Pakistan’s Tribal Areas: headed towards war?

Pakistan’s Tribal Areas along the Afghan border seem to be slipping into all-out war. On July 29, militants launched missiles at the Tochi Scouts Fort, one of the government’s official paramilitary outposts in Miramshah, North Waziristan Agency. No injuries were reported, but some damage to the building. (Dawn, July 30) That same day, one was killed and four others arrested in a clash between security forces and gunmen near a madrassa outside Miran Shah in North Waziristan, where a large cache of explosives was reportedly discovered. (IRNA, July 31)

Since the new violence, North Waziristan tribal leaders have threatened to stop supporting the Pakistan Army if it undertake any search operation in the agency without informing them. Malik Qadir Khan, a tribal chief, said at a grand jirga that army officers were disrespectful of the sanctity of the tribesmen’s homes while conducting search operations, and that innocent people were arrested without evidence. (Pakistan Daily Times, July 31)

Five people, including chief of the Ahmedzai Wazir tribe Malik Mirza Alam Wazir, were gunned down July 22 when unidentified gunmen opened fire on their vehicle in Gangi Khel area. (Pakistan Tribune, July 22) Were the gunmen militants sending a message warning against cooperation with the security forces, or vice versa? Pakistan’s authorities say up to 80 foreign militants linked to al-Qaeda are being harbored in the region. (Daily Times, July 31)

On July 24, missile and rocket explosions were reported in several parts of North Waziristan, while an army officer suffered injuries in remote-controlled bomb blasts, sources said. The security forces retaliated with heavy aerial firing and arrested three suspects in Razmak Tehsil. Army troops have started taking over several check-posts along the Afghan border, which were previously manned by the Frontier Corps in cooperation with local tribal leaders. This is seen as an affront to the region’s legal autonomy. (Dawn, July 25)

Pressure from the US and Britain to get the Tribal Areas under control could well backfire, it seems. See our last post on the Tribal Areas, and the recent sweeps in Pakistan.