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pakistan: border lands dispatches

+ Pakistan

+ "On the Road to Chitral"
30 August, Dir Khas

+ "Prisoners' Dilemma"
31 August, Dir

+ "In the Northwest Frontier"
30-31 August, Dir

+ "Border Town"
2 September, Chitral to Arandu

+ "Don't Go to Timargarha"
1-2 September, Drosh to Timargarha

+ "An American Informer"
3-4 September, Peshawar

+ "A Circle of Trust"
21 September, Islamabad

+ "Indomitable"
23 September, Islamabad

On Aug. 30, 2002, FRONTLINE's team headed for the remote tribal region located north of Peshawar. It's part of a 10,000 square mile border region in northwestern Pakistan -- a lawless area where many Al Qaeda fighters found refuge after fleeing U.S. air strikes in the Tora Bora region of Afghanistan in December 2001. Along the way, FRONTLINE spoke with many local people who expressed sympathy with bin Laden and Al Qaeda. No one, however, would admit to any Al Qaeda members living among them. (Explore, on the left of this page, the producers' e-mail dispatches from the field -- a fascinating behind-the-scenes perspective on a FRONTLINE documentary in the making.)

FRONTLINE's producers got as far as Chitral in the Northwest Frontier Province before being turned away at the border by armed guards. The tribal areas are off-limits to foreigners.

With slim chances of ever getting into the region, they enlisted the help of a local Pashtun reporter, Hayat Ullah Khan. They gave him a small digital video camera and over the next two months he shot 16 hours of footage, some in areas rarely photographed.

The tribal region -- roughly the size of the U.S. state of Vermont -- belongs to Pakistan in name only. Pakistani police and courts have no jurisdiction, and, until recently, the central government in Islamabad never tried to assert control. Justice is done in accordance with Quranic law and tribal elders -- the maliks -- make the important decisions during group meetings called loya jirgas.

The seven agencies that make up the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan's Northwest Frontier Province -- Khyber, Kurram, Orakzai, Mohmand, Bajaur, North Waziristan and South Waziristan -- have historical, cultural and ethnic ties to Afghanistan. And they are inhabited by fiercely independent tribesmen, many of whom sympathize with the Taliban, their fellow ethnic Pashtuns.


Pakistan's Tribal Areas
In these excerpts from their interviews with FRONTLINE, Pakistani officials and journalists discuss the state of the tribal areas. President Musharraf claims that it is not possible for large numbers of Al Qaeda to be hiding out in the tribal areas; others believe that many Al Qaeda fighters have found refuge as guests of the Pashtun tribesmen in these northern territories.

Related Links

The Lawless Frontier
In this September, 2000 article for The Atlantic Magazine, reporter Robert Kaplan describes the tribal areas: " Pakistan's Afghan-border region -- 1,000 miles long and 100 miles wide -- is a deathly volcanic landscape of crags and winding canyons. ... From Baluchistan north through the "tribal agencies" of Waziristan, Kurram, Orakzai, Khyber, Mohmand, and Bajaur ... one finds an anarchic realm of highwaymen, religious and tribal violence, heroin laboratories, and weapons smuggling."

home - introduction - mapping the journey
inside the tribal areas - ground zero: pakistan
discussion - interviews - producer's dispatches - readings & links
producer's chat - teachers' guide - tapes & transcripts - press reaction - credits - privacy policy
FRONTLINE - wgbh - pbs

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