Violence in Pakistan’s Tribal Areas Likely to Continue

Violence in Pakistan’s Tribal Areas Likely to Continue

NEW DELHI, India -- Notwithstanding the deployment of an estimated 90,000 Pakistani troops along the Afghan border in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan, the situation is far from stable in a region that is vital to Islamabad and Washington. State authority is increasingly fragile in the region, with recurrent violence undermining official Pakistani claims that the situation is "under control."

Despite the "intense" Army operations in FATA, frontline Taliban and al-Qaida operatives still maintain a significant presence in the region, adding to the problems of the already-challenged U.S.-led coalition forces in neighboring Afghanistan. Although the Musharraf regime has claimed that many terrorists have been evicted, there is mounting evidence that the jihadi presence in FATA is strengthening, that Islamist extremists are regularly confronting the Pakistani state, and that they control a substantial area in Waziristan, to such an extent as to make a permanent military presence impossible.

The numbers tell the story. Throughout 2005, 285 people, including 92 civilians and 158 terrorists, were killed in Waziristan in 165 incidents. In 2006, the death toll was 590, including 109 civilians, 144 soldiers and 337 terrorists, in 248 incidents. Already through July 13, 2007, however, approximately 477 people, including 57 civilians and 400 terrorists, have died, an unambiguous indication of the situation in Pakistan's most troubled region. In one recent spell of violence, from June 19-23, at least 44 people were killed in Pakistan's North Waziristan due to alleged missile and mortar attacks from across the border in Afghanistan. Given Islamabad's understated accounts, the suppression of the press and erratic reportage, the actual numbers could be much higher.

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