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Flag of Waziristan

Waziristan is a mountainous region of northwest Pakistan, bordering Afghanistan and covering some 11,585 km² (4,473 mi²). It comprises the area west and southwest of Peshawar between the Tochi river to the north and the Gomal river to the south, forming part of Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas. The North-West Frontier Province lies immediately to the east. The region was an independent tribal territory from 1893, remaining outside of British-ruled India and Afghanistan. Tribal raiding into British-ruled territory was a constant problem for the British, requiring frequent punitive expeditions between 1860 and 1945. The region became part of Pakistan in 1947.

Waziristan is divided into two "agencies", North Waziristan and South Waziristan, with estimated populations (as of 1998) of 361,246 and 429,841 respectively. The two parts have quite distinct characteristics, though both tribes are subgroups of the Waziris and speak a common language, Waziri language. They have a formidable reputation as warriors and are known for their frequent blood feuds. Traditionally, feuding local Waziri religious leaders have enlisted outsiders in the Pakistani government, and U.S. forces hunting al-Qaeda fugitives, in attempts at score-settling. The tribes are divided into sub-tribes governed by male village elders who meet in a tribal jirga. Socially and religiously Waziristan is an extremely conservative area. Women are carefully guarded, and every household must be headed by a male figure. Tribal cohesiveness is so strong the areas are governed through so-called Collective Responsibility Acts in the Frontier Crimes Regulation.

North Waziristan

The north is inhabited by the Darwesh Khel or Wazir tribes from which the region derives its name, who live in fortified mountain villages and farm in the valleys below.

South Waziristan

The south is predominately inhabited by the Mashud tribes, who live in tent villages and graze their characteristic fat-tailed sheep, white with black faces. South Waziristan Agency has district headquarters at Wana. South Waziristan, which comprises about 6,500 square kilometers, is the most volatile agency of Pakistan; it is not under the direct administration of the government of Pakistan, but indirectly governed by a political agent, sometimes an outsider, sometimes a Waziri— a system that was inherited from the British Raj.

Waziri relations with Pakistan

Relations with the Pakistani state have been tense for many years. There has been a strong strain of Pashtun unity (thus irredentism in national terms). This is not surprising, as the border with Afghanistan, though it follows the geography of the high watershed divide, is made porous by many high mountain passes of long traditional use. Thus the international border of relatively recent creation, owes nothing to traditional ethnic boundaries. It is only nominally controlled by the Pakistani authorities and is in practice largely independent of the state, with the tribes fiercely guarding their independence and on occasion fighting state forces.

After the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, thousands of Afghan refugees fled across the border to Waziristan, which became an important base for the mujahideen guerillas fighting the Soviet occupation. Afghan refugees were categorized in to (a) Muhajerrin or Refugees and (b) Mujahideen or freedom fighters. The government's public explanation was that only refugees are living in settled areas of Pakistan while the Mujahideen are based in the tribal areas. The area reprised its 1980s role in 2001 during the US invasion of Afghanistan, this time playing host not only to refugees but also to defeated Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters. They were actually the remnants of the same fundamentalist groups who were trained and equipped by the CIA and Pakistani intelligence agencies during soviet invasion of Afghanistan. This time their allies confronted them. Osama bin Laden himself was widely believed to have taken refuge either in Waziristan or just across the Afghan border.

The Pakistani government sent thousands of troops into the region in 2002 to hunt for bin Laden and other al-Qaeda fugitives. In March 2004, heavy fighting broke out at Azam Warsak, near the South Waziristan town of Wana, between Pakistani troops and an estimated 400 militants holed up in several fortified settlements. It was speculated that bin Laden's deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri was among those trapped by the Pakistani Army.

Pictures from Waziristan ( Sketch Map of Waziristan ( es:Waziristán nl:Waziristan


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