watch a slideshow
pakistan dispatches

+ "Old Hash"
22 August, Islamabad

+ "Nuclear Neighbors"
22-23 August, Islamabad

+ "We Believe in God"
24 August, Islamabad

+ "Paranoid in Peshawar"
27 August, Peshawar

+ "Bombs or Dustdevils"
27-28 August, Peshawar

+ "Rumors and Half Truths"
28 August, Peshawar

+ "The Madrassa"
14 September, Akora Khattak

+ Pakistan: Border Lands

+ "Road to No Where"
7 September, Islamabad to Faisalabad

+ "Faisal Town"
7 September, Faisalabad

+ "Frustrations"
9 September, Faisalabad

+ "The Plight of Women"
10 September, Faisalabad

+ "A Little Noticed Gun Battle"
10-13 September, Lahore

+ "The Next Big Get"
20 September, Karachi - Islamabad

In late August 2002, FRONTLINE's producers traveled to Pakistan, a crucial U.S. ally in the war on terrorism. In their four weeks traveling and filming there -- from the capital Islamabad to the northwest border region, from Faisalabad to the urban centers of Lahore and Karachi -- they experienced a country seething with anti-American sentiment, where popular support for Al Qaeda and the Taliban has deep roots. (Read, on the left, the producers' e-mail dispatches from Pakistan.)

In his interview with FRONTLINE, Pakistan's President, General Pervez Musharraf, admits that Al Qaeda members crossed over into his country from Afghanistan during the U.S. bombing campaign. It has been widely reported that sympathetic Pashtun tribesmen in Pakistan's northwest border regions helped smuggle Al Qaeda leaders -- including, many believe, Osama bin Laden himself -- out of Afghanistan and into the remote and lawless tribal areas, which are off-limits to U.S. troops and foreign journalists.

After the Sept. 11 attacks on the U.S., and President George W. Bush's ultimatum, Musharraf took the politically risky path of supporting the U.S. campaign against the Taliban, offering the use of Pakistani air bases and airspace. But Musharraf is walking a tightrope. He must pursue Al Qaeda in Pakistan vigorously enough to convince the U.S. that he is cooperating in the war on terror, yet he must avoid strengthening the hand of religious conservatives who sympathize with Al Qaeda and the Taliban, or even provoking an armed rebellion by Pakistan's powerful jihadi armies. In the October 2002 parliamentary elections, religious conservatives won 22 percent of the seats contested -- compared to just four seats in the previous election in 1997. (For more on Musharraf and the political situation in Pakistan, read a Web-exclusive FRONTLINE interview with foreign correspondent Mary Anne Weaver, who has reported on Pakistan for more than 20 years.)

Background: An Islamic republic founded in 1947, when it split from India after gaining independence from Britain, Pakistan served as the staging ground for the U.S.-supported jihad against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan in the 1980s. After that war Pakistan's northwest border region remained a stronghold for militant Islamic groups. The Taliban movement sprang largely from the Pashtun, or Pathan, tribal areas on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. When the Taliban regime won control of Afghanistan in 1996, it was officially recognized by Pakistan and had the support of Pakistan's military and intelligence establishment.

For many years Pakistan's security agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), has encouraged militant Islamic groups inside the country, recruiting jihadis for the fight against India over the disputed territory of Kashmir. The ISI even arranged for young jihadis to train in Al Qaeda's Afghan camps. When U.S. cruise missiles struck an Al Qaeda camp in 1998 in a failed attempt to kill Osama bin Laden, they instead killed Pakistani militants -- and ISI officers.

Interviews

Moinuddin Haider
As interior minister, he coordinates the war on terrorism inside Pakistan. He tells FRONTLINE that although there have been arrests of low level Al Qaeda fighters in Pakistan's tribal areas, there is no evidence that Al Qaeda leadership is hiding in there. He also recounts the March raid in Faisalabad that led to the capture of Abu Zubaydah and the Sept. 11, 2002 raid that led to the capture of Ramzi bin al-Shibh.

Kamran Khan
He is a Pakistani journalist and special correspondent for the Washington Post based in Karachi. He maintains that Al Qaeda definitely moved into the tribal areas of Pakistan after the U.S. campaign in Afghanistan, but that Pakistani officials deny it because they fear U.S. intervention. He argues that at the same time Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has allied himself with the U.S., he also has made an "unwritten compromise" to give more political power to Pakistani Islamist groups.

Pervez Musharraf
The president of Pakistan, Musharraf has come under pressure from the U.S. since Sept. 11 to deliver results in the search for Al Qaeda on the ground in Pakistan. Domestically, he faces an increasingly powerful Islamic opposition which sympathizes with Osama bin Laden. He tells FRONTLINE he does not believe that a large number of Al Qaeda fighters are hiding out in Pakistan's tribal areas.

Ahmad Zaidan
He is the Islamabad bureau chief for Al Jazeera television, an Arabic-language news channel based in Qatar. Zaidan was one of the last journalists to interview Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and he has been the recipient of several of Osama bin Laden's communiquÈs, including an audio recording released in November 2002, in which bin Laden allegedly applauds the recent terrorist attacks in Bali and Yemen. Zaidan believes Al Qaeda is regrouping and that sympathy for them in the Muslim world is increasing.

Related Links

Ground Zero: Pakistan
In this web-exclusive interview with FRONTLINE, Mary Ann Weaver, a foreign correspondent for The New Yorker and author of the new book Pakistan: In the Shadow of Jihad and Afghanistan, offers her insights on the success of the militant Islamist parties in Pakistan's October elections, and on Al Qaeda's long and intimate connection with the country she vividly depicts as ground zero of the global militant-Islamic movement.

Pakistan on the Edge
Journalist Ahmed Rashid explores the domestic political crisis in Pakistan in the New York Review of Books. (Oct. 2, 2002)

The Education of a Holy Warrior
A profile of the Haqqania Madrassa, dubbed by the reporter "Jihad U," from the New York Times Magazine. (June 25, 2002)

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