Entrance of Pak Troops in FATA in 2002
President Pervez Musharraf was forced to go along with the US attack of Afghanistan. But his leaders, who had to follow the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) of October 5, 2007, which Condoleezza Rice worked on, turned a done deal into a chance for themselves. Musharraf and Benazir were humbled by the fact that “she had worked for many sleepless nights to bring Musharraf and Benazir together.” As a result, they convinced Washington of Islamabad’s continued servitude and, by doing so, made sure that they would stay in power, even though it cost the country a lot. The US “War on Terror,” which Pakistan was forced to join, made it normal for the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) to rise up against the state of Pakistan and for the Therik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) to form. The US carpet-bombing scared away a lot of Afghan, Arab, and Central Asian terrorists, who left Afghanistan for the tribal areas of neighbouring Pakistan. This meant that the so-called Frontline State against Terrorism had no choice but to go after them.
In July 2002, Pakistani troops went into FATA for the first time since the country got its freedom in 1947. This happened after long talks with different tribes. But when the military action started in South Waziristan, several Waziri sub-tribes saw it as a “attempt to subjugate them” and refused to hand over foreign militants to the army. This made the “security campaign against suspected Al-Qaeda militants” into “an undeclared war between the Pakistani military and the rebel tribesmen.” By 2004, different clan groups in FATA had made it clear that they were in charge. They would fight with the military and talk with Islamabad at the same time. In the process, they killed about 200 tribal leaders in the area who were for Pakistan. The use of drone strikes in the same year only made things worse. The last nail in the coffin was the October 2006 drone strike on a madrassah in Bajaur that was run by Sufi Muhammad’s Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM). The US “War on Terror,” which Pakistan was forced to join, made it normal for the FATA to rise up against the state of Pakistan and for the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan to form.
Within a year, the TNSM and the other small terrorist groups turned to Swat. They took control of the area in just two weeks, from October 25 to November 7, 2007. They promised to enforce their version of Shariah laws, which included the death sentence for barbers, music shop owners, and thieves and a ban on girls learning to read and write. On November 15, the Pakistan Armed Forces started Operation Rah-e-Haq to take back control of the valley and force the rebels to work together under one flag. So, in December 2007, Baitullah Mahsud put together the TTP and became its head. The “franchise of Al-Qaida” said that its goal was to “topple the government of Pakistan by waging a terrorist campaign against the armed forces and the state.” At first, it was made up of 13 war-hardened Pashtun, Islamist, and terrorist groups that were based along the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. But then it started recruiting criminals from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) and even South Punjab, including Swot, Malakand, Tank, Buner, Bannu, Lakki Marwat, D.I. Khan, and Kohistan. It was made up of a loose network of different groups. Their power was proportional to their size and limited to their own regions. Within a year, there were rumours that there were 30,000–35,000 of them.
On August 25, 2008, Pakistan banned the TTP, froze all of its bank accounts and assets, stopped it from appearing in the media, and said that the heads of its leaders would be put up for sale. The Pakistani military went on the attack, killing or causing TTP members to flee to Afghanistan, where they were treated as “guests” by both India and Afghanistan. Operation Rah-e-Haq went on until 16 February 2009, when a deal to stop fighting was signed with TNSM. In the short-lived agreement, both sides decided that Shariah law would be enforced in Swot as long as certain conditions were met. In the West, people were very angry about the deal. This caused the government and the TNSM to have different ideas about how to understand the agreement. By the end of April 2009, the TTP rebels and the Pakistani troops were once again facing each other. The troops started Operation Rah-e-Rast the next month, and three months later, all of the militants were gone. By the end of August, when 1.6 million of the 2.2 million people who had been moved back home, things were back to normal.
Baitullah Mahsud was killed by a drone strike in August 2009. Under Hakimullah Mahsud, who took over as his replacement, the TTP stepped up its suicide operation all over the country. On September 1, 2010, the US named the TTP a Foreign Terrorist Organisation (FTO). They also named Hakimullah Mehsud a global terrorist and offered a prise for information leading to his capture. On November 1, 2013, they killed him with a drone. By 2014, the TTP was up and running, and North Waziristan was where it was based. It had “seriously disrupted the national life in all its aspects,” slowed down the country’s economic growth, and caused a lot of death and damage. It had also “stopped life in FATA” and “constantly scared the entire peaceful and patriotic local population.” This gave terrorist groups like the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), Al-Qaeda, Jundallah, and the Haqqani Network more confidence to join the fight.
The attack on Jinnah International Airport in Karachi on June 8, 2014, for which the TTP and the IMU took credit, was the last blow for Pakistan’s Armed Forces. Operation Zarb-e-Azb started on June 15 with up to 30,000 forces. In the “Summer-Fall operation,” they broke up terrorist networks and “flushed out” foreign and local fighters hiding in North Waziristan. In the process, about 930,000 people from more than 80,000 families were moved within their own country. Still, “as a result, the overall security situation got better, and since 2008, the number of terrorist attacks in Pakistan has dropped to its lowest level in six years.” But the massacre of 132 innocent children at Army Public School (APS) in Peshawar on December 16, 2014, just six months after Operation Zarb-e-Azb’s “success,” and the rise in terrorist attacks across the country showed that the US had pushed Pakistan into a never-ending war that required one military operation after the other.
So, on February 22, 2017, Operation Radd-ul-Fassad began with the help of Rangers and Pakistan Police. In the country-wide operation, which was meant to “consolidate the gains of Operation Zarb-e-Azb,” security agencies “conducted more than 371,000 intelligence-based operations (IBOs), including 50 major operations, and recovered 72,227 weapons and 5 million rounds of ammunition, dismantling the terrorist support base, their facilitators and financiers in (KPK’s) tribal districts and Baluchistan.” The goal of the operation was mostly reached. But even though they won the fight, the war kept going. From July to November 2020, TTP leader Noor Wali Mehsud was able to convince different splinter groups, such as the Amjad Farouqi group, one faction of the LeJ, the Musa Shaheed Karwan group, Mehsud factions of the TTP, Mohmand Taliban, Bajaur Taliban, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, and Hizb-ul-Ahrar, to join the TTP. This gave the terrorist group a new chance to fight against Pakistan.
Ironically, while Pakistan was fighting the US’s war and killing its own people, the US was trying to get India to join a strategic alliance and was laughing as India and Afghanistan stabbed Pakistan in the back.