But that hope proved futile. The November ceasefire was not extended and after it expired, the Pakistani Taliban launched attacks on Pakistani soil in an effort to pressure authorities to allow militants to return to their hometowns with impunity.
“In recent months, the TTP has inflicted heavy casualties on Pakistani security forces,” said Asfandyar Mir, a senior expert at the United States Institute of Peace, referring to Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan as the TTP. “Pakistan realizes that the TTP poses a growing threat and the Taliban are unwilling to curb anti-Pakistani jihadist groups despite increasing violence.”
On Thursday, seven Pakistani army soldiers were killed in North Waziristan, in the country’s northwest, by militants operating from Afghanistan, Pakistan’s foreign ministry said in a statement.
Saturday’s airstrikes appear to have been carried out in retaliation for that attack. Most of the people killed in the airstrikes had been expelled from North Waziristan, according to locals.
Hundreds of people took to the streets in northwestern Pakistan’s Tank and Mirali districts on Saturday evening and Sunday to protest the airstrikes. They chanted, “Stop killing innocent Waziristanis,” as they marched, videos of the protest show.
Activists have also called for a commission of inquiry by both the Pakistani and Afghan governments to investigate the incident and identify those responsible for the strike that killed civilians.
The airstrikes also appeared to further encourage the Pakistani Taliban.
“We want to tell the Pakistani military that every war has a principle and that Pakistan has violated every principle of war so far,” Pakistani Taliban spokesman Muhammad Khurasani said on Saturday. “We challenge the Pakistani military to fight us on the battlefield instead of bombing oppressed people and refugee camps.”
Safiullah Padshah reported from Kabul, Christina Goldbaum from Dubai and Ihsanullah Tipu Mehsud from Islamabad, Pakistan.