History of the Marwat tribe of Pashtuns

The Marwat tribe is a branch of the Lohani section of the Lodi tribe, mostly found in Lakki Marwat district of KPK. They are said to be descended from Nuh and his first wife Mashirah alias Shiri. It has four sub-sections of Musa Khel, Tapi, Nuna Khel and Salar. According to Makhzan-i-Afghani (composed in 1613 AD) :-

“Lohani’s original name was Nuh. He had two wives ; the one, Toori ; the second, Shiri. From the first wife he had five sons, Mamya, Mia, Tatur, Patakh, Hud. Sheeri, the second wife of Lohani, had one son, whom she called Marwat : his descendants are denominated Marwatkhail” [1]

Initially, the Marwats and other Lohani tribes nomadized between Ghazni Plataea and Derajat and also had permanent settlements in Katawaz, Wana and Mahsud land of Waziristan during fifteenth century. The Marwats who were the aborigines of what is now South Waziristan, also appear to be engaged in agriculture. Evelyn Howell writes: –

“Nothing is more remarkable throughout Waziristan than the traces of terraced fields which remain to show that once men grew corn where there is no tillage. In Waziristan anyhow local tradition is unanimous that it was in the days of the Marwats or the Urmars that, these lands were cultivated and mainly all the water channels of any size or length which still survive were cut. ” [2]

Around mid-fifteenth century, Marwats lost Katawaz to Suleiman Khel Ghilzais. A dispute arose between the Marwats and Suleiman Khel Ghilzais over return of a Suleiman Khel boy who had abducted a girl of his clan and taken refuge with the Marwats. On refusal by the latter, the Suleiman Khels, with the help of other Ghilzai clans, expelled the Marwats from Katawaz. [3]

In the time of Babur, Daulat Khel branch of Lohanis got involved in a feud with the Prangis who were settled in the fertile tract of Tank. Shahbaz Khan alias Khan Zaman Khan Daulat Khel sought help from his kinsmen, the other Lohani tribes in the area. The Marwats supported the Daulat Khels. So fierce was the battle that Prangis were almost decimated, and the survivors joined their kinsmen in Hind. Khan Zaman Khan divided the acquired territory of Tank tract into four equal shares amongst the four Lohani tribes who had taken part in the battle against Prangis. Lohani clans are said to have afterwards quarreled among themselves about the lands taken from the Prangis, but eventually they all settled down in the countries which they now occupy: the Marwats in the Lakki Marwat district; the Daulat Khel and Tators in Tank; and the Mian Khels at Draban and Musahzai in the Kulachi tahsil of Dera Ismail Khan district.

Miscellaneous information

1- Lakki is a town of Lakki Marwat district. The word Laka’i, in Pushto, signifies, “tail,” “termination,” “extremity,” “after-part,” “rear,” and the like. This place was formerly in the possession of the Sarang clan of the Niazi tribe of Afghans. When Khushal Khan Khattak, held the Chautarah district, under his father, Shahbaz Khan, he made a raid from thence on the Sarangs of Laka’i. [4]

2- Syed Ghulam Muhamamd, an Indian surveyor, passed through Marwat region in 1780 and gave the following account of the Marwat country and its people:-

“The Marwat Afghans are a section or sub-tribe of the great tribe of Nuharni. The Marwat section consists of about 40,000 families, the greater number of whom follow a nomadic life, but many of them have taken to fixed abodes, and the cultivation of the soil. There are at present two Sardars or Chiefs in this tribe: one, Nur Khan of the Pahar Khel, before referred to as being the rightful chief, and the other, Gul-rang Khan of the Khafiz Khel, who has been lately set up by some sections of the tribe. Nur Khan dwells at Pahar Khel, and Gul-rang Khan, the rival chief, at Pathan-Kot; and between these rival chiefs there is no accord. Both pay allegiance to Timir Shah Sadozi, Badshah of Kabul, each pay into his treasury 5,000 rupis as a tenth, and each furnishes a contingent of 200 horsemen to the Badshah’s army. Their principal wealth is in cattle; and they likewise possess numerous flocks of sheep, and herds of camels. In the wintertime they come into the garam-sir or hot parts, in the tracts east of the mountains towards the great river, but, in the summer months, they resort to the sard-sir or cool tracts in the mountains.

“Their country, which, previous to their arrival in it, was known by the Hindi name of “Thal,” extends, from east to west, for about fifty kuroh in length, and forty kuroh in breadth from north to south. The chief place, and seat of government, is styled Laka’i, which is a town of considerable size, but the houses are merely constructed of reeds, and thatched with grass laid on the branches of trees.” As this tract of country consists chiefly of sandy tracts and desert, as its name indicates, and is surrounded on all sides by mountains at greater or lesser distances, it is exceedingly dry and hot; and, as large trees and long grass do not grow hereabouts, its inhabitants have no other stations or dwelling-places save such like unsubstantial abodes. The river Gambila’h and river of Kurma’h flow through the middle of the Marwat territory; and on both sides of these rivers the land is exceedingly fruitful and produces fine crops. The Gamila’h, as before mentioned, comes down from the hilly country of Karni-Gram, and, passing on the north side of the town of Laka’i, unites with the river of Kurma’h and its many minor tributaries three or four kuroh farther east. The united streams then flow through the lower part of the country of the ‘Isa Khel, receiving some minor streams from the hills of that part, and finally unite with the Abae Sin. Like some other Afghan tribes, the Marwat Nuharnis re-distribute the lands of their villages every ten or twelve years, sometimes after longer periods; and each member of the community, even to the infant in arms, has a share allowed. This re-distribution is, however, restricted within certain customary regulations.

“The lalmi lands, or lands dependent on rain for irrigation, are chiefly unproductive. In the cold season, however, much rain falls, and snow likewise, but, in the hot season, the heat is very great. It is not the custom in this country to sink wells, and the people use the river water for drinking purposes. The chief produce consists of wheat, barley, jowor, bajra’h, and muthh, in great plenty, but of sugar-cane, rice, and cotton, the produce is scanty. Traders have to pay a tax.

“Laka’i lies about equidistant from the several mountain ranges surrounding it, being about twenty kuroh from each, save those in the direction of Bunnu and Tak, which lie farther off. 

“The language of the people of the Marwat country is Pushto only, save in a few instances where the Baluchi and Panjabi languages are also spoken, but by persons of a different race.” [5]

3- Agha Abbas of Shiraz passed through Marwat region in 1837 and gave following account of the tribe: –

“3rd Zeehijah.—Proceeded to Marwat to the village of Lakki. The cultivation depends on the rain. This is the principal town of Marwat. A small portion of the Kurram river is applied to cultivation. There are three tribes of Marwats. 

Bahram, under Feroz Khan and Muhablat Khan, resident of Ghuzni khel; amount of fighting men two thousand. 

Dreplarah, under Noora Khan and Allaiyar Khan, resident of Sangookhel and Asakkhel; amount of fighting men two thousand. 

Musakhel, under Hyder Khan, resident of Adamzai, and Kashmir Khan, resident of Wali; amount of fighting men one thousand and five hundred. 

The former amount of the revenue of Murwat, in the time of the Sadozais, was 18,000 rupees, and in the time of the Nawabs of Dera, 50,000 rupees. 

The town of Lakki is situated in the division of Bahram; but the whole three divisions dispute about their claims to it. The Maliks of Lakki are four in number; viz. Deewana Khan, Gouhar Khan, Jahan Khan, and Alam Khan. The town of Lakki is composed of four hundred houses and twenty shops, three dyers, and two black smiths. They are now subjects of Runjeet Singh, but compulsory ones, and their revenue is only collected by detachments of Sikh troops. They are friends of the Bannuwals, and enemies of the Waziris. [6]


1- “History of Afghans” by B.Dorn, Vol-II-, p-51
2- “Mizh”, by Evelyn Howell, p-97
3- “History of the Pathans” by Haroon Rashid, p-408
4- “Notes on Afghanistan and part of Baluchistan”, by H.G.raverty, p-322
5- Ibid, pp.322-323
6- Journal of a tour through parts of Panjab and Affghanistan in year 1837 ; translated by Major R.Leech.

Read also: Marwat uprising against the Sikhs (1847) 

Recommended Book: The Marwats – Sher Mohammad Khan Mohmand 

Old man belonging to Marwat tribe
Type of Marwat, c.1909. Source: “Among the wild tribes of the Afghan frontier ” by T.L. Pennell

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