VIOLENCE PLAGUES WESTERN BORDER
Waziristan, Bajaur and Baluchistan, western regions of Pakistan that border Afghanistan, are plagued by violence between militants and government security forces, although the causes of conflict differ.
Some of the militant violence has spilled into other parts of Pakistan. The recent political crisis has also seen an increase in suicide attacks on troops and other targets across the country, including opposition leader Benazir Bhutto who was killed at the end of 2007 shortly before general elections.
In the semi-autonomous tribal area of Waziristan, the Pakistani army has for years conducted military operations to root out foreign pro-Taliban and al-Qaeda militants who fled there after the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. A 2006 peace pact initially reduced clashes, but crumbled 10 months later. The deal collapse followed the storming of a radical Islamabad mosque by the army, which provoked an increase in suicide bombings and attacks on troops across Pakistan, particularly in the northwest.
The main battle ground is now in Bajaur, a tribal area to the north of Waziristan. In Baluchistan, Pakistan’s largest and poorest province, tribal militants are engaged in a long-running, low-level insurgency to gain greater control of the southwestern region’s natural resources and political power. But analysts say the Taliban is also using Baluchistan as a base. The death of a veteran rebel in a military offensive in August 2006 boosted tensions in the region. The area was also hit by severe flooding in 2007. The violence has affected civilians, with growing numbers killed and thousands driven from their homes. Aid agencies have also come under attack.