Barack Obama, the US president, has called Pakistan's northwest tribal region bordering Afghanistan "the most dangerous place". The Pakistani army is waging a bloody war against extremist groups for control of those areas, especially in The Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). Those battles have left hundreds dead and tens of thousands of people homeless. Yet Taliban and al-Qaeda forces still control large swathes of territory often imposing their own system of Islamic law on a war-weary tribal population. We ask: Why has religious extremism flourished in Pakistan's tribal areas and how can Islamabad effectively deal with the threat?