Pakistan is in the midst of a heated debate on continuing military operations against the Taliban in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), especially after the brutal killing of 23 army soldiers last month.
There was a time when images from war zones featured only battlefields and barracks. As warfare moved into the 20th
century, pictures of embattled urban centres and rural guerilla outposts began to make the rounds.
Disturbed by civilian casualties and moved by the plight of people living like refugees in their own country, students from Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) are demanding an end to army operations against militants on their native soil.
Whether to make war or peace with the Taliban has become a dilemma for the Pakistani government.
For many years they could not sing, dance or play their favourite instruments. The performing artists of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of northern Pakistan lost their voice as the Taliban carried out terror attacks and banned music, calling it un-Islamic. But after tentative advances in recent months, the Pakistani province is alive with the sound of music once again.
The Taliban are proving to be a huge stumbling block for Pakistan as the South Asian nation - one of only three remaining polio endemic countries in the world – tries to fight the crippling disease.
Ahmed Nawaz, a 55-year-old farmer in northwestern Pakistan’s Swat valley, rues the day the Taliban arrived in his beautiful land, known for its rolling mountains, lush fields and blossoming orchards. “The earth became barren,” he says.
Farhat Bibi, 43, was left to fend for her three young sons after her husband was killed in a bomb attack in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) three years ago. A few days later, she landed at a camp for people displaced by violence. “The camp proved to be a blessing in disguise,” she says.
When Anoja Wijeyesekera, an aid worker with the U.N. children's agency UNICEF, received her new assignment in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan back in 1997, her appointment letter arrived with a "survival manual" and chilling instructions: write your last will before leaving home.
Upping the ante against U.S. drone attacks in Pakistan, celebrated cricketer-turned-political leader Imran Khan has threatened to block NATO supplies to Afghanistan through Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, where his party leads a coalition government.
Concerns are rising that courts run by Islamic clerics in many of Syria’s rebel-held areas may serve as a prelude to Taliban-style justice in what was long a violently repressive but secular state.
Mustafa Khan, who sells cigarettes by the roadside in a Pakistani village, has a simple reason for sending two of his sons to a madrassa, an Islamic seminary, and not to a proper school. “We cannot afford it,” he says.
Ajab Gul is haunted by bloody scenes. He hears women crying and children screaming. “I can’t sleep,” says the 25-year-old health worker at a well-known Pakistani hospital in the frontier city that tends to terror victims.
The drone attack that killed Tehreek Taliban Pakistan chief Hakimullah Mahsud this week seems also to have killed hopes that drone attacks will end.
As international troops get ready to leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014 and NATO-ISAF (International Assistance Security Force) prepare the Afghan National Security Forces to take over from them, there is fear and misgiving in neighbouring Pakistan, particularly in the adjoining regions of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and the northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.