5 key players in Pakistan's tribal belt

Pakistan’s security forces have conducted military operations in many of the tribal regions bordering Afghanistan, except North Waziristan, causing the area to become something of a haven for militants.

Tribal and local intelligence sources say some 15,000 militants take shelter in this semiautonomous tribal belt.

“It’s a cobweb,” says former Pakistani diplomat Ayaz Wazir.

Based on interviews with local tribesmen and intelligence sources, here’s a list of the five biggest players in the region:

2. Hafiz Gul Bahadur

Mr. Bahadur is believed to be based between Miramshah and the Afghan border. He hit the headlines when his militia fought against Pakistan’s security forces in 2006-08 and again when he struck peace deals in 2009.

It is reported that each of the nine members of his Shura, or council, commands up to 1,000 local tribesmen, apportioning control of various areas across North Waziristan. Bahadur is honored as a descendant of legendary tribal warrior Fakir of Ippi, who fought against the British rule in the subcontinent. This lineage affords the cleric immense influence, both religiously and politically.

He severed formal ties with the Pakistani Taliban (TTP), but still reportedly provides shelter to its militants.

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