[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 June, 2003, 14:59 GMT 15:59 UK
Analysis: Pakistan's army in the tribal areas

By Rahimullah Yusufzai
BBC correspondent in Peshawar

More than 2,000 soldiers from the Pakistan Army and the paramilitary Frontier Corps have finally overcome a week-long tribal resistance to extend the writ of the government to hitherto unadministered areas bordering Afghanistan.

Pakistani forces had for the first time in over a century entered the tribal areas in search of al-Qaeda members
President Musharraf
The Mohmand tribal agency, one of the seven such semi-autonomous areas in Pakistan's North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) referred to as the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), is now fully under the control of the heavily-armed troops.

The incursion allowed the government to establish eight border posts on the so-called Durand Line, which forms the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The success of the operation prompted President General Pervez Musharraf to make a reference to it at a joint press conference on Tuesday in Camp David with President George W Bush.

"Pakistani forces had for the first time in over a century entered the tribal areas in search of al-Qaeda members," he said.

'No-go areas'

The visiting Pakistani leader described it as a treacherous area and said Osama Bin Laden could be hiding there along Pakistan's border with Afghanistan.

Tribal bonds dilute the Pakistan-Afghanistan border
However, government spokesmen back home in Pakistan were making no mention of the al-Qaeda factor that may have prompted the Pakistan Army to move into the so-called "no-go areas."

Instead, they were claiming that the troops entered the area in response to demands by the tribal people who wanted the under-developed Mohmand Agency area to be opened up to undergo rapid development.

Government officials did concede that some people resisted the move and exchanged heavy fire with the Pakistani troops.

The fighting led to the death of a soldier and a village woman and injuries to two paratroopers.

At least three tribesmen opposed to the entry of Pakistani troops in the area were also killed and four others wounded.

The Pakistani authorities also alleged that the rebellious tribesmen were assisted by fighters sent by Afghan warlords, who have accused Pakistan of occupying territory belonging to Afghanistan.

Co-ordinated operation

While Pakistani soldiers were battling tribesmen in Mohmand Agency, US troops based in Afghanistan were deployed across the border in Nangarhar and Kunar provinces.

There was little doubt that it was a co-ordinated operation by the two armies to secure part of the long and porous border between Afghanistan and Pakistan and to deny sanctuary to al-Qaeda, Taleban and other anti-US elements.

US military officials in Afghanistan were not shy of admitting this fact, even though Pakistan denied having sent its troops to the unadministered tribal area as part of a joint military operation with the Americans.

Pakistan troops, it may be recalled, had moved into other previously inaccessible tribal areas in Khyber, Kurram and North Waziristan agencies bordering Afghanistan in December 2001 and June 2002.

They did so on the request of the US Government to check the movement of al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters fleeing Afghanistan.

In fact, the US-led war on terror has enabled Pakistan to extent its writ to lawless tribal areas on the border with Afghanistan by deploying its troops in newly established outposts.

The classic carrot and stick approach was applied to gain access to the tribal areas by offering development projects including schools, hospitals, roads and drinking water supply through tribal elders and taking punitive action against those who resist the deployment of Pakistani troops.

This policy seems to be working as the success of the recent military operation in Mohmand tribal area shows.

Pakistan's unruly province
27 May 03  |  South Asia

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific