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Why is Waziristan the new front in fighting terrorism?

Interesting Article: Pakistan Assures China Over Waziristan Insurgents by / Xinjiang published Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Prime Minister of Pakistan, Yousaf Raza Giliani, recently assured the Chinese government that Pakistan was doing everything in its' power to eliminate any terrorist group based out of Waziristan. This comes after China blamed Islamic terrorists based in Pakistan for carrying out attacks in Urumqi, Kashgar and Khotan recently. China stated that Pakistan-based camps had been training Uighur insurgents, suspected of being part of the banned East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM). The ETIM is a Waziri-based mujahedeen organization, with its stated goals being the independence of East Turkestan and the conversion of all Chinese people to Islam. The media, for the last couple of years, have covered many stories coming out of Waziristan and lately the numbers of drone attacks in the area have significantly risen. Now the question is why is Waziristan suddenly everyone's problem?

Waziristan is a mountainous region of northwest Pakistan, bordering Afghanistan (see maps on right). It is part of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, considered to be outside Pakistan's four provinces. Waziristan comprises the area west and southwest of Peshawar between the Tochi River to the north and the Gomal River to the south. For administrative purposes, Waziristan is divided into two "agencies", North Waziristan and South Waziristan, with estimated populations (as of 1998) of 361,246 and 429,841 respectively. Socially and religiously, Waziristan is an extremely conservative area. Traditionally, local Waziri religious leaders have enlisted outsiders in their feuds, though it's not always that way, as local Waziris claim they are against the foreign militant presence there. In the early stage of the U.S. operations in Afghanistan, when the Taliban started fleeing into Pakistan, the local leaders, or Maliks, began a campaign among their locals to oust the foreigners. Since then, around 200 noble Maliks have been assassinated by local Taliban through targeted killings. The Pakistan Ministry of Interior has played a large part in the information gathering for the operations against the militants and their institutions. The Ministry of the Interior has prepared a list of militant commanders operating in the region and they have also prepared a list of seminaries (also known as Madrasah-any type of educational institution, whether secular or religious ) for monitoring. The government is also trying to strengthen law enforcement in the area (Waziristan is a tribal area, and in any tribal area of Pakistan, no government can deploy 'police', therefore their only options available are the frontier corps (militia) and khasadar (local tribesmen force)) by providing the NWFP Police with weapons, bullet-proof jackets, and night-vision devices. The paramilitary Frontier Corps is provided with artillery and APCs. Waziristan, home to 800,000 tribal Pushtuns and it is split into two administrative units, North and South Waziristan. North Waziristan is inhabited by the Pashtun Wazirs and Daurs tribes. During Mughal rule, Waziristan was a part of the Mughal Empire, and received the tribute from the Wazirs and Daurs. After the fall of Mughal Empire, the emerging Sikh Empire and their Khalsa Army could not extend their sway up to Waziristan. Their short rule in this area was confined to sporadic forages. Both tribes, Wazirs and Daurs, accepted the influence of the Mughal and Durrani Kings who counted on them as a solid army always in readiness to help them in emergencies. The chief tribes in North Waziristan are the Utmanzai Wazirs and Dawars. There are also small tribes like the Gurbaz, Kharsins, Saidgis and Malakshis Mahsuds. These tribes, except Saidgis, are Pakhtuns. According to the tribal annals they are descendants of Karlan, who in turn is descended from Qais Abdur Rashid (a legendary ancestor of the Pashtun race, claimed to be the first ethnic Pashtun who travelled to Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia during the early days of Islam). Regarding their ethnic origin, some historians believe that they are Semites. The traditions of the tribesmen however indicate that they are descendants of Karlan, and are, therefore, generally accepted as being a tribe of Karlanri Pakhtuns. The Saidgis are the descendants of a Syed who accompanied the founder of the Wazir tribe. South Waziristan is inhabited by the Mahsuds, Burki's ghilzai suleimankhail's and Waziris. The Mahsud and Burki tribe has a reputation for courage and many are in the Pakistani army. The Burki primarily inhabit Kaniguram, the most populous settlement in South Waziristan. This has been their tribe's focal point for over 800 years. Kaniguram has historically been off limits to outsiders except for the Burki and, more recently, the Mahsuds. The Mahsud tribe inhabits the northern regions of South Waziristan near Razmak in North Waziristan. There are no flat-plains type geography in the Mahsud tribal regions, thus the Mahsud tribe moves nomadically through these mountainous regions and have no primary source of business or trading. They rely on the Burki for their armaments while the Burkis rely on the Mahsuds for protection. For terrorists like the Taliban, Waziristan's main attraction is its fierce independence. Waziristanis have repelled outsiders for centuries; no government, imperialist or Pakistani (Alexander the Great, the Mughul Empire, The British Government, The Pakistan Government), has had much control over them. "Not until the military steamroller has passed over [Waziristan] from end to end will there be peace," wrote Lord Curzon, a British viceroy of India at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. Despite the remoteness of the Waziristan's tribes, they have often had a hand in the fates of governments in Kabul, Delhi and elsewhere. In 1929 a British-backed Afghan, Nadir Shah, used an army of Wazirs to seize the Afghan throne. A force of Wazirs and Mehsuds was dispatched in 1947 to seize Kashmir for the newly formed Islamic republic, sparking the first Indo-Pakistan war. In the 1980s Pakistan, America and Saudi Arabia armed them to fight the Soviet army in Afghanistan. In 2001 thousands of Afghan Taliban and their al-Qaeda guests fled to Waziristan. They have resumed their jihad from across the border, this time against NATO troops. I digress a bit at this time to mention the Haqqani Network, which I have spoken about in previous postings (What is the Haqqani network? Who are they? What will this new organization bring to the terrorist network?), the Haqqani Network's history comes from Waziristan, you see Jalaluddin Haqqani, was one of the leading Pashtun commanders of the jihad in Afghanistan in the 1980s. From the Zadran tribe, he is one of the few major commanders who made his peace with the Taliban, serving its' government in the 1990s as a border affairs minister. The sons of the now aging Jalaluddin front the organization. Although the eldest son, Khalifa Seraj, is meant to be the senior decision-maker, his younger brother, Badruddin, is more the operational head for various attacks. In part, the brothers draw upon fighters from the Zadran tribe in the border provinces who were loyal to Jalaluddin during the 1980s. But the Haqqanis' lethal effectiveness derives from the wide range of Pakistani tribal fighters at their disposal. In effect, they have an unlimited supply of men for small-arms ambushes and attacks on NATO posts and administrative centers. The last two years the Haqqanis have developed what amounts to a special forces capability. They have built up intelligence-gathering networks and infiltrated government institutions in Kabul and the surrounding provinces. With the help of al Qaeda and Central Asian fighters, foreign militants in Waziristan have developed advanced combat training and technology for roadside bombs. The Haqqanis draw on this expertise without actually controlling the groups who deliver it. Rather than calling it the Haqqani Network, it would be more appropriate to call this the Waziristan Militant Complex. (Traditionally, the Haqqani brothers have always been careful to stress that they are under the authority of Mullah Omar and the Taliban Movement). Even if they outsource some of their special operations, the Haqqanis feverishly guard the one part of their operation they consider far too valuable to let out of their control: propaganda. Young fighters take combat video courses in the North Waziristan capital of Miran Shah and then accompany their comrades on attacks to collect footage. The Waziristan militants are projecting themselves as chiefs of the Islamic Emirate brand, which is important because they are trying to sideline, at least in the eyes of those watching, their Afghan jihadist counterparts. Despite their origins as a marginalized border tribe, the Haqqani brothers may now be eyeing a future role on the Afghan national stage. The Haqqanis' backers in Pakistan will have to make their own decision about whether they are going to take part in a negotiated reconciliation, or if, as Washington has suggested, they will ramp up their proxy war inside Afghanistan. The bottom line is that the militants in Waziristan depend on the jihad for their survival and thus have to oppose any settlement. After all, if there's no war in Afghanistan, they have no reason for being. But what does that mean for the future? At a minimum, NATO will have to deal with Waziristan separately from any deal made with the official Taliban leadership in Afghanistan. Waziristan just might be where the new breed, brought forth by the Haqqani Network, rise to the level of an Al Qaeda-esque terrorist organization.
Khan, Ismail (2007). "Plan ready to curb militancy in Fata, settled areas". Newsweek international edition.  
Ministry of Economic Affairs and Statistics, Government of Pakistan, Administrative Units of Pakistan (Tehsils/Talukas)
Lawson, Alastair (2008-04-21). "Why Britons walked warily in Waziristan". BBC News. BBC. Retrieved 2008-04-21.
Chisholm, Hugh, ed (1911). "Waziristan". Encyclopedia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
"Waziristan: The last frontier". Dec 30th 2009 | Peshawar and Wana, The Economist. (
Semple, Michael. "How the Haqqani Network is Expanding From Waziristan". Foreign Affairs, September 23 2011.


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