How War Altered Pakistan's Tribal Areas

Cultural Change Comes to FATA

A Pashtun man Asanullah, 20, sits in a hole in the wall damaged by weapons fire in Khar, the main town in Bajaur Agency, located in Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) along the Afghanistan border March 2, 2010. Adrees Latif / Reuters

On June 28, Naghma, a 13-year-old girl living in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas, was taken by her uncle and five other relatives to an empty room in a house nearby and shot five times with an AK-47. She had apparently brought shame to the family by trying to run away with a young man from her neighborhood and one of his friends. Although her murder was but one of the thousands of “honor killings” that occur in Pakistan each year, it was different in one sense: it was technically legal.

Pakistan criminalized honor killings in 2016, making them punishable by mandatory life sentence. But the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA)—a 10,500-square-mile strip of land wedged between Afghanistan and the Pakistani province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa—is governed not by Pakistani law but a century-old set of regulations that leaves the enforcement of law and order to locals. 

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