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Q&A: Pakistan’s Waziristan challenge

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Pakistan’s army is poised to launch an offensive in the volatile tribal region of South Waziristan, reports say. The army has been massing troops near the militants’ stronghold for months. But what would await the army if it finally took on the Taliban on their home terrain?

Where is Waziristan and what is it like?

Waziristan is a mountainous region in north-west Pakistan, bordering Afghanistan.

It is part of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata), a semi-autonomous region where the central government exercises limited control through a political agent.

For administrative purposes it is divided into two “agencies” – North Waziristan and South Waziristan.

Winters are harsh, making large tracts of the already inhospitable terrain almost inaccessible.

The tribal society found in North and South Waziristan is extremely socially conservative with a fierce reputation as “warriors”.

North Waziristan is dominated by the Wazir tribe. This tribe also extends into South Waziristan and makes up one-third of its population. The remaining two-thirds of South Waziristan’s population are Mehsuds.

Why is Waziristan a target?

South Waziristan and the surrounding region have been described by US officials as “the most dangerous place on earth”.

Militants in Waziristan have also been under fire from the air. Suspected US drone strikes have killed a number of senior Taliban militants in the region in recent months.

It was one such missile attack which killed Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud at a family compound in South Waziristan.

The Pakistani army, working with local paramilitary forces such as the Frontier Corps, has also launched artillery and rocket strikes against Taliban militants there.

October 14, 2009 - Posted by | News | , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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