The Pashtun tribal areas adjoining Afghanistan are a mystery for the outside world. Divided into seven districts - Khyber, Kurram, Orakzai, Mohmand, Bajaur, North Waziristan and South Waziristan - this mountainous region has 3.4 million inhabitants.
Officially called the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), the region is run by tribal councils and political officers whose job is to implement the policies of the federal government in Islamabad. Koranic laws and a legislative hangover from the British empire called the Frontier Crimes Regulation apply only to the tribal population. All this is orchestrated by tribal chiefs called maliks.
Many Al Qaeda members found refuge in the tribal areas after the US attacks on Afghanistan’s Tora Bora region in December 2001, and there were clashes between thousands of Taliban fighters and the Pakistani army for several years.
Repeated harassment and arrests by the Pakistani army and Taliban fighters have made it very difficult for journalists to work in this region. University academics and journalists are nowadays trying to promote the emergence of local media and to improve the quality of news coverage of the tribal areas.
A website solely about the tribal areas, Karwan-e-Qabial was created on the initiative of TUJ president Sailab Mehsud. Its reports are written in Urdu and English by journalists based in the region, one from which the foreign press is banned.