Tribal Areas, officially the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), administrative region (1998 pop. 3,176,331), 10,510 sq mi (27,220 sq km), NW Pakistan, comprising seven agencies (or tribal areas) and six generally smaller frontier regions located mainly between Afghanistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa prov. but also bordered by Punjab and Baluchistan prov. in the south. The FATA's forested mountainous terrain broken by small valleys and dotted with towns and agricultural areas. The economy is mainly based on agriculture, and there is much poverty. The people are overwhelmingly Pashtuns, who belong to more than 10 major tribes. The seven agencies are Khyber, Kurram, Bajaur, Mohmand, Orakzai, N Waziristan, and S Waziristan, the largest of the regions.
Under British rule, the area served as a buffer zone between the British and Russsian spheres of influence. The colonial government never completely controlled the region; the tribes governed their own internal affairs, while the British were responsible for British India's security. The arrangement was far from successful, and in the last half of the 19th cent. British troops repeatedly battled tribal groups. The British retained a tenuous hold on the region until they left the subcontinent in 1947.
A 1948 agreement granted the Tribal Areas a special administrative status in Pakistan, which allowed them to remain semi-autonomous and base their administration on traditional tribal rules; the system was codified in the 1973 constitution. Since the early 21st. cent. the Pakistani Taliban have been a major force in the region, and the Pakistani army has conducted a number of offensives against Islamic militants in parts of the FATA. The FATA, particularly the Waziristans, are also alleged to be a stronghold for Al Qaeda.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.