But that hope proved futile. The November ceasefire was not renewed and after it expired, the Pakistani Taliban stepped up attacks on Pakistan’s soil in its effort to pressure authorities into allowing militants to return to their hometowns with impunity.
“Over the last several months, the T.T.P. has inflicted heavy losses 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 T.T.P. “Pakistan is realizing that the T.T.P. is a growing threat and the Taliban is unwilling to restrain anti-Pakistan jihadi groups despite the growing violence.”
On Thursday, seven Pakistan army soldiers were killed in North Waziristan, in the northwest area of the country, by militants operating from Afghanistan, Pakistan’s foreign office said in its statement.
The airstrikes on Saturday appear to have been carried out as retaliation to that attack. Most of the people killed in the airstrikes had been displaced from North Waziristan, according to locals.
On Saturday night and Sunday, hundreds of people in the Tank and Mirali districts, in northwest Pakistan, took to the streets in rallies protesting the airstrikes. They chanted, “Stop killing of innocent Waziristanis” as they marched, videos of the protest show.
Activists have also called for an inquiry commission to be formed by both the Pakistani and Afghan governments to investigate the incident and hold those responsible for the strike that killed civilians.
The airstrikes also appeared to further embolden the Pakistani Taliban.
“We want to tell the Pakistani army that every war has a principle and Pakistan has violated every principle of war up to date,” a spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban, Muhammad Khurasani, said on Saturday. “We challenge the Pakistan army to fight us in 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.