became overcrowded (Robinson, p. 160).

The scarcity of winter grazing, coupled with permanent insecurity during the biannual migration through Wazīr territory (King; Gazetteer of Afghanistan VI, pp. 162-64; Military Report, pp. 147-48), induced several Dawtānī 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 Bāzārḵēl, wintered in southern Waziristan in 1311-13 Š./1932-34, but in 1357 Š./1978 two of every three Bāzārḵēl families were spending the winter in southern Afghanistan. The number of Dawtānī nomads whose migratory route crossed the Durand Line (see BOUNDARIES iii) had thus remained more or less constant since the 1890s, despite demographic growth (according to Robinson, pp. 161 ff., 976 families in 1311-13 Š./1932-34, 933 families in 1357 Š./1978). Nomadic Dawtānī 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 Š./1978, however, according to an unpublished survey, only twelve families of the Bāzārḵēl section still reported trade as a significant activity.

In 1357 Š./1978 Dawtānī nomads migrating along the Gōmal route made up the largest single nomadic group crossing the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, a position held by the Nāṣer in the 19th century and the Solaymānḵēl in the first half of the 20th century (Balland, 1991, p. 227). Since then, however, land conflicts between the Dawtānī and the Wazīr 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 Zarmelān plain and the adjacent Gōmal valley (Ahmad, p. 5).



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.

D. Balland, “Le déclin 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 sécheresse en Afghanistan. L’exemple des nomades Paštun du Dašt-e Nāwor,” in Equipe écologie et anthropologie des sociétés pastorales, ed., Pastoral Production and Society, Cambridge and Paris, 1979, pp. 75-90.

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.

M. Elphinstone, An Account of the Kingdom of Caubul, London, 1815; repr. Graz, 1969.

K. Ferdinand, “Nomad Expansion and Commerce in Central Afghanistan,” Folk 4, 1962, pp. 123-59.

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.

M. Ḥayāt Khan, Ḥayāt-e āfḡān, Lahore, 1867; tr. H. Priestley as Afghanistan and Its Inhabitants, Lahore, 1874; repr. Lahore, 1981.

L. W. King, letter dated 30 November 1894, National Archives of India, Foreign Department, Secret F, February 1895, No. 575.

H. B. Lumsden, The Mission to Kandahar, Calcutta, 1860.

Military Report on Waziristan 1935, Calcutta, 1936.

Ḵᵛāja Neʿmat-Allāh, Maḵzan-e afḡānī, tr. B. Dorn as History of the Afghans, 2 vols., London, 1829-36; repr. London, 1965; repr. Karachi, 1976.

H. G. Raverty, Notes on Afghānistān and Part of Balūchistan, London, 1881-88; repr. Lahore, 1976.

J. A. Robinson, Notes on Nomad Tribes of Eastern Afghanistan, New Delhi, 1935; repr. Quetta, 1978; repr. Quetta, 1980.

Šēr Moḥammad Khan, Tawārīḵ-e ḵoršīd-e jahān, Lahore, 1311/1894.

H. S. Tucker, Report of the Land Revenue Settlement of the Dera Ismail Khan District of the Punjab 1872-79, Lahore, 1879.

(Daniel Balland)

Originally Published: December 15, 1994

Last Updated: November 18, 2011

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Vol. VII, Fasc. 2, pp. 160-161