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The view outside my window is breathtaking: a corrugated landscape of sweeping ravines and verdant gorges. It is hard to believe that this is the most dangerous place on earth. Yet the recent discovery of a car bomb in New York's Times Square underscores its ongoing menace. 

Prosecution papers filed with the District Court in Manhattan reveal that the alleged bomber, Faisal Shahzad, attended training camps here in Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata), and received his orders directly from the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). Its leader, Hakimullah Mehsud, rivals only Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri as the most wanted man in the world. 

"We've now developed evidence that shows that the Pakistani Taliban was behind the attack," the US Attorney General, Eric Holder, told ABC television. "We know that they helped facilitate it. We know that they probably helped finance it, and that [Shahzad] was working at their direction."

Faisal Shahzad trained in Fata, a fertile plain for fundamentalism spawning terrorist leaders with ambitions to eclipse even al-Qaeda's worst excesses. I have come to Khar, a small town four miles from the Afghan border in Bajaur, Fata's northernmost province, to understand how this once anonymous region became the epicentre of global terror. Without stability here, peace in Afghanistan and beyond is impossible. 

Fata is a stronghold for the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan. Although still in its incipient phases, the group has already changed Pakistan for ever. Just travel through its biggest cities, Islamabad or Lahore, and you immediately get a sense of how the terrorist threat has become a part of daily life. Even the shortest journey involves passing through endless chicanes and roadblocks manned by armed police, although in more sensitive areas it is the army who are in charge. Sitting behind almost every checkpoint are two sharpshooters ready to fire on anyone who fails to stop. Yet most Pakistanis are fatalistically resigned to the increasing militarisation of their streets and society. 

Even before the attempted attack in Times Square threats from Fata have left an indelible mark on the West too. At least two of the 7/7 bombers are known to have visited training camps in this region. A plot to bring down transatlantic airliners in 2006 also had its roots here. Less than 18 months ago, Gordon Brown revealed that three-quarters of the most serious terror plots currently under surveillance in Britain had links to Pakistan.

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August 15th, 2010
9:08 AM
An Excellent article. Very well narrated and thoroughly researched. I commend Shiraz Maher's bold effort to travel into the troubled region and get a true feeler to produce a valuable analysis.

June 20th, 2010
9:06 PM
Well no the problem of Palestine has been kept going because the birth rate has stayed so high. That 44% of the people there are under 18 is no one elses fault. It has meant that the billions and billions of aid poured in has never caught up with the birth rate. The life expectancy in Palestine is a decade or two better than parts of the UK.

Riaz Ahmad
May 31st, 2010
10:05 AM
Gordon Brown said 3/4 of the terrorist atacks originate from FATA in Pakistan. He is absolutely right, but he told just the convenient half of the story. The other half, or the crux of the matter is the profligate hypocricy and double standards of westren foriegn policy in service of hegemony and control. Terrorism is a curse that has to be defeated at all costs and by all means, it also includes state terrorsim such as that practiced by the Zionist against the poor, dispossed, stateless, imprisoned and enslaved people of Palistine. Is it not crystal clear that western values become valueless when it comes to Palistine?

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