Page last updated at 11:01 GMT, Wednesday, 13 May 2009 12:01 UK
Pakistan conflict map

This map charting the extent of Taliban control and presence in the north west of Pakistan is based on research carried out by the BBC's Urdu service.

The area concerned comprises the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) of Pakistan and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).

The province has 24 districts, while FATA comprises seven tribal agencies and six frontier regions.

Evidence of a Taliban stronghold or significant Taliban presence in the region was established by studying BBC Urdu news reports over the last 18 months. This information was then verified with officials and contacts on the ground.

From the research, a clear pattern of Taliban-related militancy emerged.

When the Taliban identify an area to concentrate on, they start making their presence felt by bombing music shops and girls schools. This is followed by attacks on government buildings and police stations and law enforcement personnel before moving on to major attacks, including suicide bombings.

To distinguish Taliban-related activities from general lawlessness in the area, a series of rules were applied to each incident.

These were: such incidents had to be of a recurring nature; they should have occurred within the last 18 months; the incidents must be related to Taliban militancy and not with general lawlessness; there must be some level of official confirmation of Taliban presence in such areas; the Taliban must have claimed to have appointed local "commanders", and religious schools sympathetic to the Taliban must be in the area.

Once an assessment of the current situation had been made in all these districts, they were divided into three categories.

Taliban stronghold: Districts and tribal areas where the civilian government has completely lost control. Such areas are either classified as a Taliban stronghold or the government has called in the army to flush the militants out. Local administration in these areas has become effectively dysfunctional and Taliban commanders are known to be in administrative control.

Taliban presence: These areas comprise districts and tribal agencies where the Taleban has established a permanent presence. In most cases, Taliban fighters have set up bases in rural areas, restricting government officials to limited areas in or around the district or tribal headquarters. In most of these areas, the Taliban has made its presence felt by periodically carrying out attacks on music shops, girls schools, government buildings, including police stations, and suicide bomb attacks. Local government administration remains in these areas but its effectiveness is seriously compromised. In many of these areas, the Taliban is known to have administered justice by enforcing settlements of disputes between locals. In all such areas, the Taliban have repeatedly demonstrated their capability to strike at will.

Government control: All areas where the government remains mostly in control. However, these areas are not unaffected by militant activities, such as kidnapping for ransom which are not directly related to Taliban militancy.

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