The history of Dera Ismail Khan is not well elucidated; but as per recent historical record, it was probably founded toward the end of the fifteenth century by a Baloch Chief, Sardar Ismail Khan who settled here, and named the town after himself. The original town was swept away by floods in 1823, the present city was rebuilt by Sardar Ellahi Bakhsh Siyyal in 1825, but he preferred not to change the name. The present town stands six km away from the permanent channel of the Indus river. Dera Ismail Khan is one of the 25 districts of Khyber Pukhtunkhwa Province of Pakistan. The capital of the district is the town of Dera Ismail Khan, spread over an area of 7,326 square kilometer, with a total population of 1,439,000. The district is bounded on the east by the Bhakkar and Dera Ghazi Khan districts of the Punjab Province, to the southwest by South Waziristan district and to the northwest by Tank and Lakki districts.

Dera Ismail Khan has a hot desert climate with hot summers and mild winters. One of the most famous products is the Dhakki date, which is exported to Middle East, U.S.A and Europe.Another dessert delicacy called Sohan Halwa is also famous. City is also well known for handicraft which includes lacquered woodwork, glass and ivory wares, mats, and sorangs.
The prominent personalities of D.I.Khan are the Nawabzada Allah Nawaz, first speaker of the provincial assembly of NWFP after independence, Mulana Mufti Mahmood and Inayatuallh Gundapur, Chief Ministers of NWFP Province. Another noble, hailed from D.I.Khan, was Wing Commander A.B Awan, who was the first Muslim pilot of Sub Continent of first squadron of Royal Air Force of India in 1930.

Saraiki language is mainly spoken in D.I. Khan City while Pashto is spoken in Tank and surrounding districts.
The city is connected to Bannu, Peshawar, Rawalpindi, Multan and Lahore by road. Air connection is also available for Peshawar, Islamabad and Quetta.
Most of the habitants are engaged in local trade and agriculture. City of D.I.Khan has many educational Institutions which include Qurtaba University, Gomal University, Gomal Medical College, Veterinary College and a number of boys and girls colleges.