The Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan (FATA) is comprised of seven agencies namely, Bajaur, Mohmand, Khyber, Orakzai, Kurram, North and South Waziristan in a geographically descending order and six FR regions. FATA was an exemplary peaceful region before the American invasion in Afghanistan in 2001. The peace was also disrupted when the holy war was instigated during Cold War for which the tribal people were mobilized with the introduction of Kalashnikov culture (AK-47, a particular model of Russian assault rifle) in FATA. In the post 9/11 scenario and with the US invasion in Afghanistan, as it applied its vehement tactics of war in the region, the Taliban were forced to flee to FATA, considering it the most suitable and a safe hideout and thus this was the trigger point of insurgency in the tribal areas. The sympathetic and hospitable population of FATA was propitious for Taliban to exercise their hegemonic role in the region. In 2007 TTP (Tehrik e Taliban Pakistan) was formed by Taliban who instigated violence in the country. Pakistan was much more peaceful before these Taliban shifted their focus from Afghanistan to Pakistan and initiated Talibanization movement in South Waziristan that spread its waves destructively to FATA and then rest of the territory of Pakistan.
The American war on terror unleashed many evils in the tribal areas of Pakistan, mainly FATA (along with KP) in the form of IDP’s, damage to the infrastructure and indigenous industry (e.g. marble factory, fruit business etc), massive deaths of innocent people in collateral damage, drone strikes, psychological illness and sociological deprivation in children and adults etc. In a wide picture, terrorism has greatly jeopardized Pakistan’s economy, world image and most importantly its social life.
With the onset of war on terror, Pakistan came in a diabolical grip of terrorism and violence as America intensified its drones. To curb this evil, Pakistani government also took the policy of military action as militancy started to spread all over Pakistan in the form of suicide attacks, kidnapping and bomb blasts etc, which killed innocent citizens on massive scale. Beside all this, the inter-group conflict amongst militants was also an epochal cause of violence. The militants with so called and parochial Jihadi agenda, when found a power vacuum started fighting with each other in order to establish their supremacy in the agencies that killed many militants. Moreover these militants involved themselves in sectarian clashes in the area of Khyber, Kurram and Orakzai and fought on behalf of some sections that portrayed this area as violent, hostile and a ‘no go area’.
With the serious steps taken by government in form of military action, enrolling FC men and civil militia (tribal lashkars) to fight along with army against the insurgents, signing peace agreements with militants, taking tribal elders in confidence, reinforced the government in establishing its writ in the area. Therefore, most of the area of FATA has been cleansed from the militancy by the end of 2012, most importantly with army operations in Mohmand and Bajaur. These agencies are the safest segment of FATA, as army has a full control in this region and 100 percent of its area is claimed to be cleared from militants. The militants that resided in Bajaur and Mohmand have fled to the Kunar and Nooristan province of Afghanistan but have not discontinued their violent acts and execute sporadic cross border attacks to let know the world about their presence.
Till the end of September 2013, Tirah valley in Khyber and North Waziristan are seen to be the most turbulent region of FATA because this area is the focal point of military operations by Pakistan army and drone strikes by US. The ongoing operations in Tirah have tarnished the social fabric of the region and have led hundreds and thousands of people to evacuate the regions and take refuge in camps such as Jalazoi camp as IDP’s. However some positive steps have been taken by government for the small scale repatriation of IDP’s of Tirah and an amount of Rs 500 million has also been allocated to provide better facilities to the people in education, health and communication sector in the coming years.
The overall situation of the region is seen to be calm but not in terms of drone strikes. The drone strikes have decreased precipitously but are perpetual in nature and also have killed innumerable militants in 2013. This year FATA has been a victim of 21 drone strikes (till October 2013) that also killed innocent people along with the US most wanted militants. Realizing the situation out of its control, Pakistani government took an initiative in the form of APC in September 2013 to device the policies with the consent of all important political parties. APC concluded on positive note, with consent on peace talks with Taliban and also decided to raise the issue of drones in UN as an effective way to deal with insurgency. PM Nawaz Sharif have raised the issue in his 27th September UN address and stated that the use of drones in the border areas of Pakistan are a continued violation of Pakistans’ territorial integrity and United States should cease these strikes, so that the innocent casualties and suffering could be averted.
The epicenter of Talibanization movement in FATA, South Waziristan, became the hub of Pakistani Taliban groups, with the influx of Afghan Taliban fleeing the US invasion of Afghanistan. Therefore the military operations were carried out in 2003-4 in Wana in which Naik Mohammad Wazir was killed, who initiated talibanization movement in the region along with others. The death of Naik Mohammad, shifted the power in the hands of Meshud tribe led by Baitullah and Abdullah Mehsud. The Mehsud tribe which crucially forms the backbone of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), is now led by Hakimullah Mehsud. The peace agreements of 2008 in North and South Waziristan between the militants and the government were signed to ensure peace in the region. However the peace agreement in South Waziristan Agency failed and military operation Rah-e-Nijat was carried out which is still going on and is the cause of havoc in the area. NWA in addition to serving as a haven for al Qaeda’s leadership, has proved to be a shelter for organizations such as the Haqqani network, the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), amongst many other foreign and local militants of FATA and Pakistan. Pak-Amry does not intrude in NWA because the peace agreement is still intact in the region but as the region is the hub of major Taliban groups, therefore most of the drone strikes are aimed at NWA in FATA.
The nature of insurgency varies from agency to agency in FATA. Along with militancy, drone strikes and military operations, sectarian clash is also the major cause of violence in FATA. Khyber, Karrum and Orakzai have heterogeneous population in terms of sects, with acrimonious relation between them. The sectarian dispute in Orakzai is primarily over the ownership of the Mir Anwar Shah Shrine in Kalaya, in Kurram Sunni and Shia resent each other and in Khyber the Brevali and Deobandis’ conflict is prevalent. Sunnis have a hegemonic role in Kurram that gets its backing from TTP Taliban and Shia Hydari Taliban in Orakzai play their role in defending the Shia population. Later some positive and substantial steps were taken by the Top tribal elders and parliamentarians of Fata who announced the ‘Murree Accord’. This helped in mitigating the problems of the local people as the very long tribal feud between Shia and Sunni communities in Parachinar came to an end. The security forces also cleared the militants after fierce battles which also inflicted high casualties on both the parties. This compelled the militants to flee to the adjacent Tirah valley of khyber agency. Though the security forces operations have cleared most of the areas of Orakzai agency from insurgents but still there are some areas where Taliban presence has been felt.
Peace ensures prosperity; therefore the contemporary period is seen to be much more peaceful in over all FATA, with the restoration of development activities along with the repatriation of IDP’s of Tirah. Government has played a positive role in re-establishing peace and normal life in the region and is also taking further bold steps in eradicating the evil of insurgency that American war on terror brought it with itself. The area Tirah in Khyber and NWA are seen to be more volatile than other agencies because they are the center of the drone strikes, military operations and militant clashes. Insurgency in these areas have greatly upset the life of common man and there is a need of critical analysis by the government for devising new policies so that peace can be attained in this region. Despite all this, the over-all situation in FATA is peaceful as most of the region has been cleared from insurgents, which has restored peace and development in the region.